by Lorie Lewis Ham
If you have seen a show at the Reedley Opera House during the last three years, there’s a good chance you have seen Chris Giese, and there’s a really good chance you’ve seen him in a dress! Chris is the subject of our latest local actor profile, highlighting the tremendous amount of talent here in the Valley.
Chris is a local boy who grew up in Dinuba, and now lives in Sanger. He attended Reedley College and College of the Sequoias in Visalia, and when he was younger did like many area teens and worked at local packing houses and cold storage facilities during the summer and at Sierra Summit during the winter. Currently he works as a Realtor with London Properties.
He first got involved in acting 13 years ago at Hobb’s Grove in Sanger because he thought it would be a fun job. “It was!” said Chris. “I created a silly hillbilly type of character called Billy Bob Hobb who entertains the masses as they wait in line to enter the attractions.”
Lore Callahan, one of the owners of the former Hobb’s Grove, stated that when Chris joined their crew/family it was a good day and that their crew and her life would not be the same without him. “His positive attitude, integrity and creative abilities all rolled into one person, are a big part of why our group is able to do so well. Chris can make us all laugh till it hurts, then go create the coolest hayride scene out of a mountain of junk, then, as Billy Bob entertain seas of six year olds at the pumpkin patch followed by thousands of nighttime haunt goers, and through it all is always there with a hug and a sincere heart for those who need it.”
It was Lore that pushed Chris to audition for his first show with the Reedley River City Theatre Company after he expressed some interest after watching her daughter Frances in shows. “We nudged Chris in that direction and the rest is history. He’s a perfect mix of talent and heart.”
Chris said that after his first River City show he was hooked. His first role was Imogene in Fanny’s Up! The Fanny series of shows are written by River City Artistic Director Mark Norwood. A lot of the fun and laughs in these shows come from men playing women (see
article on how the Fanny shows came to be here in KRL). It didn’t take any convincing to get Chris to wear a dress for the Fanny shows, but he did feel a little strange at first. “The character took over after that and it’s been an enjoyable experience ever since.”
“The highest compliment I can pay any actor is that they are not only talented, but they are also good hearted people,” stated Mark Norwood. “Chris Giese will do whatever he can to insure that anything he is involved with is the best it can be. Chris is such an asset to our theatre company. He is tremendously versatile and willing to take risks to make each character he plays the best they can be. He is a class act!”
Imogene has ended up being one of Chris’ favorite roles. He also loved playing Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Other than the many Fanny Shows and Forum, Chris has played Lt. Brannigan in Guys and Dolls, and played several characters in the recent production of Annie at Reedley High School.
Another River City favorite Michael Angel, has worked with Chris on several occasions and stated that he’s not only fun to work with but very professional, always bringing something new to the table. “It’s very enjoyable to watch him come to the very first rehearsal, watch him create a character from the script and then watch him develop that character and bring him…or her, to life. Chris is always there to lend a hand back stage as well, always willing to help a fellow actor out with props, or run lines to make the show the best it can be.”
Chris prefers being in comedies as he loves to laugh and make people laugh. “For me, laughter is the best medicine.” What he enjoys most about acting and singing is being able to give the audience an enjoyable experience. He also enjoys meeting new people and making new friends. While he doesn’t have a dream role, he would love a chance to play Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
Since being bitten by the acting bug, theatre and Hobb’s Grove have not been Chris’ only outlets. He has also acted in several independent horror movies such as Darkwalker, Dead Things, Sinister Heaven and Aaron’s House, all of which were filmed all or in part at Hobb’s Grove. He was also in a Wendy’s commercial where he portrayed Abe Lincoln.
For those wishing to get into acting, Chris’ advice is to just go for it. Find a theatre company or two or more and start auditioning. “It’s free to do it and the only cost is your time and commitment.” If someone wanted to get into movies and commercials, he suggests becoming a member of Central Casting which only costs $25 for two years, and a trip to their studio in Burbank to sign up. He also recommends talking to someone who has done it, and to always watch out for scams.
Chris’ current role is that of radio disk jockey Vince Fontaine in River City’s production of Grease opening next weekend. Erik Valencia is also in the show playing the role of Danny, and has worked with Chris on many occasions. “He is a superb actor, with a lot of range, which is apparent by the various roles he has played,” said Erik. “Most importantly, Chris is a good guy, with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, which makes performing with him such a privilege.” (watch for a review of Grease in the July 13 Local Live here at KRL)
As to the future, Chris can’t imagine ever not acting. One of his biggest dreams is to create a kid’s TV show based on his Billy Bob character, as the kids are Billy Bob’s biggest fans and their reaction to this character have really inspired him. “I want it to be both funny and educational with lots of unusual characters. I have already written a couple of scripts and have ideas for several more.”
One day that stands out in his mind is when he was surrounded by over 300 school children getting ready to leave Hobb’s Grove, wanting his autograph and chanting Billy Bob. “I was touched to see that I had such an impact on them. They were entertained and went home happy. It was a good day.”
Writer’s note: My daughter Jessica has worked with Chris several times and has nothing but praise for him not only as a fellow actor but as a person. I’ve seen him in many roles and think he’s just wonderful! He makes me laugh every time. And the way he pulls off playing Imogene is just delightful! I’d watch him in a dress any day.
For more information on Grease-check out River City’s KRL event page.