Room 220 at Harvard-Westlake is where 75-year-old Ted Walch helps teenagers fulfill their dreams. It’s where Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Segel first trained to become actors. It’s set up as a mini-studio, with stage lights, drapes, mirrors, scripts, costumes, a couch and a wall full of framed photos featuring students in plays and musicals.
Casey Giolito, 6-feet-4 with charismatic leading-man qualities, steps from behind a black curtain wearing a light blue button-down shirt, black pants and black high-tops. He’s one of six students in Walch’s acting class. They’re preparing for a laboratory play production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Giolito’s role is Stanley Kowalski, the rough-and-tumble husband of Stella. He’s doing a scene where he runs into Blanche, Stella’s sister.
“Where are you from, Blanche?” Giolito asks, crossing his arms.
At this time last year, Giolito was practicing his fastball and pitching for Harvard-Westlake. The younger brother of Chicago White Sox pitching prospect Lucas Giolito played baseball for 12 years until calling it quits to focus on acting. Last month, he was accepted to a three-year conservatory program at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff, Wales.
“Auditioning for an acting college is much like going to a showcase in front of scouts,” he said. “You have to show them your talent and skill. They’re writing stuff down. If they like you, they might give you an offer.”
It was last summer when Giolito came home after what he termed a “terrible” pitching performance and became so frustrated and discouraged that he spoke with his father, Rick, about his baseball future.
“He said, ‘What you should do is put as much energy as you can for the next couple of months and see if you can find success and if you can’t by the end of the summer, drop it because there’s no point in doing something that’s going to make you feel like this,’” Giolito said.
He had sacrificed his acting ambitions because baseball required so much time and commitment. But it wasn’t fun anymore.
“Baseball is one of the hardest sports on Earth,” he said. “There’s so many skill sets to perfect and it takes hours and days of practice just to maintain a good throwing motion.”
By August, the decision had been made to join the family business. He had been in plays growing up. His mother, Lindsay Frost, was an actress. His father did acting. His grandfather was an actor. His uncles are writers. Now he could be in Harvard-Westlake’s fall musical, winter play and spring playwrights festival. And he could use all the lessons learned from playing sports to help him.
“He learned how to be a team member, how to support others, punctuality, the physical demands, taking care of his body, working out. All those things apply,” Lindsay said.
Walch, called a Los Angeles treasure because of the many students he has prepared for careers in show business and on Broadway, always enjoys working with athletes.
“There’s no doubt in my mind in all the years I’ve been working that when you have done a sport and learned the kind of discipline a sport calls for and the kind of collegiality and collaboration, then you’re well on your way to learning what acting is all about,” he said. “Casey definitely has the talent.”
His family supported Casey in his decision.
“At a certain point, we have to let them create their own path, especially when it’s so clear to them,” his mother said.
Lucas sent a text: “Hey bro, I heard you dropped baseball. If it’s not fun anymore you shouldn’t do it. You got to do what’s fulfilling in your life.”
Said Casey: “My goal is to become as well crafted in the art of acting as possible. Not just in acting — speech and movement and diction.”
So off he goes to Wales this fall. He made sure he will have good Internet access so he can get MLB Network to watch Lucas pitch for the White Sox when he’s not doing yoga, attending speech class and voice classes, memorizing scenes, doing rehearsals or sitting in production meetings.
It’s only a matter of time before the question is posed to the Giolito brothers: Who will be the most famous Giolito?
“It’s a toss up,” Harvard-Westlake baseball Coach Jared Halpert said.