by Lorie Lewis Ham
In honor of Pride this month, we wanted to interview a local LGBTQ+ performer like we did last year, so we reached out to local actor, singer, and so much more, Lilly Dale Read.
KRL: Are you from Fresno? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here?
Lilly: I was born in San Deigo at the Naval hospital. My family moved to Fresno in 1956 when I was two. My Grandparents lived here.
KRL: Current day job? And other jobs you have had?
Lilly: I have been a personal trainer for 30 years. My business, Safe Space Personal Training Studio was built behind my house in 2000. I am also the Spiritual Leader (minister) at Unity Spiritual Center of Fresno.
KRL: Schools attended?
Lilly: Hoover High, Cabrillo College in Aptos, Emerson Theological Institute.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?
Lilly: I’ve always wanted to be a singer and an actress. Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, I wanted to do that. I started giving shows in my yard at three, never stopped!
KRL: What was your first part?
Lilly: My first part was a street urchin in La Bohem. It was the first opera at the Saroyan Theatre.
KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played & with what companies?
Lilly: I was in Clovis Community’s Music Man, was part of the 2000 celebration downtown. I was Lucille Ball, an Andrews Sister, Edith Bunker, and my fav, Tina Turner.
I was in both productions of Hairspray at Roger Rocka’s, played Velma Vontussle. 99 shows! Then I was in Rocky Horror Live for 4 years. I played the usherette, Magenta, and finally Dr. Scott.
Two years ago, I was in Memphis at Reedley with River City Theatre Co., I played Huey’s Mom. Was just honored to participate in the Tower Porchfest. I was also the cocktail singer at FAB when they first opened.
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show do be in?
Lilly: I love to make people laugh! I love the big, belty numbers, I like being outrageous.
KRL: What do you like best about acting/singing?
Lilly: There is a moment in every show where a transcendent moment happens. I Love that. I love the interaction between players when they form a family in a show. I believe a voice is a special gift, meant to be shared.
KRL: What is the hardest?
Lilly: Choreography is definitely not my strong suite! LOL I tend to be pretty slow to pick it up. It’s also hard to be an older actress. We don’t have as many choices for roles.
Lilly: Heroes? In the world, RBG, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Oprah, Delores Huerta, Audra McDonald. In Fresno, Joel Abels, Sarah Price, Terry Lewis, Camille Gaston, Salisha Thomas, Debi Ruud, Dominic Grijalva, and so many more uber talented peeps.
KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor?
Lilly: I have grown so much by listening and being teachable. Fred Bologna was hard on me in Hairspray, and he taught me so much! Daniel Chavez Jr. is a genius. His vision for Rocky was amazing. Terry Estabrook really helped me find my voice.
KRL: What is your dream role?
Lilly: Dream Role? Elphaba and the Witch in Into the Woods.
KRL: I understand you are also a Reverend-can you tell us more about that? How did it come about and are you with a specific local church?
Lilly: I have been an ordained minister for 12 years. I was in the world of drug abuse for many years. When I got clean in 1989, I searched for a Spiritual Way I could relate to. I found New Thought/ Unity and knew I was right where I should be. Started taking classes, and now I am the minister of Unity Fresno. I Love that we welcome All, and that means All. I am definitely not your conservative evangelical pastrix! LOL!
KRL: I saw that you got married last year-what was it like getting married during a pandemic?
Lilly: Yes, I did get married last June. I was married to a fine man for 28 years. As I approached 60, I was so unhappy inside. As I moved deeper into self-discovery, I realized I had kept my true self-hidden all these years. I came out in November of 2015. I divorced, and met a wonderful woman. Barri is a College professor, and the Queen of my heart! We zoomed our wedding, a few hundred folks came! Only closest family were there, including my sister who officiated. It was wonderful!
KRL: I also saw that you did a recent “Porchfest” concert. Before the pandemic, did you do much singing other than in theatre before the pandemic?
Lilly: I’ve been a singer all my life! I still do shows whenever I can. I sing jazz standards and Broadway. I love the old songs. Porchfest was the first gig I’ve had since lockdown. I also sing with Hearts On Fire, Fresno’s only rock and roll choir, And at my church, really looking forward to being able to do that again. I love singing harmony, and doing special arrangements. I have directed choirs in the past, and hope to do that again!
Lilly: I do a lot !! LOL! This past year has been a blessing because it had given me the opportunity to slow down! I love my life so much!! And balance is important. Work, Play, Home, Family, Faith, I am Blessed to enjoy all of these things.
KRL: Is it hard balancing everything that you do?
KRL: Do you have time for any hobbies?
Lilly: I love fashion, reading, doing projects at home. Yes, I love to work out, I have six pets, they keep us busy! I play guitar badly, and love to sleep.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Lilly: I am grateful for every opportunity to play in the theatre field! Life is Amazing, every part is my favorite part. I say support live theatre and music! And, as always, I remain, Love and Only Love.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.