Loyola Theatre Arts Alum Emily Gyan is singing songs of pride and showing her patriotic side post-graduation at the World War II Museum as a Victory Belle. Victory Belles are ambassadors for the WWII Museum, perform at various museum events and shows, and travel with the Museum for performances. Gyan describes the work of a Victory Belle as fundamentally to “support the museum's mission and seek to rekindle a pride in our country and a gratitude for all of those who have served in every conflict.” Practically, she performs as part of a vocal trio who work together to stay sharp in order to “give an inspiring performance each time.”
Not only has Emily found a great opportunity to develop as a performer, but she has also found a great community at the World War II Museum. Her work as a Victory Belle has opened numerous opportunities both personally and professionally; “I have traveled around the country performing with such talented, kind-hearted, strong women. My most exciting opportunities thus far have been that I sang the national anthem at a Saints Game with the Victory Belles and also performed on Ellis Island in New York City for the Medals of Honor Ceremony this past May.”
Gyan’s journey to becoming a Victory Belle began with happenstance. She came across a flyer for the museum and decided to seek an audition with the manager. She took proactive steps by researching the songs from the 1940’s and practiced the very specific singing style from that era. After auditioning, she was called back and was hired on the spot.
Gyan understands the value of her craft and seeks to make the most of every performance. She believes each time she takes the stage is a chance to give back to the community and it is this care for others that inspires her dedication to quality. A unique aspect of Gyan’s job as a Victory Belle is her encounters with Veterans, many of whom are transported back to their youth when watching the performances. Gyan describes these interactions as “the most rewarding part about being a Belle.” Particularly special moments are created with veterans who lived during the 1940s. According to Gyan, “when we are performing the songs that veterans grew up with, that they built memories on, and that kept their spirits alive in the midst of war…those men and women light up in a way that takes your breath away. It's inspiring to meet the very generation who allow us to be here today and to enjoy the freedoms we have today. We meet heroes and we kiss their cheeks and we get to thank them personally. It's an honor and it's like no other performance job I've ever had.”
Gyan has had success beyond her work as a Victory Belle although much of it seems to revolve around the same era. One of her most recent projects includes her work on a short film about young love during World War II called “Slow Dance with Me,” written and directed by David Michael Warren, released earlier this year on Amazon Prime.
Gyan revealed that the experience helped challenge her in the techniques of film acting. She says, “I’ve always been a stage actress, but performing for the camera was exhilarating and I learned so much. We had an incredibly talented and supportive team working on the production and it was a really safe space to create.” It seems her hard work has paid off. “Slow Dance with Me” is available on Amazon Prime and is currently enjoying 4.3/5 stars on Amazon and a 9.1/10 rating on IMDB.
Recently, Gyan just finished working on a show at the WWII Museum called Pictures of Marilyn, which is a snapshot story of Marilyn Monroe’s life. She is also soon to be a part of an upcoming show at the WWII Museum called A Vintage Christmas that is to run throughout the month of December. On top of her performance projects, Emily is also a model for a local retro boutique, Trashy Diva, where she will be a part of their fall photo shoot sporting her signature 1940s look.
Through her hard work and success, Emily gives her advice to all Theatre Arts students and soon to be graduating seniors, “Never think that you're finished learning and improving, especially as a performer. Don't think that you are too brilliant to receive criticism, because you are lying to yourself. Always know that you can keep improving in this beautiful craft!” One can hope to see what Emily achieves in the future.
Written by Theatre Arts Sophomore Emma Schillage