From Nubian princesses to wicked stepsisters, theater actress Ta’Nika Gibson values women’s stories in the theater.
Gibson’s credits include her portrayal of Diana Ross in “Ain’t Too Proud,” Lorell in “Dreamgirls,” and the titular character Aida in “Aida.”
In April, she will play a wicked stepsister in Blumenthal Performing Arts’ run of “Into the Woods,” which combines several fairy tales into one; Gibson will play Lucinda, a villain in the play.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, QCity Metro interviewed Gibson about the significance of women in theater.
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“Woman-led theater projects are really on the rise, and it’s really, really incredible,” Gibson said ahead of the play’s opening in Charlotte.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
What is your advice for aspiring theater actors?
Always come prepared. Be kind. Be professional, and always believe in yourself. This career is very difficult. There are going to be 100 nos before there’s a yes. That belief in yourself throughout each no, despite each no, is what will take you so far.
Don’t give up. It’s hard out here in these streets. Don’t give up. There’s space for everyone to be here. And the gatekeepers are changing. We’re on our way to being the gatekeepers. So keep going.
Like I said, the number of women-led and BIPOC-led projects is through the roof. If there was a time to be a person of color in the arts, it’s now; go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that your dream isn’t worthy of being achieved.
How does playing a villain compare to your other roles?
I am used to playing more positive characters, nicer characters. And you know, if you meet me, I’m the nicest smiley person you’ll ever meet. So it’s very interesting, compared to the characters I used to play, to play such a devious character.
Those women exist and deserve their stories to be told just as much as the [kinder characters]. I tried to give Lucinda a fair, honest representation of that type of woman. That’s why I say that she has to be rooted in reality.
I’m grateful that she’s just mean and not evil. It would be a very different challenge to play someone who was [legitimately] just cruel.
Aside from the character you play, who in the play do you relate to?
I have a connection to Cinderella. Because one, I grew up in foster care myself. I know what it’s like to be stuck at home cleaning the house while everybody is out.
I was adopted out of foster care; I feel like I was found. Cinderella almost feels found by the prince. My high school headmistress adopted me when I needed a home and was having family difficulties.
I’m 10 years post-adoption. I’m now trying to find my in-between. An upper-middle-class family adopted me, and I came from poverty. And now I’m looking for my in-between — like Cinderella.
What women in theater do you look up to?
Audra McDonald. I studied opera in college, and at every audition, I go to, I’m told I favor her.
Nancy Opel. I’ve always looked up to her, you know, in terms of her career, but to be able to work with her has just been such a blessing, and to glean so much knowledge and wisdom from her about life and this career in this business.
Heather Headley. My very first role was Aida — a Nubian princess. That was one of her breakout Broadway roles, and to have the honor to perform with her was a dream come true.
What role do you aspire to play in the future?
I love being on Broadway, but I’m also really trying to explore the medium of film and TV.
I’d really love to be Angelica in “Hamilton.” I love the power and agency she has. And I feel like it showcased women in their power despite the time that they were in. I would also love to create a new role on Broadway.
I really would love to be a series regular on a TV show like “The Good Fight,” “Scandal,” or “How to Get Away with Murder.”
I want to play a strong Black woman on TV like Viola Davis and Kerry Washington [have done]. I feel like I haven’t played one, and I just feel like there are so many stories to be told to an even broader audience. They’ve inspired me so much, and to have the opportunity to play a role such as that would be a dream come true.