Brother and Sister Act: Dreaming of a Life in Theater

September 18th, 2014 / Development Com...

Evelyn Giovine ’16 as Miss Havisham and Peter Giovine ’14 as Pip in his senior thesis production of Great Expectations.

Evelyn Giovine ’16 set her sights on a professional acting career at an early age. “By eighth grade I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. So she faced a tough decision when choosing between a conservatory and Princeton. She selected the University, convinced that it offered the best opportunity to integrate improving her theatrical skills with expanding her academic horizons. 

Giovine already knew of the quality of the theater faculty and productions at Princeton. She had seen them up close, because her big brother and best friend, Peter Giovine ’14, had paved the way. Also an aspiring actor, Peter majored in English and earned a certificate in theater. His sister is following the same path.

At Princeton the Giovine siblings have performed in dozens of plays and taken advantage of the thriving theater community. When they weren’t in the same show, they attended each other’s performances. They share an uncommonly close bond, marked by deep respect and admiration. As youngsters they would play for hours in their basement in Colts Neck, New Jersey, with plastic figurines, voicing different characters. Their games helped prepare them for bigger challenges—in high school, they played Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. 

Among Peter's many roles at Princeton were Dr. Faustus in Princeton Shakespeare Company’s show and Lensky in the 2012 world premiere of Eugene Onegin, an adaptation of Alexander Pushkin’s novel-in-verse. The New York Times called the play “spare but elegant” and Giovine’s work “excellent.” For his senior thesis, he starred as Pip in an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Evelyn played Miss Havisham.

An Irresistible Urge to Act

Like his sister, Peter had been very involved in school and community theater as a teenager, but when he came to college he felt he should “get serious” and prepare for a “responsible career path.” Yet “I found that no matter what, I couldn’t get away from this urge to go back to theater,” he recalled.

Peter and Evelyn Giovine, of the Classes of 2014 and 2016, respectively

Peter’s analysis of Dickens’s novel in literature courses had a profound impact on his performance, said Tim Vasen, director of the Program in Theater and of the play. “He did a fantastic job, largely due to the fact that he came in with a much deeper knowledge of the source material than an average actor.”

Vasen is equally impressed by Evelyn’s ability and dedication. “She lives theater. All she ever wants to do is be in rehearsal,” said Vasen. Evelyn has delved into characters as wide ranging as the crude Vanda in the two-person play Venus in Fur by David Ives, and the innocent bride, Hero, in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. “She tends to sort of disappear into a character that she is playing,” said Vasen. “It’s been really remarkable to see how much high-quality work she’s done.”

“There are more opportunities here to act in back-to-back productions than in the real world,” observed Evelyn, who has twice won a Lewis Center award for outstanding work in theater by an undergraduate. And the chance to collaborate with professional theater artists in fall shows and senior thesis productions, she said, “makes a huge difference.” When Evelyn learned that Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang would co-teach this fall, “I literally screamed!” and signed up for the class. Durang is the inaugural Roger S. Berlind ’52 Playwright in Residence and a visiting lecturer.

Blending Art and Academics

Just as their English classes have helped their acting, the Giovines’ theater work has informed their major field of study. “You become a better actor if you have been in a place where that intellectual part of yourself is active,” said Peter, who is planning to apply to MFA programs. Acting drives him to analyze literature in a “more detailed way.”

A class they took together on Anton Chekhov sparked Evelyn’s fascination with that writer—and spurred her to audition for Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. She says that now when approaching a new role, she researches her character’s background in addition to a more thoughtful and thorough textual analysis of the script.

“I realize how lucky we are to have these incredible professors, these incredible resources, and these incredible other actors to work with,” said Evelyn. “To be able to experience that with Peter for the past two years … there are no words to describe how grateful I am.”

Photo from Great Expectations courtesy of James Matthew Daniel
Set and Costume Design: Anya Klepikov
Lighting Design: Laura Hildebrand 14

Photo of the Giovines courtesy of Carmela Caracappa

For more information on how you can support the arts at Princeton, contact Liz Ebel Naumann, senior associate director of principal gifts, at 609.258.5372.