HIPPO Life is Healing Through Art

kid in hoodie“I’m an actor and a coach.” Ok. What else?  After teaching acting on Hollywood Row for years, Anthony Gilardi of Anthony Gilardi Acting Studio wanted to do more. He did. He created HIPPO Life, a non profit dedicated to using art as a means of rehabilitation, social awareness, creative expression, empowerment, and helping his fellow man/woman.

I recently sat down with Anthony to find out more.

Forming a nonprofit and creating active programming is a huge task. How did that decision get made? Why?

Anthony: I performed as a 99-Seat Theatre actor with Theatre 68 for a while. Then I started directing and coaching. My old acting instructor asked me to teach because he knew I liked doing it and thought I’d be good at it. But I wanted to offer my actors more than just scene study and audition technique.

The business… sometimes it’s soul-crushing. But helping people was something I had a passion for and I knew would feed my soul. I started the non-profit so that everyone in my studio could do the same. I realized how important giving back was to them too.

HIPPO Life is going to train human beings who have never acted before, to express themselves and tell stories in order to self-actualize, rehabilitate and heal. We’d like to give people a craft, a stage, a voice and a sense of pride and accomplishment. The program itself is really catered towards performing. I mean everyone has a voice. We’re just giving them permission to use it.

You know, there’s no one-way to tell a story. That’s what rehabilitation through the arts is all about. Our acronym HIPPO expresses everything we’re trying to address. Humanity, Inspiration, Preparation, Perseverance, Originality – all things you need to be able to move forward in your life.

What are the focus groups of HIPPO Life?

hippo-lifeAnthony: Under-served kids who have lost their arts programs in Los Angeles public schools. Military veterans, especially those who have come back from serving sometimes multiple tours of duty. Kids and adults with Asperger’s and autism. This group is so misunderstood but I’ve seen how artistic they can be given the chance. In this program, we ideally would like parents to be embedded in the process to help them bond with the kids in a way that’s not clinical. I mean just think of the possibilities. Do these kids ever hear what their parents go through to understand them? I doubt it. There is an enormous opportunity here for dealing with the unspoken struggles of day to day life.

What is one of the more profound moments at HIPPO Life so far?

Anthony: At Clinton Middle School, in South Central, a sixth grader had been killed by horrific domestic violence. The kids were confused by the whole situation. So we let them simply talk about how they felt about what had happened, about Luis, the victim, about Luis not showing up to school any more. We put together their stories, directed them and they performed in front of the rest of the school. It was something really special. Because HIPPO Life came in as an after-school program we were able to create a very safe situation where there were less limitations about how the kids could express their emotions.

What’s on the horizon?

Anthony: We’re formulating programs for 2017 and working on getting funding. And there are other organizations that are excited to collaborate with us. The schools we’ve already worked with can’t wait for us to come back. Getting more people to know about us is going to be the real challenge.

The power of inspiring others is an energy like no other. We inspire a group. That group in turn inspires another group. Before you know it, we’re inspiring the world.

About Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is Associate Editor at FootLights Magazine. She's also the Founder and Chief Editor of the arts and culture site, Gia On The Move, where she often reviews live performance events.

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