Teresa Willis
Gig Seeker Pro

Teresa Willis

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles, California, United States
Band Spoken Word World


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Audience Comments"

Eloquently performed by Teresa Willis, "Eenie Meanie" blew me away, as I was not expecting a white girl from Kentucky to take me, a black girl from Los Angeles, on a journey through her incredible experience with racism. I laughed, I cried, I felt that we were kindred spirits... and I knew this slice of life must be seen by all.

Melanie L. Jones-Zimmerman
Director, Community Outreach and Education Dept.
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Teresa Willis soars in her extraordinary one-woman show "Eenie Meanie." Reaching out across the taboos of racial prejudice, she opens your mind and enlightens your heart with her soul-searching courage and honesty.

Jessica Pennington
Actress and Graduate
Carnegie Mellon Department of Drama
The subject matter was daring in its honesty. The language was poetic; at times brilliant. The staging and use of video complemented the piece. I am white and went with a black friend. The play sparked new understanding and very interesting conversations.

Terri Sissman
Goldstar Audience Review
The utter honesty and grace with which Ms. Willis addresses her own awkward, confusing emotions about race give audience members the opportunity to reveal their own histories with equal candor. Whether in the group discussion following the performance or on the way home in the car and for days after, audience members will find themselves, like me, reviewing their own lives and reconsidering the future.

Stephanie Roth
As a white male baby-boomer, Teresa's work made me stop and reflect on those comments and attitudes, all uttered without apparent malice, that shaped who I am, that cause me to fight each day to consider each person for who they are, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or age. Teresa's words, though uncomfortable to hear at times, gave me a greater insight into myself and the time in which I was raised. Her words gave me hope for a better tomorrow.

Tommy Giavocchini
"Eenie Meanie" was really illuminating - it brought up questions and feelings and old hurts I was surprised to realize had been chasing me for years, yet it did so in a good way. :) A way that makes you feel cleaner afterward.

Tracy Berna
I identified with many parts of the story and the profound message to "pay attention." My partner and I ended up talking for quite awhile on the way home from the performance about our own experiences growing up in a racist society. The whole experience of reminded me how very powerful our stories are and how powerful we are when we tell our stories.

Sharon Scales Rostosky, Ph.D.
Chair, Counseling Psychology Area Committee
University of Kentucky
"Eenie Meenie" is a spectacular one-actor piece that leaves you not only with the sweet taste of having seen great theatre, but also with the feeling that you experienced life at its best and its worst.

Danny and Becky Perezvertti
Teresa Willis brings us along on the journey of her life through experiences with prejudice in this thought-provoking, inspiring one-person show. This topsy-turvy look at racism and its effect on a Caucasian girl reflects an insightful, yet nondidactic idealism of the American experience. I highly recommend this show!

Courtney Rundell
Teaching Assistant, Playwright, Poet
…a beautiful balm for those whose souls are sick over racism.

Amelie Frank, writer
"Excellent," was the verdict delivered by my son Joseph of your performance last night. It's a testimony to your honesty, accessibility, and artistry to be able to captivate a 12-year-old. I hope your tour takes you to some middle schools and high schools as well as colleges. Thank you for a wonderful evening, and for the gift of future thought and action.

Paula Bergen
- Audience


The New York International Fringe Festival at the Center for Architecture
Eenie Meanie is a bravura exploration of race relations presented with aplomb: funny, fast-moving, sharp, enlightening, and so specific it’s universal.
This autobiographical one-woman piece tells the story of a little white girl in Kentucky who calls herself a “civil rights kid.” Teresa (Teresa Willis, also the author) has black Barbie dolls in case she ever has a black friend, learns that “flesh-colored” crayons mean white people, and insists that her friends say “catch a tiger by the toe,” having been taught to never, ever say the other word. The play follows her life in episodes of wished-for integration: When she moves to New York after college, she falls for a black bartender who disappears before she can give him the Cosby sweater she bought him. Hurt, she protests, “It’s not me. I’m not your enemy. I would have married him. I had black Barbie dolls!”
Slides announce titles and years (“1968: Flesh-Colored Child,” “1973: My Own Boo Radley”), accompanied by perfectly chosen snippets of music (such as “ABC,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” “When Doves Cry”).
Eenie Meanie doesn’t shy away from tough observations: The L.A. riots cause Willis to feel fear the next day when a black man approaches, and her aging father laughs at jokes she would have been punished for telling when she was a child. She realizes he wasn’t Atticus Finch, but he tried to be, for her. It’s a wonderful recognition of love and tolerance in an evening crammed full of them.
Director Elizabeth Swenson stages the material so seamlessly it dances. Willis is a treasure: funny, self-deprecating, expressive, and convincing. And she sings, too. Eenie Meanie is a theatrical experience to be shared.
Presented by Say Tiger Productions in association with Nom de Guerre Theatre Guild as part of the New York International Fringe Festival
at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, NYC.
- BackStage - Reviewed by Gwen Orel

