There is something magical about Julie Ganey. As she approaches the small table where I sit with my cappuccino, she reaches out her hand. Her hair is a rich shade of tawny and curls near the ears, and her eyes are striking as they gleam beneath her glasses.
“Hello, I’m Julie,” she says. I stand to greet her and return her handshake. She takes a seat across from me at the table, and in no time, we are talking like a pair of old friends. She seems to glow and is full of simmering effervescence that reveals itself quietly in the stories she tells.
Storytelling is Ganey’s passion. It’s why she went into theater and why she works as the Director of Education for 2nd Story, a job she loves. It is her theatrical background that adds depth to the stories she creates for 2nd Story. She explains:
“I think something that I’ve learned in twenty years of being an actress is that what creates a connection with an audience--whether it’s on the page or whether it’s in a bar or a whether it’s in a five-hundred seat theater--is honesty. The ability of the performer to be perfectly honest about what’s going on and who those characters are, now in storytelling and in the kind of writing we do for 2nd Story, that main character is you! (She laughs) So the ability to be honest about that and not sell the audience on yourself, but to really be honest about the flaws and the foibles, and the weaknesses and the limitations that are apart of all our lives, and ways that we’ve been able to rise above them.” However, Ganey does not believe everything has to always be so serious.
“Another thing I’ve learned from being an actress for so long is that any serious situation is improved by a bit of levity. So no matter how serious something is, there’s always room to look at it with a bit of humor.”
Storytelling is in her blood. It was her father who challenged Ganey and her siblings to go after the tough books. “He was always challenging me with books. It taught me that, even if something is difficult at the moment, doesn’t meant that it’s not worth plowing through. He was the biggest influence in my reading life. “
So what author inspires her the most? “Toni Morrison was the author that most opened my mind to how powerful and raw storytelling can be life changing. Her writing is so different from mine. Each one of her books has meant something to me every step of the way.
Her favorite characters are the ones without all the answers. “I don’t know that we go to the theater or go to hear stories about people who have it all together, we go to see people struggle and see how you can bear the struggle, and, even when it seems hopeless—it’s really not.”
She is inspired the most by her family and cooking. Her face lights up whenever she discusses a collaborative project she’s working on or a new recipe she’s tried. For some time we swap recipes: she tells me about how she tried her hand at Coq au Vin the other night and I tell her about my favorite Brussels sprout recipe.
For Julie Ganey, it is not just the end result of a project that she loves, but the process of getting there. She is comfortable taking her time and living in the moment, and tells me about how much she cherishes time with her daughter and husband.
“Everything in life is beautiful and enormous in it’s own way if you look at it correctly,” she says. Ganey infuses this belief into everything she does, especially her own stories and the stories she helps cultivate with 2nd Story. Perhaps this is what her magic is: being able to see the beauty in the mundane.
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