For junior Glynis Gilio, the stage is like home.
Gilio started acting professionally at age 9 in a production of “Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. She has since starred in productions like “Violet: A Musical” with Bailiwick Chicago Theater, participated as an extra in “The Lake House,” and even appeared in re-enactments on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.”
“I started acting when I started breathing,” Gilio said. “My mom was always very encouraging. It was really something my sister and I really always had a passion for.”
At Hillsdale College, Gilio has been cast in “Almost Maine,” “The Misanthrope,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Twelfth Night,” and most recently, “Kiss Me, Kate.”
She said her most memorable production, however, was “Violet: A Musical.” Cast at age 15, Gilio was involved with the production for four years, and even performed at the Joseph Jefferson Award show, which recognizes theater excellence in the Chicago area. What she says she’ll never forget, though, is the casting process.
The show needed a child and adult version of the same character. During her callback, Gilio was told she had already been cast in the role of young Violet; she was just there so they could match the adult actor to her.
“For any actor, that’s a chilling moment,” she said.
Professor of Theatre George Angell worked with Gilio during “Twelfth Night” and spoke highly of her.
“She has abilities that really only come with experience,” he said. “She is not in the raw-discovery stage.”
Although she has done on-screen work, Gilio said she prefers the theater. Theater, she said, is about truth.
“Everyone used to say to me growing up, ‘You must be such a good liar because you’re an actress.’ And that I feel like is the complete opposite of what theater is,” she said. “When you come into a theater, you’re going to see some truth about the human experience. When you are cast in a show, you are given a role, and it is your job to show the truth of that role. I think theater is important because in many cases it shows the audience a mirror. It provides a peek at truth.”
For other actors on campus, however, the theater reveals a different truth.
Freshman Christa LaVoie found the professional performing arts world after a photographer who worked with her suggested she find an agent.
“I was kind of hesitant about it all,” said LaVoie, who joined the professional-performing-arts world at age 16. “Faith is really important to me, and I was very cautious about pointing things towards myself.”
LaVoie began doing catalog modeling and eventually was cast as Maria Elena Holly in Spokane Valley Summer Theatre’s production of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
“They run the rehearsals just like they do in New York,” LaVoie said, “so I got a taste of what it would be like if I had gone to New York.”
LaVoie is a non-denominational Christian, and said it was her faith that influenced many of her acting decisions. Uncomfortable with nudity and sexual scenes, LaVoie said she also wanted the ability to choose her outfits and turned down roles she “felt had no sense of redemption in, stories that were dark and completely void of any good.”
As a result, she said, she got a reputation for having moral boundaries in the acting world and was nicknamed “Pooh Bear.”
“I still miss the adrenaline and thrill of a thousand people being in the audience, but I think this experience really made me grounded in who I am,” she said. “I needed to have a firm line. When you’re acting as so many different people, you really need to be confident in who you are off-stage.”
LaVoie said she is still open to returning to acting, although she has a passion for middle school and at-risk communities.
And although she is minoring in theater, Gilio, too, has decided pursuing a professional acting career is not a role she would like.
“I have a big passion for the criminal justice system,” said Gilio, who plans to pursue a career as a prosecutor. “I think there’s a lot of corruption in it that I would love to fix. I think it takes a lot to stand in front of a courtroom and argue your case. I think it also takes a lot to stand in front of a thousand people and do whatever you’re doing on stage.”
Both said that acting has given them empathy and better understanding of people.
“In order to be a good actress, you need to be able to fully put yourself in someone else’s story,” LaVoie said. “It helped me learn about different people because I had to be that person. I couldn’t act that person; I had to be that person.”