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Creator of the Week: Stephanie Gacis-Holburt

Stephanie Gacis-Holburt is a 19 year old triple threat performer from Whitehaven. Her outstanding performance in musical theatre and new interest in creating YouTube videos has definitely been something to keep an eye out for - this week, Steph talked to us about her experiences as a young performer.

So Steph, tell us about your first experience of performing.

I was first interested in anything to do with performance from the environment I grew up in. With a guitarist dad - who is currently in a band - and a Filipino Mam (the Philippines known as having a very rich musical culture), I grew up surrounded by music. Growing up, watching performers like Lea Salonga always inspired me to hopefully be like her one day.

It wasn’t until our many primary school plays that I found a love for acting and performing. These plays encouraged me to join a local theatre group, ‘Whitehaven Theatre of Youth’ when I was 7, and I'm still a member today.

As for dancing, I didn’t start taking professional lessons until I was 10 years old. 10 can be seen as late on to be starting dance as most dancers tend to start from as young 3. However, growing up in the environment I did helped give some natural musicality in movement.

It wasn't until I saw the dance group ‘Diversity’ on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ that I decided I wanted to learn more about dance.

I went from mirroring their moves from the telly to taking dance as a serious part of my life.

One day, I was dancing at a birthday party when my friend's Mam recommended I was put in a dancing school, ‘Ignite Dance Academy’, of which I'm still happily a member.

Singing, dancing, acting - I loved them all! I really didn’t want to conform myself to only one of these boxes. So naturally, I gravitated towards musical theatre; the perfect embodiment of all three. Musical theatre has well and truly become my happy place.

Steph has been teaching herself the ukulele for over a year, this clip being the first time she had put out a video of her playing whilst singing;

What do you enjoy most about doing what you do?

Performing on stage is a chance to escape for everyone involved - whether you’re the one on stage or in the audience. With musical theatre in particular, I love the feeling of being lost in an entirely new world and watching the story unfold. For those brief few moments, you’re just completely immersed, and any worries of the outside world are forgotten.

As a performer, you have so much power over the impression on the audience, and it’s a huge responsibility. You have the chance to take them on a journey with you- making them feel joy, sadness, anger, horror etc. You are the source for their escape as much as acting is a source for yours.

I personally believe there’s no better way to tell a story than musical theatre. You hear these characters tell their story, and when words just aren’t enough to express how they feel, they burst into song. With the intricacies of the melody, the power behind the notes, you can show a characters true feelings or reveal a back story in merely a few minutes. As with any song, a person can relate to it in many different ways. The opportunity to tell a story created for everyone feels incredible.

Has there been a performance that was particularly memorable for you? Which and why?

Before the very first lockdown in 2020, I participated in the production of ‘Rock of Ages’ at Carlisle College in which I was able to play the female lead ‘Sherrie Christian’.

This show will always hold a special place in my heart. The character Sherrie went through a lot in the show, starting out a small town girl from Kansas hoping to be famous actress, to moving to the big city to follow her dreams, to getting heart broken. All of this before finally finding her own self worth, and discovering her true love and happiness. This whirlwind of a story was so fun to portray- she was a character that was constantly changing throughout the play, and I enjoyed being on that journey with her.

The rehearsals for the show were always so much fun. When all the cast has great chemistry, work well together, and know how to have a good laugh, you know you’re equipped to make a great show.

The whole cast had a good cry when it ended, and we still talk fondly of the show now. Definitely one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in creating and performing a show.

'This video I created in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement. The fight against racism is something I feel very strongly about, having had to face some of it growing up as a Mixed-Filipino kid. This was also the first ever song cover I ever put online:'

We saw you had a YouTube channel where you talk about your life and your music- what advice on confidence would you give to other young actors/performers?

I always wanted to create a YouTube channel from a young age, but could never find the time or the self confidence to do so. But, last year, I pushed myself, put some videos out and just went for it! If not now, when?

Confidence has always been a struggle for me when performing and it is still something I struggle with from time to time. It is something that is completely understood and normal in this industry - putting yourself out there as a performer is a very vulnerable but very brave thing to do.

What I always try to remind myself of is that nobody is perfect. Even the amazing performers you look up to have imperfections, and they all started where you are now. Progress is something that happens gradually over time, but it won’t happen at all if you’re not willing to take risks and make mistakes.

Taking that first leap and putting yourself out there is always scary, but with that you've already put yourself on the road to growth and improvement. It won’t be always be easy and you will hit some bumps on the road. Some people might not like what you do, and that’s okay, not everyone has to. But have confidence in your abilities, your knowledge and your talents, and that will help you push through the hard times and towards where you want to be.

'This video was my first ever traditional blog style video where I talked about my experience of 2020. I hope it gives little insight into my life!'

What are your future plans and goals regarding performing?

In 2020, I completed my Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts at Carlisle College. During that time, I applied for drama schools but unfortunately didn’t get in - I thought this was understandable as it’s very hard to get accepted, and for most schools it’s unlikely for you to get accepted on your first year of auditioning.

So, instead of taking a gap year, I decided to focus on working to improve my singing and musical skills. I am now studying Level 3 Diploma in Music Production and Performance, and with this I learned about new and different genres in the music industry, as well as analysis and breaking down of songs. I am also working on video audition tapes to reapply for drama schools again, hopefully with a more positive outcome this year! However, if things don't go to plan, I will continue building up my skills and reapplying to get where I want to be.

Once all my auditions are sent off, I plan on being a lot more active on my YouTube and continue upload more frequently. My channel content will range from song covers, dances, monologues or even just some fun challenges and chats about what is going on in my life.

My overall dream goal for the future is to fulfil a career as a musical theatre performer; ideally in the West End. If that goes well, I’d love to explore screen acting, and experience and dabble in as many different areas of the arts as possible, maybe eventually including some producing or directing.

You can follow Steph's Instagram at: @stephaniegacisholburt

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