Corissa Pacillas-Smith (Alumni Artist)

Corissa experienced two years as a Company Member, and she was overjoyed and proud to call Elysium her artistic home. As a child growing up in Southern California, Corissa took great joy in dressing up her 4 younger brothers and cousin Mallery in costumes and clothing of her own design. She wrote, directed, and starred in various productions, including plays, films, puppet shows, and doll movies that featured those same brothers and cousin, and also neighbors. Her parents were and have always been her biggest fans! Throughout her childhood, she was involved in community theatre, choir, visual arts, and pretty much any other type of art she could access.

Her fascination with human nature and expression inspired Corissa to study philosophy at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA. Following graduation, she did a 2-year internship focused on urban community development and transformation in South Los Angeles with a church planting organization called Servant Partners. She also worked as an Administrative Assistant at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for nearly 8 years, while exploring her many artistic interests on the side. During this time of exploration, Corissa discovered/admitted that she was most full of life and passion when she was acting, and decided to throw herself into it!

Corissa co-starred in the Streetlamp Studio production of Crooked Road in 2011 and studied at Howard Fine Acting Studio in Los Angeles for over a year from 2013-2014. She joined Elysium in 2015 and was in the productions Much Ado About Nothing and Joan of Arc.

Getting To Know... Corissa

Tell us about a transformative educational experience.


Although not an accredited academic institution, I was significantly transformed by the 2-year urban internship I did post-college through Servant Partners. As a young adult, committing to 2 years of rigorous study and application to understand urban issues like poverty, racism and violence was honestly not the most appealing next step in life, but it was one God clearly called me to take. As I studied the Bible with 14 other young adults and experienced the joys and hurts of urban poor life with my neighbors, my heart was changed. As I got to know my neighbors and other church members and help them advocate for their needs, a lot of my own insecurities and fears arose. I faced them head on and received a great deal of healing during that season. My own weaknesses and limitations led me to trust God and others more fully and to be more vulnerable. I grew in learning how to be an effective member of a community. I truly experienced what God promises in Isaiah 58:6-9, that when you seek justice, “share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood … then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear.”



What about transformative professional experiences?


Working for Elysium in 2015 was one of the most transformative professional experiences I have had to date. Before joining Elysium, I had zero dance experience. Both of the plays I did last season required a significant amount of dancing, including ballet, modern, and some crazy scary lifts, flips, and turns. I felt both behind and inadequate when it came to working with the multi-talented company members at Elysium, many who had been trained in dance and/or danced professionally. With much encouragement from our Artistic Director Aaron, much care and pushing from our choreographer Laura, and lessons from one of our Resident Artists Rachel, I was able to rise to the challenge professionally and nail all of the complicated dances that were thrown my way. I grew more as an artist and confident professional in 2015 than in any other single year of my life, and am looking forward to what 2016 holds for continued career growth!


Why I do what I do...


because I am terrified of the unknown and fascinated with human nature. Acting requires constantly existing in the unknown, and delving deeper into humanity.



What about Elysium inspires you?


The community of artists who strive for excellence, integrity, and authenticity. Authenticity and connection are my highest values and Elysium fiercely embodies these values! We are committed to one another, to the story we are telling, to the truth and life of the characters, to personal and professional growth. What more could a person want?



My favorite "day-off" event would be...


... Curling up with a good fantasy novel during the day, watching a Miyazaki film, taking a nap, and then having a bonfire at the beach with close friends in the evening. The beach event would definitely include making chili in a cast-iron pot over the fire, some good whiskey, and a drum circle+dance party.



If I had one million dollars I would...


... invest it wisely, try to live simply, and give generously.



Did you know...


...My husband, Nathan, bakes and cooks way better than I do; I love animals that have food-names (not because I want to eat them, because I think it’s cute!); I am a very respectful person but I am obsessed with “your mom” jokes.