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  • Writer's pictureshelbyrseeley

Tribute to Marla Gousseff

I was introduced to Marla almost a year ago when I was selected to get the Gousseff Memorial Scholarship. Marla wanted to meet and have lunch with every scholarship recipient to talk to them about her husband Dr. G. The scholarship was exactly that- a way for Marla to pass along the legacy of her husband by giving back to students who showed interest in directing.

Marla gave me a sense of purpose and motivation to do her scholarship justice. She made me feel seen, like the work I was doing didn’t go unnoticed. That this once total stranger believed in me and wanted to see me thrive as much as Marla did still boggles me to this day. Her kindness, her generosity, her selflessness is beyond compare. She wanted nothing in return- just to meet me, tell me about Dr. G, and cheer me on. Her encouragement and excitement to see me, and the other scholarship recipients, succeed meant so much and is more than I could have ever asked for.

After our first lunch meeting, I started emailing Marla updates about what I was working on- I couldn’t wait to tell her about it. Marla would come see my shows to support me, always with candies or gifts to send backstage. Soon we began going out to dinner to catch up, sometimes we stayed in and played with Mostly Good Mo (her sweet dog). I quickly fell in love with Marla and everything she stood for- I wanted to be around her, to talk to her about the mask collection her and Dr. G had, her paintings, her days on stage, her love of all art, our shared love of Stratford.

I miss her so much. So many wonderful things have happened since I last saw her, and it’s hard to fully appreciate them because I have this gut instinct whenever something new happens to 1) tell my parents and 2) tell Marla. It’s so crazy to me that a complete stranger this time last year could impact me this much. I have a card from her hanging above my desk- it’s been there since January- to remind me to “carry on!” when I need some uplifting.

I hope that I can give a student what Marla gave me someday. Until then, I will continue to carry on her and Dr. G's legacies.

Marla, I could never thank you enough for what you have given me. More than anything, I’m thankful for your friendship. You’re such a star.


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