Growing Pains for the Theatre
Unfortunately, after the rehabilitation was complete, the theater’s identity became murky. Executive Director Geoff Steele reports that, for several years, the Gillioz catered to a rowdy college crowd and kept the lights on using beer money. Physical damage and financial instability ensued. “Catering to one demographic—be that college students or baby boomers—simply isn’t feasible for a house this size,” Steele says, explaining that the Gillioz has a total seating capacity of 1,015. The Gillioz stayed afloat thanks to benefactors including Robert Low of Prime, but the theater needed a long-term plan. That’s where Steele came in.
Today, Steele runs the Gillioz alongside his associate director and wife, Joy Bilyeu-Steele. The couple is incredibly well suited to run an entertainment venue. Steele came up during the Christian music explosion of the early 1980s, touring as a tech out of Nashville and working for a record company. Bilyeu-Steele is a product of the legendary Bilyeu family—a bloodline that’s produced nine generations of musical southwest Missourians, most notably launching the Baldknobbers variety show in Branson.