Gayle Featheringill: Business owner by day, impresario by night

By day she’s the energetic owner of Statewide Reporting Service, a thriving court-reporting business. By night, Gayle gayle-in-dressing-roomsmallpgFeatheringill is a passion-driven volunteer impresario at Players by the Sea, an amateur play group in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. Each of her “occupations” is work, she says, but she loves them both.

Featheringill formed her own business in 1980 after working several years as a typist and a court reporter. She says her company performs an important function: Its eight freelance court reporters take depositions and record court proceedings, administrative hearings, and other public hearings—anything in which a verbatim transcript is needed. “When there is an appeal,” she says, “the appeals judge only sees the transcript of the proceedings, never the witnesses. So the transcripts have to be verbatim.”

The recession has had an inverse effect on Featheringill’s business, so much so that she herself has had to re-engage in reporting. “Business is thriving now, so much that they call me to go to work!” she says. “We deal in crime and bankruptcy, which go on the rise in a recession. We got along with only four reporters for many, many years. We were content and could have a weekend. Now we have eight reporters and we never stop!”

Despite her busy schedule, Featheringill finds time to indulge in her “other work,” volunteering both as an actor as well as a behind-the-scenes worker at Players by the Sea, where she has been involved since its inception in the late 1960s. She got the acting bug while she was in college and tried out for the lead in Picnic at the urging of her English professor. That was in 1959, and she has never shaken the bug since then. “I’ve worked at Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine, the [now defunct] River City Playhouse in Jacksonville, and Theatre Jacksonville. I enjoy the production aspect of theater as well as the acting.”

Usually actors and stage crew have about six weeks to prepare for a production. But Featheringill remembers one time when she had only hours to act in a Shakespeare production. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I received a call from the executive director at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, asking if I could go on that night. They faxed me the lines so I could learn them. The cast and crew came in early so I could get my blocking [stage moves] down. And the prop master put my lines on parchment paper so I could ‘cheat’ a bit. Since my character had to talk about the law, I would hold up the parchment paper and the audience thought I was talking about the law. I was actually reading my lines. There are life accomplishments. This was one of them for me.”

Putting on amateur theatrical productions is “fun work” but work nevertheless, says Featheringill. “There are never enough people. It takes about three people backstage for every actor you see on stage—people running the lights and sounds, directing, helping with costumes, and getting the actors dressed.”

The time commitment is considerable, too. The actors may rehearse three or four times a week for several hours each time. The stage manager, a role Featheringill enjoys fulfilling, is even more involved, working up to five nights a week, and even more during “hell week,” the week prior to the week before the play goes on. “That’s when everything comes together—lights and sounds with the acting, over again and again, to get the timing right. You work hard all week.”

featheringill-portraitsmall1Why does she do it, if the work is so hard? “Why do some people play golf?” she answers with a question. “Working in the theater is hard work, but it’s not just that. It’s a passion. The only thing we get in amateur theater is the reaction of the audience, and that is so rewarding. Applause is part of it, but it’s more than that. When you are on stage, you can make yourself disappear and become someone else, or make people think you do.”

Featheringill may disappear on stage, but not from Players by the Sea nor her own business. “I’ll never retire!” she states. “This is ‘my thing.’”

Statewide Reporting Service is located at 233 East Bay Street, Suite 606, Jacksonville, FL 32202, 904-353-7706. Players by the Sea,, is located at 106 Sixth Street North, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250.

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