The Gilmore Studio brings acting lessons to Walla Walla

Jaime Fields, Campus Life Editor

If you search the Gilmore Studio on Google Maps, you’ll be taken to a supermarket parking lot. Though confusing at first, if you go through an inconspicuous side door and down a long and oddly lit hallway, you’ll eventually find the studio: a small room filled with chairs and lit from above like a stage. This is Gregg Gilmore’s acting studio, recently opened in Walla Walla after almost a decade in Seattle.

Gregg Gilmore, who was raised in Walla Walla, originally wanted to go to Whitman to study acting. John R. “Jack” Freimann, then a professor at Whitman—although current students will recognize him as the name behind the Freimann studio, as well as the the man behind Harper Joy’s enormous poster collection—encouraged Gilmore to study in New York instead, recognizing that Gilmore was more interested in acting than academics.

In New York, Gilmore studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. Although he showed up with ideas of fame, his perspective quickly changed.

“I showed up at the school and I just wanted to be famous; [I was] just kind of a young ding-dong kid, and then they started: it was about the truth, your real feelings,” Gilmore said.

With that, something clicked for Gilmore.

“I was just blown away by the whole thing…it was so freeing—also super frustrating until I kind of started to get it, because we’re all kind of conditioned to hold [in] what we’re actually feeling…[but] none of that was what they wanted,” Gilmore said. “It was edgy and intense, and also really intimate and beautiful too—people just crying and holding each other, and not just over-acting but really feeling these things, allowing themselves to do that.”

After years of acting and directing, Gilmore opened an acting studio in Seattle in 2012. After about eight years there, his studio was popular enough that he consistently had to turn people away. With the start of the pandemic and the total shutdown of his studio, Gilmore decided to move back to his hometown to be nearer to family. Since July, his studio has been reopened, this time in Walla Walla, with classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings.

In his studio, Gilmore primarily teaches the Meisner technique: in the words of Sanford Meisner, “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.” This technique was developed by Meisner, whom Gilmore studied under while at the Playhouse, and it encourages actors to react in the moment and behave authentically.

“It can be intense for a new person,” Gilmore said. “The work can be so challenging—it’s all about you, there’s no character, it’s just two people putting their attention on each other and getting honest.”

Ben Buehler, a working actor who took classes with Gilmore in Seattle, described the technique similarly.

“It just boils it down to letting yourself feel, letting yourself be you—because if you’re not, no one’s going to believe you,” Buehler said.

Buehler, who has worked on numerous films, short films, commercials, and TV shows—most recently completing a shoot in Portland—said that he took classes with Glimore for about seven or eight years and prides himself on being a Meisner-trained actor.

“It’s not therapy, but it really opened me up to be able to accept what’s happening in my life, to be able to accept who I am as a person and to not try to emulate my life like somebody else,” Buehler said. “For me, it kind of dawned on me, like, ‘oh, I just need to be myself and find my true authentic self.’”

Even though it’s been years since he was in Gilmore’s class, Buehler said he still sometimes calls Gilmore on FaceTime before a shoot to help him get to the mental place he needs to be.

Gilmore’s students aren’t all adult working actors. Ellie Strickler, a junior at Walla Walla High School and the vice president of her school’s drama club, said that her teacher sent out an email over the summer about Gilmore’s new acting studio in Walla Walla, and she decided to check it out. Thus far, Strickler has enjoyed the environment and the intensity of the class.

“It’s been amazing,” Strickler said. “It’s a little more intense [than my high school classes], definitely—I definitely think it’s higher level, and I really appreciate that because I want to pursue acting as a career and so having these classes is really beneficial for me.”

Strickler added that she appreciates the people in the class, especially because she feels like everyone there is committed to acting and excited to be there.

“I love just being there—like it is so hard for me to not smile while I’m there because everything is just so fun and exciting and I love the people I’m working with,” Strickler said.

Piper Olsen, a senior rhetoric major at Whitman, said they happened to be looking up acting classes in Walla Walla right as Gilmore opened his new studio. Like Strickler, Olsen said they appreciate the other students in the class, as well as the differences between Gilmore’s class and classes at school.

“Getting outside of the Whitman bubble is good for anybody,” Olsen said. “The people in this class are people who really want to act, and it’s not just like people who need it for a credit, and it’s not intellectualized—it’s just a great time to go and be with people who are passionate about something.”

Olsen described the experience of the class as unique and something that requires a large amount of vulnerability, adding that they’ve enjoyed watching the other students grow over time.

“Watching everyone grow has been super interesting and really rewarding, especially since it’s a smaller class—like the dynamics between people change very slowly over time, and suddenly it’s like ‘oh that person totally opened up today’ or ‘that person really took a chance’ and it’s really really cool,” Olsen said.

Olsen and Buehler agreed that even if one isn’t interested in pursuing acting, the Meisner technique—especially in terms of Gilmore’s class—is something that will change one’s perspective on the world.

“It’s not for everybody but…if you want something that’s going to be life-altering, like soul-enriching, I think Meisner is [one of the only ways] to get there,” Buehler said. “This is like super raw. I mean, we can sit and talk about our feelings all the time, but to actually feel them is one thing.”

Gilmore also encouraged anyone who was interested to check it out. Especially now, in a world of distance, he believes people need just a little more connection.

The Gilmore Studio can be found online at