Shirley Simpson is a woman of many faces.
The well known actress, who lives in Sandestin, has appeared around the country performing the lead in such productions as “Driving Miss Daisy" and “The Lion in Winter."
She has also presented several one-woman shows which she wrote, depicting Gracie Allen, Katherine Hepburn and Erma Bomback
"I am a member of Actor’s Equity and have been a professional actress for many years," Simpson told The Log. "My favorite roles include Queen Eleanor in 'The Lion in Winter,' Laurette Taylor in an off Broadway production on her later life, and Shirley Valentine in the play of the same name. I did love playing Miss Daisy, as well as many, many others."
Simpson, who also appeared in TV commercials, has played more than 50 characters in professionally produced theatricals. More than 10 years ago she began doing benefit performances for not-for-profit organizations.
"These one woman shows include portrayals of Katharine Hepburn, Erma Bombeck, Minnie Pearl and Gracie Allen," Simpson said. "I did several fund raisers for Fisher House at Eglin Air Force Base, for Path of Grace, a recovery center for women, and for Sacred Heart Community Hospital.”
In addition to her performances, Simpson, a nationally published writer and elder in the Presbyterian Church, USA, does workshops, Bible studies, and keynote addresses for statewide church gatherings.
Simpson believes The Gathering is a great concept and enjoys being part of it. David Seering is the worship team leader and Billy Gray of Billy Gray Ministries is the regular minister.
"In the beginning, my husband, Chuck, and I attended because we know Billy and admire him and support him, and we know David and have always admired and enjoyed him and his music," she said. "When I was asked to do a benefit performance for Billy Gray, I did Gracie Allen, which turned out to be a successful fundraiser for his work."
In one of her scenes in the Gracie Allen show, Simpson talks about how Gracie and George Allen were very successful in early vaudeville because they were known as a great "disappointment act."
"That didn’t mean their act was a disappointment,” Simpson said. “It meant that they would fill in for an act that couldn’t show up, maybe because of illness or car trouble, so the original act 'disappointed' the theatre and George and Gracie could be counted on to 'fill in'."
Soon after Simpson did that benefit for Billy Gray, she received a call from Jay Stone at The Gathering.
"Billy had a medical problem," she said. "Would I be the 'disappointment act' at The Gathering? I did it — loved it — and now try to fill in whenever they need me."
On previous visits at The Gathering, she has spoken on Mary and Martha, the choice sisters, and Absolutely Not Fair, the first will be last and the last will be first. On July 14, Simpson will speak on Forgiveness … how to get it, how to give it.
"Right now, I don’t see any of my 'characters' showing up to be of help," Simpson said. "But many times they are able to add just the right touch to get the message across."