"FRINGE 2006 REVIEW: Eenie Meanie by and featuring Teresa"

Teresa Willis is attuned to her times — our times — with an insight like
perfect pitch, and she has crafted a fine stage presence to tell us about it in
Eenie Meanie, presented at the Contemporary Arts Center. Born in 1960,
Willis first experienced the roil of developing African-American presence in
society at large as a white girl born in Kentucky, when she is five years old
and a black man is in her house for the first time ever. She is both confused
and fascinated. A few years later, puzzling over the designated skin colors
(red, yellow, white, black) she wonders where the flesh-colored people
would be. Ah, she discovers that “flesh-colored” is actually white.
This incongruity is as apparent to the child Teresa as it continues to be to
the grownup, but nothing is simple and her responses are as human as
humane. She’s usually the odd one out, which is of course the best way to
see what’s really going on. She’s the child who insists the “eenie meanie”
rhyme should use “tiger” instead of “nigger,” and gets cut out of the game for
her trouble. She also reports scornfully on school busing from a participant’s
view. Nobody wants it, black or white, and whatever social consciousness
she had as a pre-adolescent is pretty much aside from the point of being
gloriously, painfully teen-aged.
Willis is a wonderfully physical actor, changing age and attitude in a minisecond
and capable of making the act of putting her hair onto rollers an
interesting exercise. She is certainly not the first to explore this material, but
her presentation is so fresh and her insights so acute that the audience is
with her from the moment she shoots onto the stage, claiming to be five
years old. Although costuming and props are deliberately minimal, the
production incorporates technically sophisticated audio/video.
Willis’ vignettes move swiftly along and find her in Louisville, Lexington, New
York, Hollywood and other southern California outposts. Perhaps the most
moving, though, is a segment in which she has come home and is driving
her parents on “I-75 South” and a very human, deeply ingrained reluctance
to accept other cultures saps her parents’ long-held liberal views. They want
everyone to have the rights, but to be “just like us.” She lectures them, as
self-righteous as they are, and then later after her father has died
understands something more of the layered difficulties of human interaction.
If everything fell easily into black and white, we’d not be so easily misled. Good theater helps to show the beige, and Eenie Meanie is good theater. Grade: A
- REVIEW BY JANE DURRELL -Cincinnate Fringe Festival - City Beat 06

"Eenie Meanie at Open Fist Theatre"

Teresa Willis’ brave romp through the past four decades of American racial relations is at once deeply personal and resoundingly universal, the choice fodder for a pitch-perfect solo performance. Amidst a backdrop of Barbies and roller skates, pop music and family home videos, the audience witnesses as a fiveyear old white girl from Valley Station, Kentucky, in 1965 begins her fascination with people of color,
awakening her empathic intuition in the midst of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Infinitely playful, her tempered performance carefully etches other milestones along her life to her present, Post-Obama election (and therefore, arguably, “Post-Racist”) self. Between busses to her newly de-segregated high
school and near-curfew strolls during the LA Riots, Willis falls in love with a black woman, questions her Crayolas, witnesses violence against her friends, and confronts her parents’ bigotry. Neither hero nor victim, her honest and at times hilariously shameless journey investigates many nuanced perspectives on
racism, fear, guilt, love and solidarity, avoiding any simplified resolution in favor of studied introspection.

