A voice that would calm even the unhappiest of babies and a passion that just won’t quit, quiet fire would be the words to best describe Ms. Deletta Gillespie’s spirit. Deletta Gillespie is the Morgan State University advisor for PlaySlam. In addition to being a professor in Morgan State’s theatre department, she is also a performing artist, singer-songwriter and educator of musical and theatrical work promoting social change, justice, and equality. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Goddard College and a M.F.A in Theater Arts from Towson University.
Tonight marks the inaugural PlaySlam collaboration between Morgan and Towson, a venture that Gillespie has spent two years formulating along with Towson’s David White.
The MSU Spokesman: Can you describe how the PlaySlam collaboration was initiated?
Deletta Gillespie: I met David while I was a graduate student [at Towson]. He was the chair of my thesis committee and we continued to stay in touch. A couple years after I got hired at Morgan State University we started having conversations. Wouldn’t it be great for our students to collaborate? Both of our departments of performing arts had conversations about this, and David and I were like, we’ve been having this conversation already so let’s just see if we can make this happen and that’s how it sort of came about.
Spokesman: Has anything surprised you through this process?
DG: It’s interesting to watch the reaction of students when they are presented with things that they maybe have not experienced before and just watching that today in warm-ups was really interesting. Outside of that, I think I am someone that doesn’t walk in with a whole bunch of expectations to start with. I’m very much let’s just see what happens. The whole thing is student driven. We want to create the environment. We want to guide them, but we do not want to do the project for them so this is very much their process.
Spokesman: How has your background in music added to this project?
DG: Improvisation, being open to what shows up, having a structure. With me working with David, who’s done many of these [PlaySlams] as far as the organizational aspect—I’ve been a part of them more than anything as an actor. And I’ve also been a writer for several PlaySlams. That’s been my orientation. But the actual organization and all that, I’m learning a lot from working with [White].
Spokesman: What are your goals for the play?
DG: Just for students to have a good time and [engage in some] self-discovery, whatever that means for them as artists and as individuals.
Spokesman: Now that Morgan has become involved what do you expect this event to do for students, as well as the university?
D.G: We just wanted to give our students the opportunity to collaborate with students from a different institution, to broaden their perspectives on what it’s like to work with other students. With this you have the opportunity to work with people that may be radically different from people that you know, that you grew up with, that you’ve worked with on stage. It just broadens your perspective. It’s one thing to be talented, it’s one thing to know your craft, but if you don’t know where to go or who to talk to, to get your foot in the door what good is it? This is another opportunity for them to network.