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Theater Talk: President's Medalist Gabby McKinley in Buffalo for Shakespeare/Park, and then???

Da Ping Luo

We loved her on stage as Shug Avery in THE COLOR PURPLE and just look at her now. Gabriella (Gabby) J. McKinley will receive the Buffalo State President’s Medal for Outstanding Undergraduate Student which recognizes a student for exceptional academic achievement, community service, leadership, and creativity. And she'll deliver the student address during the virtual baccalaureate ceremonies Saturday, May 15. She's working with the Broadway League and will be in this summer's Shakespeare in Delaware Park productions.

You can see Gabby's stage presence this Summer as Shakespeare in Delaware Park presents two short programs featuring favorite scenes from Shakespeare's plays.  "A Midsummer Night's Walk" will include various scenes throughout Buffalo's Delaware Park, Buffalo, and will run Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from June 29 through August 12, 2021. "Shakespeare & Love" takes the show on the road to appear in over twenty venues around Western New York, and will run from July 9 through August 22, 2021. Note that the dates overlap because while "Midsummer" will be held in Delaware Park, "Love" will be away from the "home" park, from Amherst to Lackawanna, from Cazenovia Park to Veterans Park. (Note: Due to social distancing requirements, households of two or more must make one reservation for EACH participant.)

Will she stay in Buffalo? (Tha's always a big question whenever we spot a particularly talented undergraduate at any of the local colleges.) Gabby says that she's very grateful for all the opportunities that Buffalo has given her, she loves the environment, and if she could work remotely forever, she'd stay.  But, she calls herself "an opportunity chaser" and if that opportunity, say, requires her to move back to New York City, well, that will be the deciding factor.

McKinley currently works remotely from Buffalo with NYC based "The Broadway League" on programming to develop and award high school musical students.  Buffalo's own Kenny Awards are under the aegis of the New York City based "Broadway League." And it's that remote aspect which will allow her to stay here and "play here" with Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

Two years ago, McKinley won a role in a play at one of our local professional theaters - Torn Space Theater - and appeared in THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE.  Peter reviewed that play for Buffalo Rising and wrote in February, 2019:

"Also very impressive, and another member of the stellar cast of THE COLOR PURPLE recently seen at Buff State, was a relative newcomer, Gabriella McKinley, just a college sophomore. If you saw her as “Shug Avery” and wondered if she could sustain that high level of performance in a professional production, the answer is yes. Here she played “Rachel,” the stripper-girlfriend, and never missed a beat. Local directors: keep your eye on her. Like her classmate Janae’ Leonard recently seen as “Bessie” in NATIVE SON at the Paul Robeson Theatre, McKinley is going places."

So, did the prediction "McKinley is going places" come to pass?  Oh, yes. Yes it did.

From the Buffalo State College website:

"Gabriella McKinley has earned a bachelor of arts in theater, attaining a 3.95 GPA while participating in the rigorous Dean's Honors Program and minoring in legal studies. Eminently talented, she aspires to use theater and storytelling for justice and to lift up at-risk youth and the formerly incarcerated through the art of theater.

"McKinley’s leadership in and beyond the department is inspiring to her peers, the organizations she is involved with, and the faculty and staff with whom she works. She has not only met the expectations of the department but has also helped redefine them, going beyond her own needs to advance the prospects of peers and future Buffalo State College students. As an Honors Program ambassador and a member of the Bengal Experience and Transition (BEAT) Team, she provides mentorship and introduces others to opportunities for personal growth.

"McKinley has completed academic work in dramaturgy, company management, administration, and drama-based education. Her independent capstone project focused on designing four lesson plans based on her coursework, performances, internships, and leadership. On stage, she has earned lead and supporting acting roles in productions at Buffalo State and professional theaters in the Buffalo area. She thrilled audiences on campus as Shug Avery in The Color Purple and Emilia in Othello and earned praise for professional roles at the Kavinoky Theater and Torn Space Theater.

"She was selected for a highly competitive Hamilton company management internship at Shea’s Theater in Buffalo, working alongside the company manager to conduct daily office activities, plan future trips, and organize documents. She served as treasurer for Casting Hall Productions, Buffalo State’s student-operated theater production company, and is a volunteer and intern with the Anne Frank Project. She has been inducted into Alpha Psi Omega, the national theater honor society, and Alpha Lambda Delta, the honor society recognizing academic excellence among first-year students.

"In her hometown community of Staten Island, New York, McKinley has volunteered her talents as a youth liaison and theatrical coordinator for the Institute for the Development of Adolescents and Teenagers, an organization she built with her mother to create programming and advocate the needs of youth."


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