How did you get started in theater?
My parents took me to the city to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. I remember walking out of the theater totally intrigued, wanting nothing but to be on the stage. I also remember walking out and wondering what on earth an "Angelican Cat" was...but that's another story.
What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a
Broadway Show? What inspired you to be where you are today?
When I saw Cats the idea of acting up on a stage was playing in my young mind constantly. I saw "Grizabella" up on the stage singing, memorized "Memory" and went to a local audition. Of course, I didn't make it. But that only made me want to be in theater more. As a child, I wanted anything I
couldn't have. The local theater didn't let me have a part in their show, so I only wanted one more. I suppose Judy Garland inspired me to be in the theater. When my parents put a copy of The Wizard of Oz in the VCR one afternoon, I watched her smile, her every move. She looked so happy to be
performing for people, and I realized that she was making children like me happy everywhere. And I wasn't going to let anything stand in my way to stop me from being in a show, on stage, singing and making people smile.
What was the first play you ever saw? Ever performed in?
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats; Evita at Creative Ministries (ensemble role, age 5)
Did you study acting? If not, how did you get into it?
I studied acting with LIPAC (Long Island Performing Arts Center) for five years. I also studied with Arena Players, Bayway, and CAP.
What was your first audition?
I auditioned for an ensemble role at age 5 in Evita at Creative Ministries.
How do you choose what play you will audition for? The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
Anything that is casting for someone in my age group, I audition for. I don't wait around for a show I like, because that isn't really what matters. I don't care what I'm in, as long as I'm in something. There is something about the theater and being in it that makes me happy. I remember the director, Noel, taught the children auditioning 'Santa Evita' and we had to sing it for Creative Ministries' audition. At the time, I really didn't have a clue about pre-casting, but I'm sure every theater does it...or at least once in a while.
Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I don't agree with pre-casting. I feel it is unfair because there may be someone else who never got the chance to audition, and finally did, and can do a much better job than the director has already cast.
What types of parts do you normally play? Do you feel typecast?
I always look for a featured role, but normally I find myself playing an ensemble role. I suppose I'm always cast in the ensemble because as a teenager, there are very few featured roles available.
Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly? When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Steve McCasland" type?
I suppose I'll be used as 'Augustus Galoop' in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory many times. I've already played the part twice, and I suppose I fit it well. Chubby, can do a German accent...you know, the 'Augustus' traits. But, I don't think I'll ever be forgotten for the time I
played 'Rooster Hannigan' in Annie at my middle school. I don't think I'll ever forget either. I've played the part three times since. I believe that when directors look at the 'Augustus' or 'Rooster' roles, they think of me.
What is your approach to developing your character?
I watch other actors play the role, get ideas from their acting, and try to put myself in some of the situations the character got himself into.
Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
'Rooster Hannigan' definitely has to be my favorite. It was fun and comedic. But I also look back on playing 'Peter' in Anne Frank in my school's theater class. The two roles will always be my favorite.
What do you think were your best roles? your worst?
'Rooster Hannigan'; 'Baloo' in a camp production of The Jungle Book
What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?
How well do you think you met the challenge?
'Peter' in Anne Frank had to be the greatest challenge. Trying to play a young man who was facing death, frightened of not waking up one morning, or waking up and finding himself starving and hot in a cattle car, or starving and cold in a concentration camp. I think I was reasonable at the part, but I don't think I have met the challenge of the role.
What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
'Peter' in Anne Frank is the only role I ever wish to play a second time. When I look back, I remember doing reasonably well. But I suppose I never really got to the point where I feared what he feared, knew what he knew, thought what he knew.
What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I would most like to play very dramatic role in the future. Comedy can be simple, I want a difficult, dramatic role to play.
How do you feel when you perform?
Happy. Nothing else in the world but performing makes me so glad to be where I am and what I'm doing.
What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
I'm making an audience of all ages smile, laugh, think, be touched, happy. To touch someone truly motivates me.
During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?" Why do you do it?
Because I have the ability to touch both myself and hundreds of people. Nothing in the world is a better feeling than that.
What is your favorite theater story?
One performance of The Journey, Cross and Crucifixion in a Babylon church with Creative Ministries' Sunday Troop will be one theater story I'll never forget. The woman playing 'Mary' was engaged to the man playing 'Jesus', and the night earlier she had a nightmare her fiance passing in a car accident. En route to the church for the night's performance, they nearly got into an accident. Nothing could have inspired the troup more than the story we had just heard as we watched 'Jesus' lay dead in 'Mary's' arms. Nothing more could have prepared us for one of the most emotional
performances we had.
Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
Very rarely do I allow myself to laugh on stage, I usually ad lib when I forget a line.
What was your worst theater experience?
The last performance of Willy Wonka at Creative Ministries. I'll leave you with this: whip cream fight on stage, nearly broken microphone, yikes!
What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
I had an entrance in Guys and Dolls in the role of 'Big Julie' and tripped coming on and landed on my face. I'm still embarrassed.
Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Because I've made friends that will last me a lifetime there, and because I'm comfortable being with the people I'm with. There is no better chemistry with others and I then at theaters I constantly perform at.
Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Definitely. And someday, Long Island regional theater may become the second Broadway.
Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?- Christina DiDimosa (Creative Ministries, Evita, role: 'Evita') Paige LaPari (School performance, Annie, role: 'Ms. Hannigan')
Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
Heather Hedley; Christina DiDimosa
How do you maintain your school career and do theater?
I try to keep my nights free as possible, except for piano lessons and a short hour for homework.
Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
Long Island theater is like a family. We're all the same in some ways. We're all talented, some more than others, we all love the theater. But most don't want to do it with their lives, most want a different career. I want to be a music teacher and acting is my hobby. I want to spend the rest of my life doing it, but I don't want to make it my life. It's confusing, I know.
Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Constantly. Along with my friends. I have never received so much support from so many people.
How has performing enriched your life?
It has taught me to make people happy, to care about others, to do something that I enjoy.
What brings you the greatest joy?
Theater and nothing but theater.
What really irks you?
When you're on stage, singing a duet and the other person is killing the song and even the audience knows it. Still makes me tremble when I think of it. Blech!
If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Buy a theater, start a company and put on hundreds of shows there. Of course, I would star in many.
Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
I don't care about being rich or good looking. I'd rather spend my life doing something I enjoy than having money to waste or women to date.
What's your favorite word?
My favorite word? I have absolutely no idea. Does 'theater' count?
Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
When I get to heaven, I want to hear someone singing a show tune on a stage, want to see someone acting, and want it to be one big stage.
Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I want to go to college somewhere in Maine for music education and hopefully start a music teaching career at a high school, directing musicals there and maybe even dramas.
Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
'Roger' in RENT.