Miss Gabrielle Giacomo ’15 provides unique angles into the arts industry

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Charlotte Burchetta '22

Miss Gabby Giacomo ’15 has established connections and relationships through her various roles working on both theatre and film projects.

Sacred Heart Greenwich alumna Miss Gabrielle (Gabby) Giacomo ’15 has continued her passion for film, theatre, and education beyond her college studies and into her professional life.  A 2019 graduate of New York University (NYU) Tisch School for the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Dramatic Literature and Film & Television Production, Miss Giacomo, a director, stage manager, and props master, recalls her journey to discovering an ideal career path.  Through her years at Sacred Heart and NYU Tisch, she learned how to make the most of every interaction and opportunity in order to find a role for herself in the theatre and film industries.

Miss Giacomo’s interest in the arts began as a child in the form of creative writing and prose, which then developed into a love of performance.  With the aspiration of becoming a professional ballerina, Miss Giacomo took classes at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York City.  When Miss Giacomo was 13 years old, the School of American Ballet did not promote her to the next level, meaning that she would have had to repeat classes and ultimately drop out of high school or attend a performing arts high school.

Around the same time, Miss Giacomo found an interest in the film industry and took a class at the New York Film Academy.  The class was an introduction to the basics of film and gave students equipment and a time span of three to four weeks to shoot the films.  Miss Giacomo, who was then starting her freshman year of high school at Sacred Heart, decided to stop ballet and instead explore film and writing further.

At Sacred Heart, Miss Giacomo took the Creative Filmmaking class as a part of the school’s Broadcast Journalism program.  She also worked on the staff of the King Street Chronicle in the Journalism class.

Miss Michaela Gorman ’05 first directed the cast of Oliver during Miss Gabby Giacomo’s senior year.  Courtesy of Miss Gabby Giacomo ’15

Not wanting to completely give up the stage, Miss Giacomo performed in four winter musicals, as well as co-directing and performing in one play.  In Miss Giacomo’s senior year and last production in the Upper School, Miss Michaela Gorman ‘05, Upper School Drama Teacher and Director of Drama Productions, directed her first musical at Sacred Heart, Oliver.  Miss Gorman encouraged and strengthened Miss Giacomo’s love of theatre as well as helped build her confidence as an artist. 

Additionally, Miss Giacomo credits Ms. Linda Vasu, Assistant Head of School, Director of Academic Programs and Professional Development at Sacred Heart, as well as Dr. Cristina Baptista, Upper School English Teacher at Sacred Heart, for teaching her how to think critically.  She feels that through the guidance of these Sacred Heart teachers, she learned how to address and overcome obstacles in a myriad of ways.  

“I definitely learned how to approach problems in a different way,” Miss Giacomo said.  “And I learned that not everything has a set answer, and that there are a lot of different ways to approach a problem or a question and unpack it.”

While attending NYU Tisch, Miss Giacomo majored in both Film Production and Dramatic Literature.  As she hoped to begin her career in New York City, she was grateful to attend NYU, which allowed her to build connections in the area for her future endeavors.  These experiences also enabled Miss Giacomo to explore different parts of the industry and how it worked on a professional level. 

Focusing primarily on film, Miss Giacomo found herself missing theatre, prompting her to look oPlaybill’s website where she saw an opportunity to work with Ms. Samantha Shoffner, a freelance theatre prop master.  Miss Giacomo assisted Ms. Shoffner for six months while she was working on Off-Broadway productions.  This included Kid Victory at The Vineyard and The End of Longing at Manhattan Class Company’s (MCC) Lucille Lortel Theatre, as well as The Three Musketeers with the Classical Theatre of Harlem.  Through this internship, Ms. Shoffner hired Miss Giacomo to assist on various other shows throughout her career, such as A Strange Loop at Playwright Horizons, directed by Mr. Stephen Brackett.  While working on Kid Victory, Miss Giacomo connected with the production manager of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 season, and subsequently, became a props assistant for the festival. 

The internship as a whole taught Miss Giacomo basic craft skills that differed from the technical skills NYU was teaching her, such as carpentry, sewing, painting, model making, and shopping.  She was able to look closely at the theatre industry which gave her advantages when she transitioned into working as an assistant later on. 

“As an assistant, I really felt that I had a seat at the table — I got to attend meetings with the production team, consisting of professional stage managers, directors, and writers,” Miss Giacomo said.  “Additionally, I got to contribute to art that would eventually end up on stage, and work with professional actors on an almost daily basis.  Overall, while I learned I did not want to do props as my career, I did gain a lot of valuable, practical experience which I could apply to my path as a director, assistant director, and stage manager.”

