Over the years, the categories of Best Actor and Best Actress have waxed and waned, sometimes disappearing altogether, sometimes being mashed into a single category (e.g. Best Actor/Actress). And given that acting in this town is almost exclusively limited to the kind that happens on a stage in front of a live audience (although that's changing), the number of comprehensively informed potential voters is often few. The two categories have therefore often been more of a college popularity referendum than anything else.
Sharon Graci, cofounder and artistic director of PURE Theatre (in the Cigar factory at 701 East Bay St.), has put a twist on that old formula this year. She's been acting in Charleston for 10 years -- on virtually every stage and former stage in town, in nontraditional performance spaces, on television, and in film -- and it's a marvel she hasn't won before now. But Graci's also one of the very few fully professional actors in Charleston -- someone who earns her day-to-day living on and in front of the stage, and sometimes the camera.
"I act because it's what I do. It's my job," she says. "Acting just happens to be where the path of my life has led, which has been uniquely in the direction to make a living at it."
Graci and her husband (no slouch in the acting department himself) Rodney Lee Rogers founded PURE Theatre in 2003, and the pair have presented four full seasons of contemporary theatre in their blackbox space in the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street. Before marrying Rogers and founding PURE, Graci operated the Charleston Children's Theatre, which she created as a company of adult actors presenting plays for kids. She's as familiar with the dirty, grueling, business side of acting as she is with the glamorous one, and wouldn't have it any other way.
"The opportunity to found PURE and take care of the other side of acting, and also to do the work I want to do and not have to wait for someone to give it to me, is wonderful. Having that complete artistic control -- people dream of that. It's like, how could I not?"
Graci's acting credentials are too numerous to list here, but she earned a degree in theatre from Augusta State University and a master's in acting from the Point Park University Conservatory of Theatre in Pittsburgh. In recent seasons at PURE she's appeared in Grace, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Reckless, Spinning Into Butter, The Mercy Seat, and Lobby Hero, among others. Her television credits include NBC's Surface and the WB's One Tree Hill, as well as several small indie films. And to put all this in perspective, consider that Graci and Rogers are also the parents of five school-age children. Yes, five.
"I wasn't drawn to work with animals. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. Cooking is just a hobby," she laughs. "When you work somewhere, you should have a high level of passion and skill for it, and I like to think I bring both to my job. And I'm always trying to get better."