|Maria Burnham, back row left, in Ghostlight's You've Got READ on You: A Shaun of The Dead Live Reading.|
"It was a warm summer night. We were at a restaurant on the beach with my aunt's family and some friends. My mom and her sister were reminiscing about a film my mom had been in that had been playing on TV all week and...'Wait. Dad, did Thea Anna just say mom was in a film?'
"'No,' answered my dad. 'Your mother was a folk dancer that traveled the world, but I don't think she ever acted.'
"But it turned out that, in fact, my mother had been a film actress in her native Greece and in neighboring Italy — an occurrence that began as an extension of her dancing. When we finally heard the whole story that night, my dad looked at me recognition dawning on him and said, ''So THAT's where you get it from.'
"Theatre and acting had been a part of my life in some way since elementary school, becoming more so once I went to a performing arts magnet school in high school and then studied theatre (and English AND journalism) in college. My attraction to the arts was always a sense of bafflement to my working-class family that excelled in technical skills and mathematics, but had never seen a play until I came along. And now, here was the answer. I had inherited this thing with the arts.
"The revelation that acting was a hereditary trait, that there was this entire history of myself that I didn't know was unsettling. What else didn't I know about the past that made me? But it was also comforting. Theatre connects me to my family history in a way that old photos do not. That I could literally be the same person that my mother had been by taking on a role, that we both understood what it meant to create new people and new worlds, that acting had led my mother to be in Athens when my father was in Athens resulting in my actual existence? Well, now, that's something that, say, engineering could never give me."