Miss Giacomo had multiple internships over her four years at NYU.  During the second internship, she worked as a development intern for Mr. Anthony Bregman, the head of a smaller production company called Likely Story.  Miss Giacomo’s tasks included answering phones, taking meeting notes, keeping the snacks stocked, and coverage.  Coverage consists of reading submitted scripts and writing a summary so that the lead producer does not have to read the whole script.  Overall, this makes it easier and more efficient for the producers to choose a production to work on.

Miss Giacomo’s knowledge about the skill of coverage helped her during her next internship at Neighborhood Watch, a Brooklyn-based independent production company.  Through this internship, producers hired her to work on commercials as a set production assistant (PA) for companies such as Lexus and Milk Makeup.  Miss Giacomo also worked with the art department for the final season of CBS Elementary.  In these positions, Miss Giacomo studied aspects of the field that she did not have the opportunity to learn at NYU.  

“I also got to learn things about the art department that weren’t taught in school, such as how to read drafting, how drafting is executed, and other small nuances, such as the difference between a set decorator and a set dresser, the first designs and shops for the set dressing, and the second actually puts it up on set,” Miss Giacomo said. 

Miss Gabby Giacomo ’15 and Ms. Madeline Jewell rehearsed a production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” for NYU’s Uproar Theatre Corps.  Courtesy of Ms. Marilyn Lamanna

As the office at Elementary was located across from the main production office and above the sound stages, Miss Giacomo was able to see how a TV show runs and operates.  Having this outlook and the experience of her internships put her a step ahead for interviews post-college. 

“The experience informed my perspective on the industry as an aspiring director and allowed me to make further connections,  from my Art PA job, I got an office PA job, and from that, I was able to finally get on set,” Miss Giacomo.

After she graduated from NYU in 2019, Miss Giacomo worked as a PA on the television show Emergence and the seventh season of Younger with Mrs. Hilary Duff and Mrs. Sutton Foster.  She also stage-managed the Off-Broadway show Class Act and assistant directed a taping of a live theatre performance at The Tank in NYC called Prometheus Bound.  

During Miss Giacomo’s first year at NYU, she discovered that working on a theatre production was necessary for her, whether that meant acting, stage-managing, or assistant directing.  This pushed her to reach out to Miss Gorman and ask if there were any possibilities of doing an internship at Sacred Heart.  Miss Gorman advocated for this opportunity for Miss Giacomo, and within four years, the internship became a regular position.  Miss Giacomo began as the assistant director on the musical Les Misérables, followed by Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Matilda, and currently, Annie

Unlike her work as a film assistant director, Miss Giacomo’s role as an assistant director in theatre, especially at Sacred Heart, consisted of supporting the director.  She usually takes notes on blocking, blocks small scenes, or runs scenes and choreography, while other members of the production team work on their specific elements in the show.

Through working with the students in Upper School Theatre Department, Miss Giacomo discovered a passion for theatre education.  While she taught students, she learned from Miss Gorman.  Miss Giacomo feels grateful for the encouragement Miss Gorman gave her to pursue her career as an artist, helping her to realize it was more than a distant dream.

“I could talk for hours about Miss Gorman and everything she has done for my life and my career,” Miss Giacomo said.  “I felt very supported by her as an artist and she definitely gave me a lot of confidence to feel like a career in this field would be possible and that it’s not only a dream.”

Through every opportunity and job, Miss Gabby Giacomo ’15 prioritizes her mental health in order to do her best work as an artist.  Courtesy of Miss Gabby Giacomo ’15

Miss Giacomo does not know precisely where she sees herself in the future, however, she knows she will continue to do film, theatre, and theatre education.  From Sacred Heart to NYU and beyond, Miss Giacomo values having a community and a support system as she feels she would not be where she is today without all of the mentors, teachers, and friends she has encountered.  She recommends nurturing relationships with bosses, friends, and colleagues as they may lead to potential opportunities in the future. 

Miss Giacomo advises those who desire to pursue a career in the arts to put themselves out there, reach out for help, find opportunities rather than waiting for them, and not stop for fears or roadblocks.  While these steps are essential, Miss Giacomo believes it is just as important to prioritize mental health and taking care of oneself.

“Mental health is a big thing, so try not to be afraid of needing to take a break to not only make sure you are physically healthy, but mentally healthy,” Miss Giacomo said.  “I think the priority is to take care of yourself and then once you’re in that good place, keep going.”

Overall, Miss Giacomo suggests that students go beyond their comfort zone to not only find a career path, but also learn how to find stability as an artist and a person.  For her, it was attaining a balance between theatre and film and directing and teaching, as well as pushing herself and taking care of her mental health. 

“The industry is constantly expanding and there is so much innovation these days,” Miss Giacomo said.  “There are a lot of ways to find a sustainable path within the arts, even if it starts a bit rocky.  Just keep the faith, reach out for help when you need it, take care of your mental health, and march on forward.”

Featured Image by Charlotte Burchetta ’22