by Lorie Lewis Ham
With theatre still on pause, which of course means no shows to review, KRL has been interviewing some local actors. This week we chatted with Fresno actor Camille Gaston who has been seen on stages all across the Valley. Camille was born in Los Angeles, and moved to Fresno in 2004 to attend Fresno State for a graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling.
After graduate school, Camille worked for six years in the helping profession, first as a social worker for foster kids and then as a counselor/advocate for people with disabilities. Currently she works as a motor vehicle representative for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?
Camille: I’ve always liked to sing as a kid, and my dad would always encourage me to do it, but I was a shy kid. But in the summer of 1997, I had a major back surgery to correct severe scoliosis. That experience was a major turning point in my young life at 15 years old. I was entering the 11th grade in high school, and I somehow got over my shyness and auditioned for the high school musical that spring.
KRL: What was your first part?
Camille: That high school musical in the 11th grade was A Chorus Line, and I was Maggie. That was my first role.
KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played & with what companies?
Camille: Good Company Players was the first theatre company in the Central Valley I was involved in, and my first role was an ensemble character in the 2009 production of The Wiz. And then the acting bug bit me really hard.
I’ve done about 40 shows within this 11-year span, and I have been involved with multiple theatre companies throughout the Valley. My favorites include:
The Mountaintop – Camae – StageWorks Fresno
Sister Act – Deloris – Good Company Players
Avenue Q – Gary Coleman – Fresno City College
In The Heights – Daniela – College of the Sequoias
The Rocky Horror Show – Magenta – Selma Arts Center
Memphis – Felicia – Reedley River City Theater
KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show?
Camille: I love shows about race relations, shows that make the actors and the audience uncomfortable and hopefully learn something about another way of life. I am also a sucker for musical comedies with a huge ensemble and spectacle.
KRL: Future goals and dreams?
Camille: It’s been a dream of mine for some years to create a theatre group for Black performers, to create a safe space to provide opportunities for us to do shows that display us in a positive light.
KRL: That would be amazing! Heroes?
Camille: Michelle Obama. She’s a fantastic role model. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and hard working, and she seems like a lot of fun to be around. She inspires me to “aim high”.
KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor?
Camille: Being in the ensemble. You learn that the show cannot run smoothly without you, even though you’re playing a “small” role. Once you understand how the “big” roles and “small” roles work together to tell a story, you grow.
KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?
Camille: I’m going to borrow something that the Broadway actress, Sara Gettelfinger, once said in an interview. “Read and see,” meaning read and see anything and everything you can get your hands on. Read as many books, and see as many plays as you can. Just expose yourself to different stories and styles of storytelling to make you a more well-rounded performer.
Something that I always do that I would totally advise any actor to do is “do your research.” If you’re doing a show set in the 50s, and you didn’t live through that era or were too young to remember, read about it. Google it. YouTube it. Go down that rabbit-hole of information and really immerse yourself in the culture of that setting. If there’s something in the script that doesn’t make sense or you don’t understand why that joke is funny, look it up.
KRL: What is your dream role?
Camille: I would love to be the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
KRL: Is it hard balancing a job and doing shows?
Camille: Having a full-time job and doing shows is challenging, but very rewarding. If actors didn’t get that high you get after performing a show, we would not bother juggling full-time jobs, kids, and spouses. Performing is hard work, but it’s so much fun.
KRL: Since there are no shows to be in right now what are you doing to get your creative fix?
Camille: I will be Vlogging Everyday in August, a challenge called VEDA, where I document my daily life on my iPhone and post it on Instagram @camgee82 and Facebook @Camille Gaston. This fulfills my acting bug at the moment.
Camille: Plant Parenthood – At the beginning of the year, near the end of the run of Elf at Roger Rockas, two of the castmates, Greg Ruud and Raquel Ewalt gave me two separate Aloe Vera plants, and my love for plants began.
I love traveling. I recently went to Bali, Indonesia and New York City and had the time of my life.