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Omaha Magazine

Jill Anderson

Jul 14, 2014 03:49PM ● By David Williams
Triple-threat actress, singer, dancer Jill Anderson knows what it’s like to be the subject of adoring ovations, but now she’s sharing the spotlight with the most unwelcome of co-stars.

Anderson, one of the area’s most celebrated talents and one of the few local professionals with Actors’ Equity cred, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis earlier this year.

“I’m taking a philosophical approach to things so far,” says the woman who is also remembered for Beyond the Pale, her popular Irish folk band of decades past. “MS is a fairly serious diagnosis, but a lot of people live functional, productive lives with this disease. What I won’t let it do is to stop my creativity and my production of art, whether that be writing, concert work, or recording,” adds Anderson, who has released four volumes of Irish folk music through her Red Chair Records brand.

And acting? “I’m going to keep auditioning, but fatigue is a major symptom of MS for me right now, and we’ll see how that goes. Double vision is another symptom. Right now, for example, I see two of you,” she says of the interviewer sitting across the table in the garden of Caffeine Dreams coffee shop.

The artist may be seeing double, but she is working triple time in preparation for her fourth annual Joslyn Castle Literary Festival in September. Previous festivals have focused on such giants as the Bronte Sisters and Oscar Wilde. Last year’s effort was a flapper-fueled nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Each festival is a multifaceted exploration of a literary figure that has featured the likes of staged works, films, panel discussions—even a fashion show. This year’s festival delves into the undead world of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It’s exactly the kind of initiative, says Anderson, that punctuates the idea that her “creativity bucket” can remain full regardless of where MS takes her. And if her diagnosis has anything at all resembling a silver lining, Anderson is now reconnecting with long dormant passions for poetry, the visual arts, and beyond.

“MS has given me a new set of circumstances,” she says, “but that’s really no different than any role or project I take on. In theatre, for example, my character also has a set of circumstances. There’s a script. There’s a setting. The character has a certain economic or social or whatever kind of background that guides who they are. Just like on stage, my life now has a new set of circumstances. It may be a matter of adding new avenues for creativity, but my art will continue.”

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