Senior Chad Skiles is a naturally gregarious person, so meeting people and making friends comes easily to him. Like any good character actor, he likes to figure out what makes people tick. It is this curiosity that underlies his creative talents.
As the “student snapshot” writer for the College’s weekly Journal e-magazine for the past two years, Chad has the opportunity to meet people on campus he might never have come to know.
“What I love about doing interviews is that I find students all have great stories,” Chad relates. “When you take the time to sit down and talk with someone, I always make some surprising discoveries.”
Usually Chad begins the interview with a variant on the question: “How did you come to GMC?”
Chad’s own journey to Poultney began in his hometown of Groves, Tex., a suburb of Houston where he attended public high school. His older sister was the first person in his family to attend college. Like most of the families in town, his parents worked hard to provide a better life for their children. His father owns a steel fabrication company and since he was 16, Chad worked at the plant doing odd jobs. He learned the value of hard work. He also learned that pushing a broom in a steel plant wasn’t his idea of an exciting future.
“Most working people there tried to get plugged into industry, which means the refineries,” Chad said. “And that leads to some problems—smog, health problems, high cancer rates. When it came time to figure out what I was going to do when I graduated from high school, I didn’t think the environment there was really something that was well suited for me.”
In high school Chad loved to write (his special interest was writing plays), play music (he taught himself to play the guitar), and acting. He attended a large thespian convention for high school students in Texas—“a gathering of theater nerds,” as Chad puts it—and attracted attention of talent scouts. Chad estimates there were a dozen schools that interviewed him to join their theater programs. “It was a little like speed dating,” he recalls. He thought about accepting a scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, but something held him back.
“I felt hesitant about that—lots of people I was talking to for advice reminded me that a pure acting school is very competitive, that there’s a whole lifestyle that comes with it, that it’s hard to make it in the business.”
At about the same time, Chad’s best friend in high school, Blake Kyler, was exploring Green Mountain College. Blake had already visited the campus, and Chad became intrigued with studying communications where he could engage in a broad set of academic interests. They both applied and were accepted.
“I think we were both intrigued by going to a place that was completely different—small, rural, in a different part of the country,” he said. “So we loaded up the car and here we went.”
Chad threw himself into the GMC theater program his freshman year, winning the plumb role of George Gibbs in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Besides other student actors, Chad worked with equity actor David Poirier, who played the lead role of stage manager, and director Eric Peterson, the founding artistic director of the Oldcastle Theatre in Bennington.
“The department is small but the people here—in my estimation I thought they were really good. It humbled me in a way—I realized I didn’t necessarily need to go to and acting school to find talent on stage because acting isn’t as inaccessible as people think. It’s a natural instinct that human beings, to various degrees, engage in all the time . . . creating these little sub-realities. It was great to come here and see people passionate about doing it well.”
Chad has been involved in just about every major production at GMC since then. A particular highlight was performing with his mentor prof. Paula Mann (theater) in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”
“She’s a wonderful actress as well as a great teacher. It was great to watch her portray Amanda Wingfield—-one of Williams' most multilayered creations,” said Skiles. “It helped me think about the layers of my own character.”
The GMC theater department also gave him opportunities to expand his horizons in other parts of production. He was the writer, director and an actor for “Run,” a student-produced play that benefited a nonprofit for underprivileged families. He also wrote and directed “A Rather Queer Incident,” and collaborated with Blake Kyler on an original play presented to GMC freshman during orientation in 2011.
After Green Mountain College, Chad is exploring enrolling in the Florida Studio Theater or using his quiver of communications skills to pursue a career in writing. He has already honed his writing skills as a web intern and writer for Brave New Films and a reporter for the Orange Leader newspaper in Orange, Tex.
“So many kids I know who went to acting school complained about having to work stage crew for two years before they got a chance to actually go on stage,” Chad says. “Here it seemed like there were opportunities to do really creative work right away. It was a great experience.”
Editors Note: Chad will be playing the role of Richard Hannay in the April 20 performance of “The 39 Steps” which opens Friday evening April 20 at 7 p.m. and continues the following weekend with 7 p.m. shows on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28.