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Longtime actress felt drawn back to Ashland

Livia Genise has been a professional actress and member of Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors in the United States, since 1969.

She began her stage career at the St. Louis Municipal Opera and has performed throughout the country from Broadway to Hollywood, guest starring in everything from Three’s Company to Hill St. Blues, including a four-month stint on Days of our Lives. The recipient of numerous Best Actress awards — including Drama-Logue and Bay Area Critics Circle — Genise was a founding member of the Camelot Theatre, and was its Artistic Director for more than 14 years. Her acting and directing credits there include over 50 productions. Genise recently starred as Dotti in Noises off and as Baruska in “Once” at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, as Dr. Laurie Jamison in “Third” for ACT and as Patsy Cline for her own production company.

I caught up with Genise to chat with her about her current state of mind and upcoming projects.

JG: You’ve been involved in the arts in the Rogue Valley for a long time, now. What drew you to the region?

LG: My husband and I came here in 1982 to audition for the festival, and we fell in love with Ashland.

He was hired and since he had a nine month contract, we decided to start our family. Both our daughters were born at Ashland Community Hospital.

After our divorce in 1994, I moved to the Bay Area and worked as an Actress and director and founded the Willows Conservatory at the Willows Theatre in Concord for which I created over 42 different arts classes. In 2000, I was hired as Education Director at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, but something kept calling me back to Ashland.

In 2002, I decided to move back to Ashland and was immediately hired as Artistic Director for Camelot Theatre Company (formerly Actors Theatre). I spent 14.5 years with Camelot building the theater’s audience from 8,000 to over 26,000 and then actually building a new theater building. In 2016, I left Camelot and founded Livia Genise Productions (LGP), where I produce from two to four productions a year.

JG: Tell us a bit about the projects in which you’ve recently been involved.

LG: For LGP, I create and direct musical reviews known as The Tribute Series. We have done Tributes to the Life and Music of Ella Fitzgerald Frank Sinatra, Patsy Cline, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rosemary Clooney and are currently in production (through Feb. 23) of a Tribute to the Life & Music of Fred Astaire.

I also direct for many of the local theater companies.

As an actress, I just completed a run as Dr. Laurie Jameson in “Third,” directed by Jeannine Grizzard for ACT and then appeared with Valerie Rachelle in OCT’s One Night Only series with “A Tribute to Rosemary Clooney,” which LGP produced in 2019.

JG: What creative work can we look to?

LG: I will be appearing in the Cabaret’s upcoming production of “The Spitfire Grill” in April and then again on Oct. 7 with “A Tribute to Patsy Cline,” a 2018 LGP.

I will also be co-producing with Jeannine Grizzard and ACT a very important and timely play from July 23- to Aug. 2: “Finks” by Joe Gifford.

“Finks” is a loving tribute to Gifford’s parents Jack and Madeline Lee Gifford and what they endured when they were called to testify and give names during the McCarthy hearings.

While often humorous, the play chronicles the lives of some of the artists who were hounded as being “communists,” often losing their careers and sometimes their lives. It truly asks the question: When the time comes to stand up for democracy, will you be a hero or a fink?

Livia Genise