by Lorie Lewis Ham
This Valley is filled with a tremendous amount of artistically talented people and we enjoy sharing their stories here in KRL–whether they are artists, musicians, actors, writers, or directors. This week we are featuring local actress and costumer Brook Aiello.
Brooke now resides in Fresno, but she grew up in Visalia. Performing seems to have been in her blood since childhood. “When I was a kid I used to write little scripts with the neighborhood kids and try to get them to act out stories with me,” shared Brooke. “I used to sing ‘Tomorrow’ in front of the fireplace much to the chagrin of my parents and all of their friends. I did my first play in the 5th grade as part of a program offered by the rec center in Visalia.”
She attended Cal State Fresno for her Bachelors, and then attended graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi where she earned her Masters of Fine Arts. Brooke moved back to Fresno after grad school for her husband, and to be close to their families.
Brooke stated that her favorite show that she’s been in is always the most recent, which was Venus In Fur last year. “Venus was a remarkable experience. I had an amazingly fulfilling time working on that project. I am so grateful that Live Theatre Co. gave me that opportunity.”
Local director J. Daniel Herring directed Brooke in Venus in Fur. “She was a dedicated and talented actor providing a strong performance receiving high praise from audience members and critics. Brooke makes very specific physical and vocal choices to bring her characters to life without resorting to stereotypical choices. And, on top of her fine work, she is a load of fun to work with.”
Venus in Fur was local actor Terry Lewis’ second time working with Brooke, though he has known her for some time. “I have to say it was one of the most satisfying theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. Working with an actor of Brooke’s caliber and abilities was so energizing for me as a performer. We had fantastic chemistry from the beginning, and it was so great to have someone to really spar with on stage.”
One of the roles that Brooke is most proud of is that of Hamlet, whom she played in The New Ensemble’s production in Fresno. “The New Ensemble is where I have done some of my best work and been gifted with some of the most exciting collaborators.”
“I absolutely adore working with her,” shared Heather Parish, one of the founders of The New Ensemble. “She always inspires me to elevate my directing skills and challenges me to think more deeply about any world we’re creating together.
“The keys to Brooke’s huge presence on stage are her detailed imagination, her intense emotional accessibility, and her charisma. She experiences her character’s world so fully that the audience can see and feel what she sees and feels. And then you simply cannot stop watching her when she’s in that imaginative space. Compelling doesn’t even begin to describe her when she’s inspired.”
Some of Brooke’s other favorite roles include doing Lord and Lady Macbeth with Burton Tedesco at USM, working with Southern Arena Theatre doing Almost Maine and The Importance of Being Earnest, and getting to play Portia and Titania twice with the Woodward Shakespeare Festival. “I have been so lucky to get to work on the roles I have, with the people I have been lucky enough to work with.”
As to her dream role, she actually has some dream projects in mind. “The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl, Bug by Tracy Letts, and I have this grand vision of doing my ultimate, yet to be cast in it role of Katherine in Taming of the Shrew in rep with Kiss me Kate. Wouldn’t it be amazing? You sell the whole summer on a ticket. Focus the Press around this amazing local ensemble that is taking on the challenge of Musical theatre and the Bard himself… I just need around 20,000-30,000 dollars.”
Brooke started costuming plays in high school. She became involved in renaissance faires, which meant she had to learn how to sew and she said it kind of snowballed from there. “I’d be cast in a show and they’d need help sewing…and honestly sometimes just having proficiency in a rare skill set can get you started down a path. It has been the biggest blessing.”
Costuming has also taken her to New Orleans and The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. She also worked on the Emmy nominated Librarian series, where she met one of her major girlhood crushes, Jonathan Frakes from Star Trek the Next Generation. “It also has provided me a different sort of creative outlet and I think it means I interact with the text of a play on a designer as well as actor level, which is neat for me, and fulfilling.”
“As a costume designer, she works very empathetically to convey character through clothing and to help the director tell the full story through the costume choices,” shared Heather Parish. “She’s incredibly thoughtful and knowlegable–especially when she’s given room to be creative. And she’s bar none at teaching other actors how to BE in costume, which is a great skill to have.”
As to her favorite types of shows to be in, Brooke likes all types of shows from modern to period pieces. She likes good characters, good stories, and working with good people. Her favorite part about being in a show is the rehearsal process, “playing with beats and actions and different directions they can take. The play, and the collaboration, the give and take in the room.”
The hardest thing for her is finding the balance between work, life, and art. “I tend to want to completely immerse myself in a project.”
What she feels has helped her grow the most as a performer is actively pursuing projects that terrified her. Her heroes are teachers. Ones who nurtured her, challenged her, and broadened her horizons. “They inspire me every day.”
Currently Brooke works as an adjunct Professor at Fresno Pacific University, where she also runs their costume shop.” I supervise the costume shop, building and designing the shows with student workers and in collaboration with the staff and faculty at FPU.”
Julia Reimer, Associate Professor of Theater at FPU, has directed Brooke in a few shows, and Brooke has designed costumes for a couple of Julia’s shows at FPU. “I think what makes Brooke so compelling as a performer is her natural spontaneity and imagination. She brings her whole body, voice, and emotional intelligence into the process. Her performance is never just the lines with some subtext thrown in. It has an energy to it. As a director, it’s great to get that kind of imaginative energy from an actor.”
Brooke’s hobbies fit perfectly with her love of theatre and costuming. “I love historical dance and first person historical recreation because I am a Super Dork.”
Future projects that she is excited about include working with several others from The New Ensemble, along with some other local artists, doing some un rehearsed Shakespeare in honor of the Bards 400th. She is also directing Dark As Night, Selections from Shakespeare, at FPU which will be performing on the FPU campus on April 15 and 16–watch for more info coming on this in KRL soon.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.