Behind the Curtain: Crystin Gilmore, Director of “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”

Speaking with Crystin feels like speaking with a longtime friend who cares deeply for you, even if you’ve only just met. A former Resident Actor with Charleston Stage and current Equity Actor in New York, we consider ourselves fortunate beyond measure to be graced with her talent and bright, compassionate personality from time to time whenever she appears as a guest artist in our productions. With ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, on stage at the Dock Street Theatre in April, she’s making her directorial debut, for which we are so proud and grateful. Read more about her process in preparing to lead this show below:

Crystin Gilmore, Director of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

You’re worked with Charleston Stage before many times — welcome back! What are your favorite Charleston Stage memories?

Thank you! My relationship with Charleston Stage runs deep. I have a plethora of memories that touch my heart. My first show with Charleston Stage was Beehive: The 60’s Musical! It’s a show with hits from all the 60’s girl groups. I loved it because the songs took you back in time and made you dance in your seat. As a previous Resident Actor, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching acting classes and working on the summer shows. There’s nothing like watching a child shine on stage at The Dock Street!! I have too many favorite shows to name but if I had to choose my top 3, I’d say Mamma Mia!– it’s the music, comedy and the dancing, The Seat of Justice– Julian Wiles‘ writing and commitment to the story is unmatched, and my upcoming show Once On This Island because It’s a story about unconditional love and it’s my directorial debut!

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre, acting, and directing?

My mother says I started acting straight out of her womb! Haha! I’d agree. I’ve always been a storyteller and a lover of people. I’m also the daughter of a southern preacher and an educator so this field suits me well. I started singing in the church at a young age, I participated in school talent shows and many church programs and I discovered a love for directing in college. I realized then that a collaborative is the best way to tell a story. 

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I gravitate mostly to straight plays though my resume is filled with musicals. Dramas and comedies rely on the actors ability to connect to the text and leaves no room for error. Some musicals leave you humming the songs and engrossed in outstanding vocals, all of which are just as complex and require another layer of expertise. I love musicals and I have friends who can sing effortlessly all times of day but singing requires me to cut out dairy from my diet and go on vocal rest outside when I’m not performing. I’m more aware of how I use my instrument in my daily life so straight plays take top billing for me.

What has inspired you as you study the script of Once On This Island?

Once On This Island has inspired me to be more vulnerable in giving and receiving love. This story has enriched my life in so many ways. My hope is that the cast and the audience members leave this production feeling inspired to give the love they desire freely and unconditionally.

What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s own production of this special show?

Our version of Once On This Island will hopefully remind people that what they have in life is enough and that desiring what other people have is a waste of time. There is only one you and your life is sufficiently beautiful, individual and unique. 

What has come easily as you prepare to direct the show?

I’ve had a fantastic time in the collaborative process. My technical creatives have been fantastic in their flexibility and visions. They have made this process very easy in making my/our desired vision come to life. 

Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

The most challenging part of a musical is adding all of the components together. It’s fantastically complex and beautiful at the same time. I trust that the actors and musicians will shine once the curtain opens on opening night.

What are your favorite shows of all time?

My favorite shows of all time are shows I have done or can see myself in like The Color Purple, Hamilton, School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play, The Mountaintop, and dare I say, Mamma Mia!

Performances of Once On This Island run April 12th – 30th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, visit

Crystin is grateful to have the opportunity to be back at The Dock with Charleston Stage making her directorial debut with Once On This Island! She was a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage many years ago and will forever call the company family. Crystin last graced the Dock Street Theatre stage in Black Pearl Sings! as Pearl. You may also remember her in The Seat of Justice as Mrs. Ruby Cornwell, in Mamma Mia! as Rosie, in Hairspray as Motormouth Maybelle and in Chicago, The Musical as Matron Momma Morton. Some additional credits include School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play in the role of Headmistress, The Color Purple as Shug Avery where she received an IRNE and Arts Impulse Award with Speakeasy Stage Co., The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin as Miss Pain with Progressive Theater, Letters from War as Mae with North Shore Theatre, Smokey Joe’s Cafe as Brenda with Show Palace Dinner Theater and Beehive! The 60’s Musical as Wanda with Greenbrier Valley Theatre. Crystin also enjoys being a motivational speaker, doing commercials, voiceovers and she hosts a podcast called POVwCrystinGilmore. Special thanks to her family, friends and the Lord. (Philippians 4:6-8) Wanna connect? @crystingilmore /

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *