Greg Maraio has been drawing and painting for as long as he can remember, so pursuing a degree in illustration seemed like the natural choice. As a painfully shy kid, acting was never on his radar. However, when the Art Institute of Boston (now Lesley University's College of Art and Design) merged with Lesley during his senior year, there were suddenly new opportunities for liberal arts elective courses, including Annie Pluto’s course on Shakespeare.
“When I showed up for the first class, [Professor Pluto] took attendance. When she got to me, she said this was the first time the class was co-educational, and asked if I wanted to be in the show," recalls Greg. "There was something about the way she asked. No pretense, no pressure. I said, 'Sure.'"
The show was Henry VI, Part 1, and Greg had three small parts. Over the course of the class and rehearsals, Greg realized how challenging acting was. Everything about it became fascinating to him. "I was always trying to be better, be more truthful," he says. "I was a shy kid who never fit in, and now I could be anyone I wanted to be."
Honing His Craft
As Greg dove into the craft, Annie was a constant source of support. One day, she pulled Greg aside, and told him something that changed the course of his life: "You're great at this. It's what you need to do."
And she was right. In one year, Greg not only learned theory and technique, but gained a new sense of self worth and confidence. "I still mention her in every program bio. It was the most nurturing and wonderful educational experience," reflects Greg. "I can say flat out, I wouldn't be an actor without her.”
After graduation, Greg went on to a successful acting career, and even made his way back to Lesley for performances in The Rover, The Laramie Project, and The Glass Menagerie. As he gained more experience, he was able to work with fringe companies like Company One and regional companies such as SpeakEasy Stage.
Success built on success, as his performances were noticed. Playing the role of Mertueil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses earned him critical acclaim from Boston Arts Diary, whose reviewer has described Greg as, "...Out of this world," going on to state that, "He exemplifies perfect manipulativeness while still maintaining magnetic charm."
This was one of Greg's favorite performances as well. “I’ve always been fascinated by the women of the play, especially Merteuil, who I play," he says, "When the Nora Theater Company said they were doing an all-male version of it, I pounced. The conceit was fascinating and shocking to me in this patriarchal time, but also in a time of gender fluidity and challenging of gender constructs. I loved the idea of men speaking in women's voices, but also the queer aspects appealed to me as a gay man."
While the praise is rolling in for his work, Greg notes that becoming a working actor isn't easy, in fact, it’s really hard. Success didn't happen overnight. After almost 12 years, he still finds it tough. In the beginning he would work anywhere and do anything for little to no money, as is so often the case.
“I did the fringiest of fringe shows," he remarks. And because of these experiences, he's able to give aspiring actors this advice: “Work hard, work everywhere, be kind, learn from others, share your knowledge with others, know that the person with no acting experience can teach you as much as someone with an MFA in acting, and most importantly…talk to Annie Pluto!”