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S t a g e l i f e

Life of Liz

Young playwright Liz Bernardo writes in order to deal with life’s complexities — and beautifully so

By Gwenyfar Rohler

Photograph by Mark steelman

Besides writing my regular “Stage Life” col-

umn for Salt, I also work as a theater reviewer in town. A couple of years ago I reviewed Dialogues of Strange Bedfellows, a showcase of local writing and performers (mostly short scenes and monologues) at The Browncoat Pub & Theatre. The director was a young woman from UNCW named Liz Bernardo. It was her first show in the community, and I gave it a no-fluff, honest review that focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the evening and pointed out that Bernardo had skill, but that she needed more experience to develop the meaningful work she is capable of.

Theater reviews in a small town are stressful for both the reviewer and the reviewees; there is just no way around that. So I was surprised by Bernardo’s response to her review, which she posted on her Facebook page: “Pretty solid first review as a director!” It showed a lot of maturity, and class. It also made me want to know more about this intriguing young woman who seems to be genuinely committed to growing as an artist. Feedback is something she craves and actually implements. For one so young (she will graduate from UNCW this spring), that’s a pretty surprising trait. “I use writing to cope with things and to understand everything that is happening to me. So a lot of my scripts, and writings in general, are really personal The Art & Soul of Wilmington

because I just kind of write to deal.” Liz Bernardo speaks specifically, and definitively at all times — but especially when discussing Bare Bones, her autobiographical play about eating disorders. “At the time I had started writing it for that reason. I went through several edits of it before getting to the version we used for the show — which I still don’t think is a final version, especially after feedback.” Like many of us, Bernardo has no idea how incredible she is: Smart, beautiful, and always immaculately put together in dresses that flatter her petite figure and complement her long black hair and dark Filipino features. Once you know she has battled an eating disorder, the perfectly put together world is not so surprising — but the breadth of what she has accomplished is. Bare Bones was staged at TheatreNOW last October. “Being able to do that for me was really closure of that part of my life . . . That’s a lot for a person to deal with not even having an eating disorder, but disordered eating in general . . . it’s difficult.” Produced by Up All Night Productions, a new theater company founded by Bernardo, local actor Nick Reed and playwright Zeb Mims, the show was the second they produced in their debut season, which included an original show by Mims and a film-to-stage adaptation. That’s key to understanding Bernardo. When she wants something, she goes after it. In this case, the object of her desire was a theater company. Like many things, it started as sort of a joke. Bernardo and Reed were working on a production of Bert V. Royal’s Dog Sees God at The Browncoat Pub & Theatre. “We spent so much time together because we were also co-stagemanaging. We also constructed and painted the set and all the props. While we were doing that, we started joking around that we should start a theater company,” Bernardo reminisces. At that time, she and Reed were president and vice president of STAGE Company, the student-run theater organization on campus March 2015 •

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March Salt 2015  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

March Salt 2015  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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