By Shari Goldstein Stern
There are a couple of things you can always count on from Texans. They’re proud of their Texas roots. They enjoy the state’s history. They love to tell stories about both. Now, if you’re the product of several generations of great story-tellers, then you’re as good as the golden Texas sunset.
Actress Morgana Shaw loves to tell stories through theater. She’s passionate about becoming an interesting historical character by shadowing their soul into her own. She prepares with months or years of research into their life, how they thought, how they related to the people in their orbit, their mannerisms, body language, facial expressions, speech patterns and she literally walks in their shoes and wears their clothes when possible.
The native Dallasite demonstrated all that when she portrayed the unmistakable Bette Davis in last year’s production of “All About Bette” at Fair Park’s historic Magnolia Theater. Written by Dallasite Camilla Carr and produced by another native Dallasite, Michael Jenkins of LARC, Inc., (Leisure and Recreation Concepts) and Starlight Entertainment, Morgana’s performance was nothing short of remarkable, the critics and patrons agreed.
Now the award-winning veteran of theatre, film and television has ventured into uncharted territory by taking on “Will’s War,” a new play by Texan William Wayne Windle based on his grandmother Janice Woods Windle’s fact-based book of the same name, all based on family story-tellers. The dramatic play, opening Thursday, Aug. 31 is a recounting of the trial of Will Bergfeld, a first generation American, son of German immigrants in Central Texas and accused of treason. The courtroom dialogue was taken word for word from the trial transcripts.
Will Windle’s family’s stories go back 100 years, and Janice, the best-selling author of “True Women,” did her research and due diligence to tell them accurately and with authenticity. In the play, Morgana will create the role of Bettie Moss King, author Janice’s actual grandmother. This is the same role Morgana played in the 1997 TV mini-series adaptation, “True Women,” also starring Angelina Jolie, Annabeth Gish, Dana Delaney, Charles Dutton and Powers Booth.
Another thing you can usually count on is history repeating itself. Here we are in the 21st century with accusations of conspiracy and treason filling the country as courtroom drama plays out across cyberspace. This only makes the play more relevant, in seeing how some of the same issues plagued the country 100 years ago. According to Ken Orman, the show’s publicist, “The whole project is as epic as the story.”
Morgana was only a young girl when she became so enamored with the stage that she made up plays and skits with her little cousins. “I would charge my parents a quarter to watch us,” the actress quipped. “My daddy has always said that I came out of the womb acting.”
The “chameleon” actress grew up in Dallas, always singing with the school choir and always in the chorus of the school musicals. “I was just too shy to audition for bigger roles,” she said. After playing a small featured role in one school play, she received accolades from the speech teacher, who said that she really “stood out” and had “excellent diction.”
Morgana’s television and film credits are impressive. In “A Promise to Carolyn,” she portrayed a younger version of award-winning actress Shirley Knight, co-starring with Delta Burke and Swoosie Kurtz. She portrayed the darker side of human nature in the role, and said in an earlier interview, “I’ve never been afraid to look in to the places that most people wouldn’t.”
Among her favorite award-winning and nominated stage roles have been “Gypsy,” “Damn Yankees” and “Sweeney Todd.” She played the role of Bette Davis in 2015 in New York City’s Westside Theatre.
Morgana has a one-night-only performance in Marfa, Texas, Oct. 27, as Bette Davis in the role she originated in 2006 for Camilla Carr’s “All about Bette.”
The talented actress has several films recently released: “Little Woods,” starring Lily James and Tessa Thompson,” “Sleeping in Plastic,” co-starring horror-film star Paul Taylor and a fan favorite co-starring role in the psycho-thriller film by John Keeyes, “The Harrowing.”
“Will’s War” will run Thursday, Aug. 31 through Sunday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Seguin Performing Arts Center, 1315 E Cedar St. in Seguin, Texas. For ticket information, call 830-401-8000 or visit EventBrite.com.