Many of the artists I’ve met have talked about a childhood formative experience that first inspired them and this was the case too for actor Christy Gallo. However for Christy, this was not the first step in a progression but a taster that led to self-doubt and leaving the theater behind for lucrative opportunities in business. But when disillusioned by her work world and life in her 20s, she wanted to go beyond the material possessions and find something more fulfilling. In her soul searching she realized that the path to healing could be found in acting and a life in theater.
Rather than just test the waters and dip her toe into community theater in her California home, she opted to just dive right in. And while many starry eyed actresses head to Hollywood to find their dreams, she took the reverse course and left her LA home for a career in Chattanooga. With no real ties and no true knowledge of the city (or of the South), Christy did know about the Professional Actor Training Program at Chattanooga State, so she set her sights (and her GPS) eastward. Initial worries faded as she became immersed in our tightly knit theater community and blossomed within a rigorous program that really gave her the chance to develop her craft. While there she found friends, community and a mentor in Garry Posey. After she finished, she relished the opportunity to extend her studies in Europe at the University of Manchester and was inspired by the social issues that theater raised there. However she quickly missed her community here and realized she was ready to practice her craft, not just study it.
So when Garry shared his vision of a new theater company with her, she jumped at the chance and became part of the founding story of Ensemble Theatre Company. She loved performing and also discovered that she was stretched and grew when she took the step to becoming a director, found her artistry in guiding a vision for others and allowing the work to flower in their hands. She began to envision creating the kind of art that she’d like to see, being one with the audience, the actors and the playwright’s vision. While acting allowed her to be fully saturated, directing allowed her to challenge herself and explore her passions and intellect as she works with actors as clay, modeling a vision for work on the stage.
Recognizing that her audience varied by show and that still it drew from a core of Chattanoogans accustomed to attending theater, she and the theater company began to expand the repertoire to reach new communities and confront new issues. When she created “Have a Seat” in 2011, she realized she’d done something truly meaningful with this drama about the homeless based on actual stories from our regional homeless community. Empowering to audience, actors and sources alike, this brought theater to the place she had always envisioned – one of meaning, one of permanence, one of memory and vision and one of hope, struggle and the agency to do more. This defined great moments in theater and offered a mark to which she could continually aspire.
The struggle for excellence and the balance of finance remain but the vision of the art stands strongest as the guiding light. While every night may not end with a standing ovation, she can stand firm to the certainty that she is always true to her vision and true to herself and giving her all each night of every show. That is the definition of success that is brighter than any red carpet, that is larger than the letters on the Hollywood sign, that is more permanent than any star on the Hollywood walk of fame. And that success is not in movie town USA, it is here in Chattanooga, Tennessee.