Gregg Gilmore has found his calling.
It took awhile and several moves, but he’s discovered that teaching the art of acting to others is what he’s meant to do. And he’s doing it in Walla Walla.
The Walla Walla native closed his Seattle acting studio, which he had operated since 2012, last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it was time to reopen, he decided he wanted to come home to do so.
Gilmore opened the Gilmore Studio in Walla Walla in July, when Gov. Jay Inslee reopened the Washington economy.
He teaches twice-weekly classes on Mondays and Wednesdays for local actors.
So far, he has four students in these classes. That’s down from the 20 that he’s used to having in Seattle, but he knows it’s going to take some time to rebuild.
“It’s just a case of getting this thing going,” Gilmore said. “It’s been slow to get started … But it’s a start.”
He also has plans that he hopes will attract some actors from outside the area, including some of his former students in Seattle.
“I just came up with this idea of doing weekend intensives,” Gilmore said. “I think that’s going to be the plan. It feels really good.”
Having these two-day events on the weekend will make it easier for people from out of town to attend. He’s hosting the first intensive in October.
“It’s already starting to fill up,” Gilmore said. “Currently, it’s past students who are (signing up).”
Gilmore said he teaches the Meisner Technique, a method of acting developed by Sanford Meisner. Gilmore studied under Meisner.
“It’s about using yourself,” he said. “Getting in touch with your sense of truth so that you are bringing authentic emotion to what you’re doing on stage, as opposed to just getting good at faking it … It’s about listening, really being present and reacting truthfully.”
Gilmore grew up in Walla Walla. While attending Walla Walla High School, he participated in several productions at Walla Walla Community College. He said he found acting far more interesting and engaging than the rest of his school work.
After viewing some plays at Whitman College, he decided that he wanted to attend school there. But it was not to be.
He met with John R. “Jack” Freimann, the head of Whitman’s drama program at the time. After Gilmore admitted that he didn’t find other school work interesting, Freimann encouraged him to attend a professional acting school, instead.
He ended up attending The Neighborhood Playhouse, an acting school in New York City. The school is the birthplace of the Meisner Technique.
From there, he continued acting as much as he could.
“I started pursuing acting. I did some off-Broadway plays,” Gilmore said. “I did some small little film things. I struggled away for years, having some success here and there.”
Gilmore moved to Los Angeles and worked behind the scenes on productions for a time.
“I produced some video stuff,” he said. “I shot a lot of musicians. I just did all these different aspects of the industry to make a living, and also some acting. I never quite let that go.”
One project he acted in was the music video to Toby Keith’s 2003 song, “Beer For My Horses” featuring Willie Nelson. In the video, Gilmore plays a serial killer chased by Keith and Nelson.
Gilmore moved to and from New York, Los Angeles and Seattle doing this for over 10 years. In 2008, he wanted a change. He wanted to come back home.
He bought a building on West Main Street and started West Main Stage.
“I spent a year remodeling it and then produced two plays, and that was it,” Gilmore said. “Then I was just kind of restless to do something else.”
So, he sold the building and moved back to New York. Then, things changed a bit. He got married and had a son.
When he moved back to Seattle in 2012, he decided to find something he could stick with. That’s when he opened Gilmore Studio in Seattle.
Though he’s now back in Walla Walla, he knew he still wanted to teach.
With his weekly classes for local students, he hopes he can help new actors fall in love with the art, and existing actors come just a little closer to expressing the truth within themselves.
“I want my students to gain the courage to be themselves,” he said. “You can’t separate the person from their acting … People often think you can hide behind a character. But no. It’s more about exposing who you are. You might be saying lines, but those are just words on a page. It has to be full of your humanity, your feelings.”
One Wa-Hi student said she has found the classes very valuable.
“I have been taking these classes for a month, and already I feel I have become a better actress,” said junior Ellie Strickler. “Basically, we’re learning how to look at each other and be present in a scene, without viewing it like a scene. Like it’s real life.”
More information on the Gilmore Studio is at gilmorestudio.org.