Memphis actress performs at the Kennedy Center

Memphian performs at the Kennedy Center

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - From the southern stages of Playhouse on the Square and Theatre Memphis, to the bright lights of the famed Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Memphis actress Cecelia Wingate is currently living her best life on stage in our nation’s capital.

"It's just kind of mind-boggling to be at the Kennedy Center,” said Wingate.

The 63-year-old retired from FedEx after 36 years and became a full-time actress.

She's currently starring in the award-winning play "Byhalia, Mississippi” at the John F Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

"It’s just such a humbling experience to just be at the Kennedy Center. And then, every night, to know I get to step a toe on a stage at the Kennedy Center... still blows my mind,” said Wingate.

The play was written by another Memphian, Evan Linder.

It tells the story of Jim and Laurel, a struggling young couple whose lives are turned upside down when Laurel gives birth to a bi-racial baby.

Wingate plays Celeste, Laurel's mother.

"She is a horrible racist. She doesn't think she is. She has no idea she is, but she's a horrible racist,” said Wingate.

The play tackles family, infidelity, love and racism.

"Oh, I think it’s so relevant. I think it is so real-time America,” said Wingate.

She put her life in Memphis on hold for two months to star in the Washington D.C. production.

Friends are taking care of her cat and her home.

“Oh yeah, I had a tree blow down last night in a wind storm. And I’m not having to worry about that because I have, you know, a village down there taking care of things for me. They’re like ‘we got it, don’t worry about it,’” said Wingate.

Wingate is a pretty big deal on the Memphis theater scene, with multiple Ostrander awards to her credit.

Now, a new audience gets to see this Bluff City talent shine in a play that she says has such important meaning.

"I think if JFK walked in and watched this play, he would go, ‘yes, that’s the sort of message I want people to learn when they come into the Kennedy Center,’” said Wingate.

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