Meet the Barrymore Voters: Shelli Pentimall Bookler | Theatre Philadelphia
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Meet the Barrymore Voters: Shelli Pentimall Bookler

Oct 4, 2017

The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre started in 1995, and celebrates the rich, diverse theatre community through a peer-adjudicated process. In the 2017-18 Season, we have 70 nominators and 12 judges that will see over 100 professional productions. Our expanded pool of voters this season represents the exciting and diverse theatre community that is thriving in Philadelphia. This entry is part of a profile series to introduce you to the voters who are an integral part of the Barrymore process.

Name: Shelli Pentimall Bookler

What is your current role in the Philadelphia theatre community?: Actor, director, choreographer and playwright.

What was the first theatre production you were involved in, and what did you learn from it?: I was the understudy to the lead in my first grade production of Sleeping Beauty. The girl ended up getting a headache and I performed in her place, which taught me VERY early on to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes along.

What is your education and training experience?: I hold a Master of Arts degree in Theatre Arts from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting from Temple University. I also studied Directing at New School University in New York.

How did you first get involved in the Philadelphia theatre community?: My introduction to Philly theatre was at The Brick Playhouse on South Street. It was a company dedicated to promoting original plays by Philadelphia theatre artists and brought local actors, directors and writers all together. Working collaboratively with everyone inspired creativity and community and connections I still have today.

What projects are you currently working on in Philly?: I I am the co-founder and Artistic Director of Underbite Theatre Company, a non-profit company promoting edgy, theatrical productions with a social mission. We will be joining Plays and Players in producing my original play "All the Dead Biddles", a dark comedy about the ways we deal with grief, in January 2018. You can find out more on our website at or I'm also the co-moderator of PDC's Playwrights' Happy Hour, a casual workshop for Philly playwrights with free beer and snacks, meeting every other Monday at Fergie's Pub (find us on Facebook!)

What show would you love to work on that you haven’t gotten a chance to yet?: I've sadly aged out of my dream roles of Juliet and Cordelia, but Lady Macbeth is still a possibility... And having performed in a staged reading of Naked Feet Production's staged reading of Julius Caesar with the genders swapped, I would love to be a part of something like that in a full production.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the theatre industry?: Be resilient. There will be a lot of rejection and disappointment, but it is all worth it when it happens. To throw a classic movie quote out there : “It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.” (Thank you Tom Hanks, from A League of Their Own.)

If you could have dinner with any four people, living or dead, who would they be and why?: Gloria Steinem (to hear about her inspiring experiences of activism around the world), Lucille Ball (who better to learn from about comedy, business and how to break the boundaries?), Sam Shepard (my playwriting idol) and Jimmy Buffett (who wouldn't want to be drinking Margaritas and searching for a lost shaker of salt with this legend?).

Keep up with all the shows our Barrymore Nominators and Judges are seeing this season by checking out What's On Stage in Philly this week!