Canon-McMillan grad starring in CLO production

Canon-Mac grad co-stars in interactive two-act play at Cabaret Theater

  • By Christie Campbell
    For the Observer-Reporter
July 3, 2015
Julianne Avolio, right, a 2008 graduate of Canon-McMillan High School, and Sara Williams star in “Girls Only – The Secret Comedy of Women,” a two-act play at Pittsburgh CLO’s Cabaret Theater.

The audition for “Girls Only – The Secret Comedy of Women” was unlike any that actress Julianne Avolio had ever experienced.

It did not seem like a job, she said.

“It felt like we were at a party hanging out,” she said. “It had a totally supportive ‘let’s have fun’ feel.”

That feeling has continued as Avolio, 25, debuts this summer at Pittsburgh CLO’s Cabaret Theater. With its blend of comic sketches, improvisation and musical numbers, the two-act play is a clever way for women to laugh at the funnier side of female maturation from menstruation to menopause. “Girls Only” comes with a disclaimer that the subject matter includes female products, ranging from training bras to maxi pads.

“The show is a celebration of women at all ages and at all places in their lives,” said Avolio, who is a 2008 graduate of Canon-McMillan High School.

Part of the fun is the play’s nontraditional format, which forces Avolio and co-star Sara Williams to think on their feet.

“We’re very aware that the audience is there,” Avolio said, explaining that there are moments when the pair go into the audience and improvise. With a cast of just two, they are almost always on stage.

“Girls Only” runs until Aug. 16. With six performances each week, Avolio is kept quite busy.

The premise of “Girls Only” revolves around two friends who find the diaries they kept as 12-year-girls. As they share their entries during a slumber party in a bedroom with Holly Hobby and Shaun Cassidy posters on very pink walls, what had once been so serious now borders on the ridiculous.

“Girls Only” was written by Barbara Gerhing and Linda Klein of Denver, Colo., whose own school-aged journals became the basis for the show.

Performances are Wednesday through Sunday, with a matinee on Saturday. Having two performances on Saturday could be a challenge to maintaining the energy level, but Avolio has found that she can play off the enthusiasm of the audience.

“You get out on stage and you see 200 women there looking forward to having fun, and it’s sort of magical,” she said. “No matter what you’ve gone through that day, the two of you are able to amp up the energy.”

While the play is geared for women, men will not feel excluded. Avolio said her brother, Phillip, who attended opening night, agreed that even though the jokes are geared for women, he found them very humorous.

Avolio, who grew up in Eighty Four, did not regularly keep a diary, probably, she said, because she was more apt to talk about events in her life with her mom, Karen. Her father is Ernest Avolio. While in high school, Avolio worked at Little Lake Theatre in a variety of capacities, from the box office to running the apprentice program and acting.

A strong believer in arts education, Avolio recently started her own theater company, In Between Theatre, to encourage young artists. Since graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, where she majored in theater arts and children’s literature, she has served as a teaching artist for a number of theaters.

“I wasn’t teaching for a while, and I came to the realization that I missed it and that I wasn’t doing my best acting work when I wasn’t teaching,” she said. “I learn from the students I’m interacting with.”

Another project, one that uses Avolio’s writing skills, is “The Sisters Sorella.” Avolio and two friends with No Name Players write and perform the live sitcom one weekend each month at the Arcade Comedy Theater.

Tickets for “Girls Only – The Secret Comedy of Women” can be purchased by calling 412-456-6666 or by visiting



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