What’s the definition of theater geek to me? That’s easy: one who eats, sleeps, breathes theater. I have spent my whole life obsessed with the theater. I grew up in an area where there was not much for culture, especially in the performing arts. It was a town full of football players and football fans. So, if you can’t beat them, join them, right? I decided to join cheerleading. In this town, it was unheard of for one solo male cheerleader, therefore, I got to put my energy and acting skills to use playing our high school mascot. Sure, it was no Shakespeare or a fantastic musical, but it was fun and really got my energy flowing. But prior to this my passion in the theater grew as I was about six years old when my mother decided it was time to bring my brothers and me to our first live theater production. The closest theater to us was in the town I was born in, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. For those of you don’t know, Grand Rapids is the town well known for being the birthplace of Judy Garland. Therefore, I had this automatic love for The Wizard of Oz. The Grand Rapids Players, the local community theater project, had a tradition of every couple years producing this magical musical adventure. So this was of course the first live performance of any show that I had ever seen. Instantaneously I fell in love with the theater.
I couldn’t help but always want to perform. I loved to sing and dance. I began to learn that there was more than The Wizard of Oz. I was able to see performances of The Sound of Music, Fiddler on The Roof, State Fair, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. There are many others but these happen to be a few that I can recall feelings toward. I started to grow tired of sitting in the audience. I couldn’t stand not being one of those fantastic people giving a story a life of its own.
I did some small high school productions and some little shows here and there. Finally when I was 17, my mother told me she did not want me to get a part time job. She wanted me to audition for that year’s production of Brigadoon. So I got in my car and went to the audition. I felt great. I felt special. After two call backs I ended up getting cast in the role of Angus MacGuffie. I loved it. That summer I was asked to join the company of the forty-seventh year of Grand Rapids annual vaudeville variety show, The Mississippi Melodie Showboat. I had seen productions of this as a kid as well and it really made me happy to be a part of this. During the next couple of years I would be in such productions as Amahl and The Night Visitors, Annie, and a production of three one act plays all written and directed by a local Minnesota playwright. The one act I was featured in was titled Cafe Ala Ionesco. There were four of us in the cast. The two that were on the stage the whole ten minutes were a woman and I. The irony was that I was playing a woman and she was playing a man. We were on a date and it was a crazy cafe that the waiter and busboy made it the most insane date ever. This particular production will remain special in my heart forever.
In 2006 I relocated here to Duluth. I audtioned for The Crucible and West Side Story. I was not cast in either, but enjoyed meeting new people in theater in Duluth. That summer I was in my first Duluth Playhouse production, Once Upon a Mattress. I learned so much during this show and made many friends. This show made me fall more and more in love with theater. This was also the year I began another obsession: Broadway. I listened to the soundtrack of Wicked on a daily basis. I began to learn more about professional theater and knew that this was my dream career since birth.
This year has been the year I dedicated to making my dream a reality. I feel a little more behind than most of my peers here in theater. I haven’t had the chance to take any formal training, so I kind of learn as I go. I was recently in the production, The Secret Garden. This was a new type of show for me. It was less dazzling than most shows I love, but in no way less amazing a show. I really enjoyed the journey through that show because all of us in the cast and crew took a serious attitude and rehearsed through and didn’t delay ourselves by goofing off while we worked hard to make this show a success. And it felt like one, if I do say so myself.
Since I have begun working with the Duluth Playhouse, I have learned so much more. The whole group that runs the Playhouse is well trained and thrilled to teach. I have to give special thanks to Christine Seitz and Elyse Snyder, for these two women have helped build my confidence as a performer as well as being patient enough to teach me to dance.
This summer I get to reunite with many of my Garden cast members to do a special four- night production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. I hope to see you there. It will be a blast.
So as I conclude, I am a theater geek because when I wake up in the morning I think of theater. During the day I think about theater, and when I dream, I am sure it’s theater-related. It’s my life!