Got Art?—Reflections after “Woman in the Mirror, a Dancer’s Journey”–one-woman show


The story of Devra Gregory—the fabulous actress billed at San Diego’s Lyceum Theatre as “a professional dancer and Michael Jackson impersonator [who] takes you on a wild ride through her life in this one woman show from ballet, to exotic dancer to ‘Michael’”—resonated for me, enough so that I wished to blog about it.


I am an actress but would run screaming from doing a one-woman show (I think).  Just mastering a four-page monologue last summer exhausted me and strained my brain. 

I am a dancer of dance recitals and the odd bit in a play. 

I can’t impersonate anyone.  That is, other than my son playing video games or maybe my father making fun of me, or somebody French asking for McDonald’s. 

In other words, though my life is interesting enough TO ME, it’s, well, definitely ho-hum next to Devra’s.  I can’t relate to a lot of what she portrayed.  Yet her show has stayed with me since viewing it last Sunday. 

Having grown up on Long Island, I cut my teeth on Broadway and off-Broadway and offoffoff, way-the-hell-off Broadway shows: everything from nose-bleed seats for Chorus Line to Bob Fosse jazz to some weirdo bit with mostly naked people wearing bluish paint.  Generally I prefer comedies or musicals, or musical comedies.  I love interaction, clever one-liners, depth and irony and whimsy in one rich chorus of characters.  Somehow I got that from this one woman alone on a stage. 

But that’s not the only reason I can’t forget the show. 

Devra, who also happens to be a friend of my sister Irene’s, took the audience with her to a child playing in a grassy yard; to a girl traumatized by violence in the home; to a teen seeking definition and satisfaction; to a woman needing to make a living, needing to dance, needing to capture her niche.  She led us into the (point?) shoes of a dancer: ballet, jazz, burlesque, exotic…and MJ. 

Dancers, visual artists, writers, singers, musicians, actors…Good Lord, where do all these people come from?  Sometimes so many artists pedaling their craft seem as common as cockroaches—and as hardy.  In my experience, almost all these Lovers of Art labor devotedly, sometimes slavishly, over a craft that does not pay much, does not easily find a home; often does not seem to have value if not consumed by an indifferent or distracted public. 

So…what about this show?  Devra is one of the most versatile dancers I’ve ever witnessed.  When she plays Michael Jackson, not only her body but her face morph unflinchingly. I loved her Michael.  Yet even this amazing impersonation did not strike me as much as her rendition of Artist.  It is a cliché, perhaps, the Artist’s Journey.  I mean: Who has new words for artists’ angst, artists’ poverty, artists’ desperation to simply create a tree even if it might stand alone in the forest without anyone to see it?

Devra does.  By herself, on a stage, she made the cliché original.  Isn’t that what art is always about?

Oh…and show was a wild, very fun ride.   Thanks for the tree, Devra!

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