Photography by Danny Fulgencio.

When Gail Cronauer was young, her doctor told her taking ballet lessons would help with her flat feet. She took the advice and began dancing, which introduced her to performing. In high school, she got into musicals, which launched her into the world of theater.

In college, Cronauer acted in a play called Viet Rock, an anti-Vietnam War production staged while the war was ongoing. The production was unique because in it, actors made physical contact with the audience.

“That was my sense of what theater could do, that theater could touch people and change their lives,” Cronauer says. “So it was natural for me to want to continue doing that kind of work.”

She spent her career working on live performances and films alike. After she taught at SMU for six years, she starred in Eric Overmyer’s On the Verge twice, once at Stage Number One and once at Stage West in Fort Worth. She also acted in a highly acclaimed independent film, The Vast of Night, which was released in 2019. More recently, she’s acted in film shorts, and she’s still auditioning for more.

Cronauer retired from full-time teaching at Collin College last year, and she now teaches at MediaTech Institute. Other parts of her day are dedicated to Women in Film Dallas. It’s a group that offers networking, educational opportunities, scholarships and recognition for females in the film industry.

Our neighbor had been an on-again-off-again member of the organization for years, as she balanced raising a family, teaching and supporting a husband who had health issues. When the group’s former president asked if she’d consider running for a leadership position, she agreed and is now the vice president. Among her responsibilities is assisting Tiffany Vollmer, the organization’s president.

“I’m the Kamala Harris,” Cronauer says. “Where do I need to go? You can’t attend that meeting tonight? I’ll go. I’ll be there.”

Vollmer and Cronauer also co-host a monthly podcast, “We’re Just Say’n’,” where they interview fellow members of the organization.

Many of WIF Dallas’ programs are targeted at supporting and encouraging members. The Social WIFs of Dallas, one of the subcommittees, hosts a movie of the month meeting at women-owned restaurants. There’s also a group that meets at Halcyon every Wednesday to brainstorm and peer review projects. Members’ birthdays are celebrated monthly.

WIF Dallas’ major event is the Topaz Film Festival, which will be Oct. 18-24. The organizers are hoping to hold it in person, and anyone is welcome to attend. Awards will be given to women who are helping and improving the industry.

“That festival is important because a couple of other festivals have kind of gone away,” Cronauer says. “So the Topaz festival becomes the festival in the DFW area that focuses on women and women’s works.”

Over the years, Cronauer has taken on a multitude of roles. She was a time-traveling woman, an acrobat during the last stage of her life and an old woman who befriends a man camping on her property. As the vice president of WIF Dallas, her latest part has been to meet and network with other WIF chapters across the country.

“That whole thing about ‘if you can see it, you can be it,’” Cronauer says. “If you don’t know that somebody’s doing it, it can be really hard to imagine yourself doing it.”