When I took my final bow on my final performance of my senior year of high school, I thought I was finished acting. You see, I thought I was going to go off to college, marry my high school sweetheart, and live out my days as a teacher, never to have this kind of fun again.
How wrong I was. And thank goodness.
Turns out, I couldn’t stay away. I took Acting I in the fall of my sophomore year at the University of Akron, thinking it would be an easy elective, but instead quickly caught the bug again. My professor, Dr. Susan Speers, cast me the following spring as Nils Krogstad in “A Doll’s House,” my first role as a villain, and we worked together again that summer on my first true lead role, Antipholus of Syracuse in Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors.” Both roles resulted in tremendous growth for me as an actor, and also showed me that there was no way that I could ever put this passion of mine up on a shelf again.
Susan and I continued working together frequently. She became my mentor, teaching me a great deal about acting on every production. Almost all of my acting experience has come as a direct result of the stage, not the classroom. In fact, that one semester in the fall of 1996 is still the only acting class I’ve ever taken. The more I worked, the more confident I became, and that showed in my auditions. Soon, I was being offered roles I didn’t even try out for.
When I began working with POV’s Rodney Rincon a few years back, I learned that he studied at Susan’s alma mater, the University of Houston. I asked him if he knew her, but they were a few years apart in age and he couldn’t place her name, so perhaps their time in school didn’t overlap. Then, during the run of this show, he came to me in the dressing room and showed me a picture he had found at home. It was him and Susan, acting in a play together called Indians. I thought it was awesome to see such a photo: two people I admired, working together many years before I met either one of them. They studied in Texas, now she lives in Ohio, and he in California, and I’m fortunate enough to know them both and count them among my friends. The world is big and small at the same time.
When I moved to California, Susan and I lost touch for a little while. But, like so many others, we reconnected with the help of Facebook. We’ve seen each other a few times when I’ve gone back to Ohio to visit, and it’s always great to swap stories about what we’ve been working on.
I sure do wish we could work together again, though. I’m going to need to take a longer vacation in order to make that happen.