It’s all about the chair – a silver and black, lightweight metal director’s chair. That’s where the magic unfolds. This small but profound space serves as a centerpiece, a channel, a passageway and a place of learning and honesty for Eva DeVirgilis and the women that settle into her chair.
“The chair is a microcosm of life. So many things that I have noticed about my life and humanity started in my chair,” says the actress, global speaker, and activist for self-acceptance and female empowerment.
This very important chair came into her life when she was living in New York City and working side jobs between acting gigs. “I was waiting tables and bartending, and I was sick of doing that. A dear friend got me into Saks Fifth Avenue selling candles. Finally I started doing makeup there,” she says.
Her job as a makeup artist introduced her to a multitude of “wonderful women,” she says. “The best part was meeting every woman who would sit in my chair, sharing and talking with them. It was transformational.”
A native of Scranton, DeVirgilis spent twelve years in New York working as an actress before moving to Richmond eight years ago. She’s been a storyteller ever since she was young. “I would do impressions of my family. I have a very flamboyant Italian family,” she says, noting her mom’s side of the family is Irish. “I had a diverse upbringing.”
At Saks, she learned the key to sales was to “present yourself in a genuine way – care about the person and their needs,” she says. “That was my approach and my comfort zone. I wanted to make people feel comfortable and women started sharing their stories.”
DeVirgilis noticed almost every woman sitting in her chair would immediately apologize for the way she looked. “I realized I would do the same thing, apologize and put myself down,” she says. To change that dialogue, she instituted a no-apology/sorry zone around her chair, serving as a reminder not to use any self-deprecating behavior.
Her experiences eventually led to her TEDxRVAwoman talk In My Chair in 2013 that went viral the following February. It is one of the most watched talk in TEDxRVA history.
“That TED talk completely change my life,” she says. “I think doing that talk brought together my years of one-woman show work, activism, speaking skills, makeup artistry and work. They all came together in that 10-minute performance. It changed everything for me and propelled me forward.”
Women from around the world responded with tweets, messages, and calls, inspiring her to launch a global In My Chair tour commissioned by the New Works division of Virginia Rep. DeVirgilis will bring her In My Chair performance to Virginia Rep under the Cadence Season at Theatre Gym in March 2019.
The 44-day tour – yes she carried her chair – last year took her everywhere from Ireland to China. “Every stop couldn’t have gone better,” she says. “I learned so much.”
Even though women were from all different cultures, she saw many similarities. “Women just want to be seen, understood, loved and to connect,” she says.
In the future, she hopes that women can connect with each other. “I want to convince women that we are enough as we are and to see we are not alone,” she says.