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Velda comes to life on Halifax County Little Theatre stage

You may have seen her around town lately: tall and leggy, with a trademark black pageboy and the knowing smile of a former Burlesque star-turned-private investigator who doesn’t miss a thing. She’s “Velda: Girl Detective,” the brainchild of local artist/writer Ron Miller, and the star of Halifax County Little Theatre’s summer performance. 

And although she looks as though she stepped out of a time machine from the 1950s, Michigan-born Jill Garrett, the actress charged with bringing Velda to life in her first staged production, is every bit a 21 century woman, from her acting experience to her can-do attitude.

While this is her first experience with Halifax County Little Theatre, Garrett is no stranger to acting, having starred in several productions as a high school student, including “Our Town,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Where the Lilies Bloom.” 

She auditioned for Velda at the behest of Ron Miller and of her own family after Ron saw her at Cafe Peroni’s and declared her to be the spitting image of the comic book character he has been developing for the past decade. 

According to Garrett, apart from her appearance, two particular character traits won her the role: “Apparently, my husband considers me quite the smart aleck. Oh, and I’m not from Southside. That was one of the things Ron was looking for - someone without a southern accent, since the story takes place in New York.”

Garrett, whose husband has called Halifax County home since 1985, has so far found the experience of working with the Velda cast and crew to be a rewarding one. She has particularly enjoyed getting to know “everyone I’ve met” and has been surprised by “how often I find myself saying Velda-ish things in Velda-ish ways! I’m not sure if I was doing that before or if it is just a side-effect of the play.”

Of course, the experience of bringing Velda to the stage has been challenging as well. Garrett cites “the memorization” and “wearing capris!” as her particular nemeses. Still, despite these challenges, the experience has also been rewarding for her, in that it has brought her to “the realization that I can do this - even though it is well outside my comfort zone.”

And when she’s not on stage or rehearsing scenes? “We are currently in the middle of redoing a house that we will be moving into in the near future. I hope,” Garrett said.

She considers Velda a show worth seeing because “it should be a lot of fun. Velda is the “straight man” to a cast of great characters. It’s Ron’s recreation and love letter - I think - to that time and type of entertainment - kind of a cross between a comic book, radio detective play and mid-50s television.”

Halifax County Little Theatre presents the world-premiere of Ron Miller’s “Velda: Girl Detective” free and open to the public in Constitution Square on June 8 and 9. The park will open at 5 with music, and the show will start about 8:30. Bring lawn chairs, towels and blankets, a picnic dinner and purchase ice-cold beers, soft drinks and hot dogs at the concessions stand.