Having toured and performed the show extensively, production values are high, with beautiful use of Open Fist’s space by the entire design team. Elizabeth Swenson and Martha Demson’s direction, with careful movement work and inventive staging, keeps the energy bright even as Willis delves into more serious subject matter. Bravo to Open Fist and Say Tiger Productions for taking a great story and making an
exemplary piece of one-person theatre!
- LA Theatre Review - by K. Primeau

"Powerful one-woman show launches national tour in Redlands"

REDLANDS - Teresa Willis' one-woman show, "Eenie Meanie," is a beautiful and compelling piece of theater. Written by Willis and directed by Elizabeth Swenson, the piece was premiered before a Redlands audience last week when The Performance Loft hosted the launch of Willis' national tour. The autobiographical monodrama is complemented by a multi-media presentation that includes film
clips, news stories and music. Willis takes the audience through the journey of her life as it relates to her experiences with black Americans and her changing perceptions about "people of color."

Growing up in Valley Station, Ky., Willis never saw a black person until she was 5 years old and a piano tuner came to her home to service the family piano. Her journey begins there as she deftly carries the audience back to that day with all of the curiosity and excitement she felt at his appearance in her living room. Right from the start, Willis draws the audience into her life by endearing them to the 5-year-old Teresa.

Throughout the one-hour performance, Willis' journey continues through her phases as zealous adolescent, rebellious teen, experimental college student, starving artist and on to 30-something sage. Each moment in her life addresses changing opinions she has had of black society and the experiences that brought about those changes. Each segment is well developed, offering a series of moving moments, both comic and poignant.

At times more universal than individual, Willis' transitions often include reference to historical events that have at times shaped race relations for an entire generation. Her very emotional segment recalling her days as a child trying to understand the events surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. is delivered with great impact. Her explanation of developments resulting from the 1971 decision on forced busing demonstrates the power the government has had over they way people of different races feel about each other. Being forced to attend a high school across town in the name of "desegregation" resulted only in Willis' development of a resentment toward blacks that she had never felt before in her life.

Later segments in the performance touch on Willis' first experience with a biracial romance. When she reveals her heartbreak at being dumped by a black lover because of his fear of his family's reaction to her, the sense of irony felt in the room is thick enough to slice with a knife. Once again Willis bravely confesses the feelings of anger and hatred she has allowed herself to feel towards others throughout her life.

The true tragedy of Willis' transitions from "Civil Rights Kid" to fear-stricken resident of Los Angeles is played out in her segments touching on the Rodney King riots of the '90s. Her revelations about the bigotry she found within her relationships with others, as well as within her own heart, are enough to draw tears from the eyes of the empathetic.

Additional moments that threaten to evoke streams of salty water include Willis' description of the progression of her father from her ideals of him, to who he really became later in life. When she describes the "old white guy" that her father became, she invites the audience to join her in the front car of her emotional roller coaster journey through denial, grief, anger and eventual acceptance of her
father's ways.

Her dialogue is vivid and clever throughout. Also a poet and stand-up comedian, Willis uses poetic verse to paint her verbal pictures and comedic timing to lighten the most intense moments of the presentation. Her physical acting choices do much to convey the different personifications she has lived through. By the completion of the piece she has come full circle ultimately revisiting the feelings
of a 5-year-old girl's first experience with a black person. "Eenie Meanie" was presented to the public free of charge through the efforts of The Performance Loft
Producers Club, The Poets and Writers Inc., the University of Redlands Office of Diversity Affairs and a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.
- Redland Daily Facts - STEVEN SABEL - Our Town Editor - Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Still working on that hot first release.



Teresa Willis is a writer/performer whose career is as varied as her talents - from a star turn the indie film, "Forgiving the Franklins" (SXSW, Sundance 2006,) to a Pushcart Prize-nominated performance poet (Caffeine, The Moment, and Pearl.) Teresa has performed her humorous and insightful spoken word at such venues as UCLA, UCSB, the Gene Autry Museum, Highways and The Improv. Her theatre credits include Horton Foote’s "Getting Frankie Married and Afterward", James Joyce’s "The Dead," "Stage Door" and "Macbeth" at Open Fist Theatre in LA. As playwright, her one-act play, "The Roof", has been produced numerous times in both NYC and LA. As a vocalist, Teresa has been a soloist with Vox Femina LA and the avant-pop group Third Door Down. She is also a television documentary writer-producer of the global warming treatise "Our Seering Earth."

With her award-winning "Eenie Meanie," Teresa realizes her dream to create an original project that employs all of her passions in a socially conscious fashion. Teresa lives in Burbank, California.