The Best of Savannah





Valerie America Lavelle is humble and thankful for being voted the 2023 Connect Savannah Best Local Actress.  

She has always had a creative side and liked to perform. She started performing when she was in high school.

“I was always kind of shy. Growing up, I was a military brat and I spent a lot of time doing stuff on my own. When I got to high school I got to pick all of these electives and stuff like that. Each year I was going to pick a different one but the first year I picked was theater, and I just stuck with it,” said Lavelle.

There, it was born, her freshman year of high school, the joy she found in bringing works to life on stage.

“My very first show was my freshman year. It was ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ and I was one of the fairies. I think I had a line with, maybe three words in it, and I said, this is for me,” said Lavelle.

Lavelle said she enjoys acting in a show because “you get this fast family for a month or two with the other cast and crew members.”

“I always enjoy just being able to see that there’s a finished product that you get to have, and you share with everybody, and it’s all celebrated with and audience,” said Lavelle.

She has been acting and performing in Savannah for over a decade. From “The Vagina Monologues” to “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Lavelle has performed a variety of challenging roles. She was also instrumental in helping grow the Bay Street Theatre with Travis Coles. 

Her community involvement continued as she performed in shows at the Savannah Actors Theater, which later turned into Cardinal Rep before closing.

“Once I moved here and was going to school here, I just went all in on trying to fill as much of the time as I possibly could with acting, especially when you’re in your early 20s and you could stay up to three or four in the morning doing whatever projects. I just kind of signed up for anything,” said Lavelle.

One of more challenging roles came in 2022 when she was cast as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Bay Street Theatre—a show they have done for many years, but this was the first time a male had not performed the role.

“There’s so much pressure that comes with playing that role, and especially being female. I just thought that there was going to be, a negative reaction to it initially. There was always that brief moment when I would come out and they would turn the chair around so the audience sees me for the first time in the show, and it would be kind of silent,” said Lavelle.

A true professional, Lavelle knew the show must go on, and it surely did. 

“You can feel that they’re starting to accept it and they’re willing to go along for the ride.  Yeah, I’ve been doing this for over ten years,” she said.

Lavelle said she enjoys seeing more representation in theater when it comes to casting for different roles.

“There was this (I believe) off Broadway production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and it was great to see MJ Rodriguez from “Pose” in the show,” said Lavelle.

Lavelle is Panamanian American and remembers growing up and not seeing many people that looked like her on the stage, but is happy that is changing.

“It’s been great to see the community grow and everyone get their own niche that they’re growing into and finding their family—a family that pushes you to want to try something else, yourself. I’ve been able to direct shows and do explore other things” said Lavelle.

Lavelle is doing even more now. She has created The Assembly of Phantasms which she describes as a “thrilling and immersive” theater experience, and they will continue to produce more shows.

“I will continue to do work locally but one of my bucket list shows is ‘Once Upon a Mattress.’ I love Carol Burnett, who was in the original production. My heart is definitely stuck in theater. The theater community here is small, but it’s always growing and there are many talented people that are a part of it,” said Lavelle.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment
  • or

Right Now On

Now Playing

By Film...

By Theater...