There’s something liberating about acting. I think it’s getting away from the humdrum of everyday life, or playing an aspect of yourself busting to get loose, or portraying the growth or the downward spiral of a character for an audience.
I really got into acting when I was in high school. It was something I enjoyed, although, to be honest, I think my emphasis was more on getting the lines right than the motivation of the character or figuring out the weight the words should take. My youth and relative inexperience in life had betrayed me. I’d never been in love. I was busy figuring out where I wanted to go in life. I was trying to keep my homosexuality secret from everyone. (That last bit was a lot of wasted energy; the people who know me and care about me have been and always will be the people who supported me, whether in 1991 or 2013.)
Once I hit the university scene, I started to understand because I had experienced emotions like love and intense lust and grief and extreme loneliness. It was easy to sing the stalker-ish love song of John Hinckley in Stephen Sondheim‘s Assassins, because I started to understand how someone’s feeling of intense love (whether it was true love or imagined love) with someone else could lead to feeling like that (yet keep it love-song-ish enough to sing it that way). Patting myself on the back, I was cast as Hinckley because, I was told, I was the only male actor who auditioned who could convincingly sing a love song: no mean feat.
(In high school, I’d played the Baker in Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I understood the music. I even got the double flats, which our musical director, Mr. Pugsley, had me try to explain and sing, because I’d played piano for about 10 years by that point. I didn’t always understand the adult themes and undertones. I remember, one performance, delivering a line and hearing my mother and her friends laughing in the audience; looking up at the other person on stage with me, I must’ve had my mouth open because I finally understood the line and it’s quite suggestive undertones… That dark and suggestive undertone speaks more and more to me the older I get. If I had the chance to go back and play the Baker again, I would; I absolutely loved Into the Woods.)
I’d declared a theatre minor at Northern Illinois University. Part of that minor included working in stage scenery and as a stage hand (I loved scenery and even considered, at one point, following that path), reading loads of plays (I was reading 2 plays a week plus at least 2 novels a week with my English major; thank God I can read quickly), and taking acting classes as well. My teacher in one of my acting classes, a very intelligent, very down-to-earth, very talented woman named Jen (whose surname escapes me at the moment), understood my passion for acting when she read my journal we had to keep as a part of my class, and, for my final project, she assigned me and a friend a script where I had to play someone completely blind, which was difficult but very bloody rewarding.
Once I got to Elmhurst College, we didn’t have a theatre minor available to us, but I participated in theatre and music as much as I could. I enjoyed every minute of it.
When I came to New Zealand, I toyed with the idea of enrolling at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Arts (NASDA) here in Christchurch. During one telephone call, the director of the school was adamant I should apply; I’d acted in not one but two difficult Sondheim musicals, which were two notches in my belt, as far as she was concerned. But, as an international student at the time, I couldn’t afford it, and once I gained permanent residency and then citizenship, I had to work to fund our lifestyle.
Am I upset about missing that opportunity? Sometimes. Not a lot of the time. I think I have picked up more in life that would help me act than a class could at this point in time.
Years passed, and teaching even part time helped satisfy that acting need. Teaching is sometimes putting a mask on, promoting a confident act so that students feel confident in your abilities. But, as time marched by, and I grew too busy with bureaucracy for that role, it fell by the wayside, although, once in a blue moon, I still teach.
I found Hidden Frontier and then discovered they were looking for voice actors. Being halfway across the world from California, I couldn’t physically appear in their video productions, but they started bringing a slew of audio productions out. I auditioned for a few bit parts, like Clock Announcement and Pilot #1, but I didn’t land any of the parts. David Wayne Hill encouraged me to try out for a larger, recurring part named Ken Kato, the chief engineer of the Starship Cole in Henglaar, M.D. (Think Star Trek: The Next Generation meets House.) And I landed it; I was (and continue to be) extremely happy.
A few other voice acting roles have come my way, and it’s stirred a deeper need in me. Two of my friends, the amazingly-talented and extremely-lovely Melodee Spevack and Michael McConnohie, are professional voice actors, and it makes me wonder if I shouldn’t try my hand at not only that but also screen acting in things like commercials. Surely they must need an overweight, almost-middle-aged American male for something in New Zealand. (By the way, Noel and I had the honour of meeting Melodee and Michael in person when they visited the Armageddon Expo in Christchurch before the earthquakes. One day, to get them away from the hustle and bustle, we took them to Hanmer Springs for a soak in the hot pools. It was an amazing experience, and we felt like we’d known each other forever!)
I even considered trying out for the city production of Avenue Q, but it was very short notice and I felt too unprepared to do it.
So… where to from here? I’m not too sure. I’m still exploring a few options. Once I know what I’m doing, I’ll let you all know!