Farrell, Gillian B. 1955(?)-
FARRELL, Gillian B. 1955(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1955 in New York, NY; daughter of James Patrick (a bricklayer) and Genevieve (Gates) Murphy; married Larry Beinhart (a writer), February 29, 1988; children: Anna, James. Education: Attended Ladycliffe College, Northwestern University, Green-field Community College, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Politics: Democrat. Religion: "Born Catholic."
CAREER: Actress in Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY, 1979—. Member of Maverick Theatre Company, Woodstock, NY; acting teacher; detective in New York, NY, 1980s. Founder of Byrdcliffe Actors' Theatre.
MEMBER: Sisters in Crime, Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild.
Alibi for an Actress, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.
Murder and a Muse, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Steve Gottlieb) The Trials of Sojourner Truth: 1828-1850 (drama), premiered at SUNY Ulster Theater (Woodstock, NY), Part 1, 2001, Part 2, 2002, Part 3, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Gillian B. Farrell has lead a life full of excitement and variety. She has worked as an actress and part-time private investigator in New York City, Los Angeles, and England, as a writer of mystery novels and a coauthor and director of the stage drama The Trials of Sojourner Truth, and as a teacher and artist in residence.
Farrell once told CA: "I am and always will be an actor first. It is what motivates me, excites me, challenges me, and gives my life direction and purpose. It is an almost impossible task. To survive, I looked for work that pays, and discovered I was an excellent detective when given an opportunity. The work provided an opportunity for extraordinary behind-the-scenes research for an actor whose job is to know and reflect human nature at its most fragile and frightening and everything in between. Conflict and drama are the actor's playing field; being a detective satisfied all the angles and approaches to understanding people in crisis." Among the cases Farrell worked on were the Bernard Goetz (Subway Avenger) case and the Chambers (Preppie Killer) case.
Although acting was still very important to her, Farrell revised her goals somewhat after she married Larry Beinhart in 1988. As she recalled to CA: "I met a writer and married him, moved to the country, and began to tell the stories of my life in the city, both as an actress and as a detective." So Farrell created her actress/private detective character Annie McGrogan, whose job in the debut novel Alibi for an Actress begins by guarding a popular soap opera star and ends up solving the mystery of the star's husband's death. The work caught the attention of reviewers, among them New York Times Book Review critic Marilyn Stasio, who called it "sparkling," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called it "a delightful debut mystery." A Kirkus Reviews critic found the narrator to be "acerbic yet warmly agreeable," but the plot transparent.
Farrell reprised McGrogan in the second installment, Murder and a Muse, which a Kirkus Reviews contributor described as a "sometimes funny take on movie-making," though it is far from flawless. In the novel, Farrell recounts how McGrogan gets a movie role but ends up solving the murder of the film's director. It is a "crisp, entertaining encore to Alibi for an Actress," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Farrell expressed another reason for her novel writing: "Writing is very cathartic. It is enjoyable to relive the cases, the stage and audition experiences, through someone like me, Annie McGrogan, yet someone who gets to say things I never dared, play roles I never got, and meet men who don't exist—not in my real world anyway."
After moving to Woodstock, New York, Farrell began producing and directing her own shows during the summers at the Byrdcliffe Theater in the legendary Byrdcliffe Arts Colony. With her experience acting in theater, television, films, and ballet, she had something to offer the academic community. She taught drama at the Ulster branch of the State University of New York (SUNY). About her teaching goals, she commented on the SUNY Ulster Web site: "Although technology is certainly important in today's world, we want to avoid a world in which technology has driven people away from the arts. We want to encourage creative activity and art appreciation." At the turn of the millennium, Farrell became involved in "The Truth Project," a nonprofit professional theater company in Woodstock, New York. She teamed up with Steve Gottlieb to write, produce, and direct the three-part The Trials of Sojourner Truth: 1828-1850.
Reflecting on her many roles, Farrell once told CA: "So now, I act, teach, write, and most importantly, have a life with my family and friends in a place where art and creativity matter and make a cultural difference."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, 1992, review of Alibi for an Actress; February 1, 1994, review of Murder and a Muse, p. 98.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, September, 1993, review of Alibi for an Actress, p. 7.
Library Journal, May 1, 1992, Rex E. Klett, review of Alibi for an Actress, p. 122; February 1, 1994, Rex E. Klett, review of Murder and a Muse, p. 115.
New York, April 20, 1987, "Going Undercover with New York's Detectives," p. 44.
New York Times Book Review, August 9, 1992, Marilyn Stasio, review of Alibi for an Actress, p. 20; March 20, 1994, Marilyn Stasio, review of Murder and a Muse, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1992, Sybil Steinberg, review of Alibi for an Actress, p. 41; June 7, 1993, review of Alibi for an Actress, p. 67; February 7, 1994, review of Murder and a Muse, p. 74.
Washington Post Book World, February 20, 1994, review of Murder and a Muse, p. 8.
Truth Theatre Web site, http://www.moranandgottlieb.com/public_html/truthtmp/home.htm/ (January 8, 2004), information on The Trials of Sojourner Truth: 1828-1850.
Ulster County Community College, http://www.sunyulster.edu/people/farrell.asp/ (January 8, 2004), "Artist in Residence Program: Spring, 1999—Gillian Farrell.*"