Elisabeth Lewis Corley of Pittsboro has been a writer and actor since age four. She started Atlanta Shakespeare Company while in her early twenties (still operating on Peachtree Street) and performed in the inaugural season of the Signature Theatre Company in New York City while in her thirties (still operating on 42nd Street). “Now I live in the woods of Chatham County, write, act, and produce theatre and film with StreetSigns Center for Literature & Performance and Harland’s Creek Productions,” she said.
Her dream: to create a space in Pittsboro that could house both StreetSigns and Harland’s Creek Productions, along with a contemporary art gallery and a community gathering space. “The wonderful architects of in situ studios in Raleigh have devoted countless hours to dreaming about this with us and creating some fascinating possibilities.” Learn more: www.piedmontperformancefactory.org.
From the artist
Originally from: Army Brat born in Germany. Travelled throughout my childhood. Lived most of my adult life in New York City.
Path to Chatham County: When my father came out of Vietnam in 1972 and went to Chapel Hill for graduate work, he bought 40 acres of land in Chatham County that the family has cherished ever since. Joseph Megel and I moved here from NYC in September of 2001 (one week before 9/11–we almost went back) and built a home on 14.91 acres given to us by my parents. My sister Ann Corley Silverman and her husband built a second home and artist studio. We are deeply rooted here and for an itinerant artist and Army brat that is huge. We’re very grateful.
5 words that describe me: Five? You’re giving a poet five words? This could take ten years to do. Or, better yet, ten seconds: determined, vulnerable, obsessive, engaged, introverted.
I am currently working on: Rehearsals for the next show from StreetSigns: “Freight – The Five Incarnations of Abel Green” by Howard L. Craft, directed by my partner in all things Joseph Megel and featuring J. Alphonse Nicholson. I’m producing. Then in February “The Process Series: New Works in Development at UNC” will present two work-in-progress readings of “Geomancy: Divination by Geography,” a poetry/dance/multi-media piece I am working on as a writer and actor, with co-author Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. and AGA Collaborative. In April, StreetSigns will be producing “Trojan Barbie” by Christine Evans (in conjunction with a course offered by the Department of Communication Studies at UNC) directed by Joseph Megel, and I’ll be performing the role of Hecuba in that. Whew.
I’m most proud of: Completing a sequence of poems and a feature-length screenplay based on my father’s experiences in Vietnam.
Earliest memory: Something to do with a neighbor’s dachshund. I think I was under a table. Probably because I couldn’t walk. I talked before I walked. I’m told my first utterance was a complete sentence. I don’t remember that.
I first knew I wanted to be an actor when: An actor in an ice show smiled at me.
My first job in theater was: Depends on how you define “job.” I played “Alice” in “Alice in Wonderland” in high school in Taiwan.
Playwrights I admire: Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekov, the usual suspects, I suspect. And among more recent writers: August Wilson, Edward Albee, Jim Grimsley, Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Tarell Alvin McCraney.
Poets who move me: Wallace Stevens, William Wordsworth, Eleanor Wilner, Marianne Boruch, Heather McHugh, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke.
My 3 favorite spots in Chatham County: I’m such a homebody: our home, our woods, the cabin.
Chatham County artists who inspire me: My partner: Joseph Megel. My sister: Ann Corley Silverman. Graphic artist and activist: Lesley Landis. Multi-talented man of theatre and genius actor: Derrick Ivey. The incomparable potter and abstract expressionist: Mark Hewitt.
Five things I can’t live without: Love and work, naturally, Freud told us that much. And after that: books as physical objects whose pages I can turn with my hands, horses. I suppose I could live without champagne, but why? Is that five?
Most people don’t know I: Am very serious about my amateur pursuit of the art of dressage. A life-long passion that combines gym, spiritual practice, and shrink’s couch.
On my bedside table you’ll find: Piled up poetry journals I can never get to before they pile up, manuscripts from my friends, and at the moment: Eleanor Wilner’s “Tourist in Hell,” Lorrie Moore’s short-story collection “Bark,” “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg,” “Dirge for an Imaginary World,” poems by Matthew Buckley Smith, “The General in His Labyrinth” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Its Day Being Gone,” poems by Rose McClarney, “Hard,” poems by Howard L. Craft, “The Vietnam Reader,” edited by Stewart O’Nan.
Ten years from now I will be: A better writer and actor than I am today, god willing and the creek don’t rise.