Gretchen Sellers Trasorras BFA in Theatre ’87
After bulimia played a dominant part in her life for 30 years, Gretchen “came to peace with nutrition and the benefits of fitness,” which cleared the way for her current business. “Fitness is therapeutic for me and I love helping others find that same freedom.”
When Gretchen was eight, her grandmother got her one month of dance classes. That sparked the beginning of her love for movement. Among her shows at VCU she played Natasha in The Three Sisters, directed by Dr. James Parker. Gretchen remembers, “He was trying to get me to a particular emotional place, and I think he deliberately pissed me off at rehearsal. He got what he was looking for and I brought it into the scene.”
Like many other VCU students, Gretchen spent one summer at The Lost Colony and worked at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival after graduating. She later took a job in the education department of Kaiser Permanente in DC, where she traveled to schools in DC, NOVA and Maryland teaching health and safety.
Then it was on to Auburn, New York, where she worked in the children’s theatre division of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse for more than two years. Fatefully, their rehearsal space was next door to a YMCA, so she soon become an instructor for extra money.
When it snowed on Mother’s Day in 1991, Gretchen resolved to leave for warmer climes and ended up in Tampa, Florida where her fitness career flourished. She continued acting at The Loft Theatre and worked in some murder mystery shows. “I met my husband in ’95 and when I got pregnant in ’97, I stopped doing theatre because I’m a mom, and fitness is my career.”
From 2007 to 2010, Gretchen battled breast cancer, got a divorce and lost six family members. In 2016, she teamed with two other women to buy their own gym. A year later, the 3rd partner dropped out and she and her partner still run 5th Gear Fitness, where she teaches classes in weight training, cardio, pilates and yoga.
The facility’s name came from a conversation with a friend over lunch, “She said ‘gear’ meaning swag, but I thought, ‘when you’re in gear, you’re moving, and in fifth gear you’re at full throttle.'”
She hasn’t forsaken her theatre roots, “I’m not giving up the gym, but I like to step away to do things that are fun.” She enjoys her work with American Immersion Theatre staging Murder Mysteries.
Header Image (clockwise bottom left): Gretchen in Lysistrata at VCU; Gretchen in Down the Road at The Beechmam Theatre in Orlando; Gretchen in Anything Goes at VCU; \promotional pic for 5th Gear Fitness.
Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the January 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter