Aaron Galligan-Stierle Who?
Local theater fans don’t have to ask that question if they remember the young man from area productions, and soon enough perhaps, theater-goers in New York City will know his name from Broadway.
Galligan-Stierle opens today in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” as Papa Who, the father of Cindy Lou Who.
The Who family, Galligan-Stierle explained, is the secondary story line with the action revolving around Cindy Lou Who’s interest in the Grinch. Her parents are trying to protect her, but they come to learn from their daughter that giving love is the way to live, he said.
“It’s great fun. I can’t say enough about the team, the producers, the acting. It’s high quality. They’ve done a great job putting the show together.”
During his years in the Ohio Valley, Galligan-Stierle was all about theater. “If it was happening, and it had to do with theater, I did it,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.
A 1998 Wheeling Park High School graduate, he performed with Oglebay Institute at Towngate Theatre and at the summer musicals at Oglebay Park; at The Cornerstone, a community theater run by Bob Athey; with the Music Hall Players. At the high school, he performed in the annual fall plays and spring musical productions such as “West Side Story,” when he played the lead, Tony, during his senior year, as well as “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Peter Pan,” “Little Women,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
It was during those years “a whole slew of Park teachers were hugely influential in my growth as an artist ... to name a few, Ms. (Fran) Schoolcraft, Mr. (Bill) Cornforth, Mrs. (Sandy) Mauck, Mr. and Mrs. (Pat and Leslie) Garrett, and Mrs. (Kathy) Aspenwall. All of these teachers believed in me and taught me about myself and the craft in vital ways.”
After high school, Galligan-Stierle went on to get his bachelor’s degree in musical theater from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and then to Penn State University for his master’s degree in acting.
He spent his summers at professional theaters including Shenandoah Summer Musical Theater, the “Lost Colony” in Manteo, N.C., as well as at a variety of Shakespeare festivals, including The Utah Shakespearean Festival.
Galligan-Stierle said he went on to get his master’s degree to build a resume based on more than musical theater. “I felt confident I could do musical theater, but theater is bigger than that. ... I wanted more range.” So for three years while in graduate school, he did no musical theater whatsoever.
After graduation from Penn State, he got married and moved to New York City. He met his wife, Shannon, while they were both performing in “Lost Colony.” But, he said, she decided she’d be happier as a preschool teacher.
Since 2005, he’s been in New York City, working professionally. In fact, he noted, “We moved to New York City two years to the day I started rehearsal for ‘The Grinch,’ on Oct. 1.”
In those two years leading up to his Broadway debut, he worked at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Florida Studio Theater, as well as being involved in many readings and workshops in the city. He was in the regional premiere of “White Christmas,” playing the Danny Kaye role as well as in a contemporary play, “Measure for Pleasure.”
“Then I got ‘The Grinch,’” he said.
“The Grinch” ran last year on Broadway, having come from San Diego, where it played for eight seasons at the Old Globe. It was created by Jack O’Brien, who has directed such Broadway shows as “The Coast of Utopia,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Hairspray” and “The Full Monty.”
This year, “The Grinch” has been changed in a big way, Galligan-Stierle said.
Two new songs have been added and many scenes and technical aspects have been changed. O’Brien has been overseeing the production and assisting director Matt August. “It’s a huge opportunity and honor to be working with him,” Galligan-Stierle said of O’Brien.
“Grinch” will complete its run in January and Galligan-Stierle will be back to the audition routine.
“My hope is to continue making a career as an actor. In the ideal world, I would act in two shows a year and direct two shows a year.” He’d also like to work with a repertory theater somewhere, acting and directing on a regular basis.
He continues to be involved with the film production company, Lonely Planet Productions, with his best friend and collaborator Preston DeFrancis, a Wheeling native. The two of them have produced four short films, DeFrancis as writer/director, and Galligan-Stierle as artistic producer.
“I want to keep working and continue performing in and creating theatrical pieces as long as I can.”
But for right now, “I’m more than happy to be performing on Broadway.”
Aaron Galligan-Stierle, right, plays the part of Papa Who in “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” that opens on Broadway today.