Veteran thespian trains new generation of actors
Published 1:00 am Saturday, January 17, 2015
Helping train the next generation of thespians is one of the reasons Jim Shirley stays active with the Vicksburg Theatre Guild.
“I want to pay it forward,” said the veteran actor/director whose theater career spans 50 years with 35 of those at the VTG.
Shirley is currently directing the VTG’s upcoming production of “Oliver” — a musical that includes a cast with children.
“The show is challenging to direct because you have to work with children, who are inexperienced, but the positive is it gives you the opportunity to help them get experience,” he said.
Shirley is a native of Vicksburg, but grew up in California.
“I am a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and was a theater major,” Shirley said.
After college Shirley spent time working for Disney.
“I was the stage manager for the Golden Horseshoe Review in Disneyland and then I transferred to Walt Disney World in 1971 to help open the show at the new resort,” he said.
During his stint with Disney, Shirley had the opportunity to work with big names including Kenny Rogers and Mel Torme.
In 1976, Shirley returned to Vicksburg and met his wife of 30 plus years.
“I met my wife at the theater. She was helping build sets,” he said.
Shirley’s job at the theater has primarily been to direct and produce.
“Directing is rewarding and when you can surround yourself with talented people it makes your job easy,” he said.
Shirley said Dorothy Brasfield and Paul Ballard have been instrumental with his success at the VTG.
Brasfield has served as the music director for shows and Ballard is the president and like Shirley has served as a director for many of the theater’s shows.
“Those two are the corner stone for helping me with my success at the VTG. The theater is a team effort not a one person effort,” he said.
“I love working with Jim. He is extremely talented and knows what he wants and knows how to get it,” Brasfield said.
“He is an incredible talented and creative person with vast experience in the theater. I have learned so much from him and we work so well together,” Ballard said.
Of the more than 20 shows Shirley has directed — it is “South Pacific” that holds a special place in his heart.
“It was my favorite. We had such a marvelous talented cast. There were extremely talented people in that show and it was a joy to direct,” he said.
When not directing, or working at his “day job,” at Cowboy Maloney, Shirley likes to cook.
“People that have artistic temperaments have to express themselves— so when I’m not directing a show I like gourmet cooking,” he said, and added he hopes to cater a big meal after “Oliver.”