By Steve Guntli
Gary Giles has been performing since he was barely old enough to walk, and his talent has taken him around the globe. Now, he’s ready to share what he calls the most important work he’s ever done with the Blaine and Birch Bay community.
“We Shall Not Sleep: The Story of Our Ancestors” is a one-man multimedia performance, written by and starring Giles. Giles will portray three prominent figures from the history of the civil rights movement: Frederick Douglass, the statesman and abolitionist; William Still, who started the Underground Railroad; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The show will debut at 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 17 at the Blaine United Church of Christ, 885 4th Street.
Giles originally wrote the show to perform for inmates in Pennsylvania correctional facilities.
“I wanted those young men, many of whom are black, to get a sense of all of our shared history,” Giles said.
From there, the performance evolved from one man alone on a stage to a multimedia presentation with music, video and audio effects that encapsulate the history of the civil rights movement. In writing the show, Giles spent hours researching his subjects at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the Auburn Research Library in Atlanta.
Giles has been singing since he was three years old, and has been active in the theater since 1982. Giles said he’s lost count of how many performances he’s participated in. He’s toured the country as a singer and actor, and spent months singing in Italy. A Philadelphia native, Giles had performed in Whatcom County in the past, acting in Mount Baker Theatre productions of “Barefoot in the Park” and “Driving Miss Daisy” in 2008. In 2015, he
relocated permanently after nabbing the lead in the Blaine-set original musical “Marina,” written by Sandy Wolf.
“This state is extraordinary,” Giles said. “Washington people perfectly represent the spirit of unconditional regard. The energy here is just wonderful.”
Giles has been living in Birch Bay since July and said he has no intention of living anywhere else.
“I’ve been back to Philadelphia a few times but I won’t ever move back if I can help it. This is my home now,” he said
“We Shall Not Sleep” has been an intensely personal project for Giles. It’s the first show he’s ever written himself, and it tells a story he feels will have a lasting impact.
“This is by far the most important creative work I’ve ever done,” Giles said. “I want to show people of all races that we need to take up the torch, to remember where we’ve come from so we can all take it to the next level together.”
Tickets for “We Shall Not Sleep” are by donation.