“Where’s your bedroom?” A ten-year-old boy asks Regent University School of Communication & the Arts alumna Jill Szoo Wilson ’06.
She’s pushing her cart through Price Chopper, a grocery store chain in Kansas City, Missouri, and locks eyes with the young boy’s father.
“He thinks you live here,” he explains. And it’s understandable; her image has appeared in television commercials, print advertisements, and even on the sides of semi-trucks as the grocery store’s official spokesperson.
“It’s a neat little gig,” says Wilson, who confesses the frequent encounters she has with blush-faced “fans” who recognize her in the world outside of local advertising. She’s held the official spokesperson role for the last seven years.
“No one knew it was going to turn into a spokesperson role,” said Wilson, who explained that the original audition was for five-commercial spot, which was especially attractive to the hundreds of actresses who auditioned.
“When it ended up turning into the official spokesperson job, that was a huge blessing and a surprise I didn’t know that was coming,” said Wilson.
Through a series of memorized lines and several callbacks, Wilson got the part for a commercial role she said she’d never do.
“I was the only person in my MFA class who said I wasn’t interested in doing commercials, which is funny because now it’s the main part of my career,” she said. “I didn’t think I had it in me. I was a theater person. The commercial side of things made me nervous, and I didn’t think I had a good look for the camera.”
So, through the folds of scenes and dialogues in the story of her own life, she’s landed precisely where she thought she’d never be.
Apart from some of the more obvious benefits – speaking at large venues that the chain sponsors, appearing in countless commercials aired on television and radio – Wilson’s favorite part of her job is connecting with her co-workers on set.
“Whenever I do anything I go into it with an open heart toward the people themselves. It doesn’t matter where I am,” said Wilson. “It’s about the other people that are around me.”
This is more than just an acting technique she learned at Regent. It’s become a practice in her everyday life. And it’s what led her to the role she said she’d never pursue: playwright.
Throwing Stones, a four-person play based on Wilson’s personal history intertwined with the story of Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the holocaust’s most heinous twin experiments led by the infamous “Dr. Death,” is her latest endeavor.
Wilson’s idea for the play sparked alive while watching the haunting documentary, Forgiving Dr. Mengele.
“You know when the Lord gives you something really clear? It was like ‘contact her, there’s something significant here.'”
Wilson obeyed the prompt and contacted Kor. Since, she’s traveled to Auschwitz to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation alongside Kor, who has found healing in forgiving her perpetrators who took the lives of her family members, and performed medical experiments on herself and her own twin sister.
“She believes forgiveness is an act of self-healing,” says Wilson. “If you’re a victim once you don’t have to stay a victim. Once you’re off the battlefield, you have the power to forgive which restores yourself.”
Wilson says that the act of writing Throwing Stones has been an act of healing in her own life, having completed the first draft of the play in June 2015.
“There were moments when my heart felt pressed down; I was glad when I was finally done writing it,” says Wilson. “But I pray I’ll be a good advocate for it.”
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