I frequently feel like I have two distinct sides to my life. One side is my participation in the NE Ohio theatre community. The other side is my professional life as a software developer.
I was exposed to theatre first. I’ve been acting since I was in 6th grade. I had the good fortune to be in a show called “Once on This Island” at Simpson Middle School in Leesburg, Virginia. Funnily enough, I’m not sure about what prompted me to audition. It might have been my friends or a girl, but I can’t remember.
However, I do distinctly remember being on stage and looking to my left and mimicking my cast members in a dance that… well… I had clearly not learned. Despite my (I’m sure) less-than-ideal performance in that first show, I was absolutely hooked. It became my hobby, and really, it was more than a hobby. I’d finish my classes and go straight to the auditorium to rehearse for a school show. Then right after that rehearsal my mom would pick me up with a plate of food and take me to another rehearsal for a community theatre show.
Theatre became my outlet. It’s how I would make new friends. It’s how I would recharge after hours of school. It has had an enormous impact on shaping who I am today.
Theatre certainly wasn’t everything though. I enjoyed school and was (mostly) a good student. I really enjoyed Math and Science and wanted to pursue that further after high school. My grandparents live in Sandusky and while my mom and I were in town visiting them they recommended Case Western Reserve University. We visited campus, and after learning that there were ample technical and artistic opportunities, I applied and was accepted.
I studied Physics and Computer Science and was hugely involved in a student-run theatre group called the Case Footlighters. I was also in an a cappella group called Speakeasy.
I think it’s easy to get burnt out doing one thing. The one semester I didn’t do a show with the Footlighters was the semester I struggled the most with my school work. Who knows? It might have just been the hardest semester, but I’m more inclined to say it was my lack of a creative outlet. Having artistic interests to complement my studies was important, and it continues to be true in my professional life.
Now I work as a software developer for a company called Acumen Solutions. Acumen consults for both the private and public sector and helps to implement a variety of technologies. I’ve been able to learn an extraordinary amount while working at Acumen and I love the work I do.
I have an intellectual side that is hard at work while I am there, but I have an artistic side that craves the theatre as an outlet. Sometimes it’s hard to turn one side off and the other side on. When at rehearsal I’ll have a stray thought about work or a new idea about how I can design some feature. When I’m at work I’ll have a stray thought about my character or some new idea of how I could approach a scene. Despite that struggle, I love it. As a result, you can generally find me in one of three places: home, work, or a theatre.
This time around, that theatre has been Weathervane Playhouse and I’ve been creating Peter in “Peter and the Starcatcher.” “Peter and the Starcatcher” is the prologue to Peter Pan and answers the questions how does Neverland even exist, how did Peter Pan become an eternal boy, and how did Captain Hook come to be. This show expands the world of Peter Pan in surprising and enriching ways.
This is my second time performing at Weathervane after having the opportunity to play Leaf Coneybear in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” For “Spelling Bee,” I came in blind. I’d never worked at the theatre before and didn’t know anyone who had. I had no need to worry though. Everyone there was welcoming and I made friends with the cast and crew quickly.
The same is true for “Starcatcher,” though this time I wasn’t a total stranger. At the first rehearsal there was a nice mix of new and old faces. The cast bonded quickly and in short time we were en route to bringing this story to life.
With “Peter and the Starcatcher,” that ensemble bond isn’t optional. A sense of trust and respect is a necessity to make this show work. The script itself has many challenges that the cast and crew have had to tackle and a strong ensemble has been so important in solving these challenges.
I would say “Peter and the Starcatcher” is semi-devised theatre. Devised theatre is a form of theatre that is a result of collaboration and improvisation between writers and actors. It very much is a piece of theatre created by and for a specific group of people.
While “Starcatcher” isn’t purely devised and has a beautiful script by Rice Elice, it has many elements of devised theatre. At any given time actors are shifting from being pirates, to being British sailors, to being island natives, to being mermaids, to being waves, to being… you get the idea. If that weren’t tricky enough, the setting of the play shifts quickly, both between and within scenes. One moment we’re on the deck of one ship, a page later we’re in a room below deck, and a page after that we’re on the deck of another ship.
It is important for the story to make sense to our audience, and these shifts can make that challenging. To help them, we try to direct focus to what is important in any given moment. At times it’s been difficult to figure these moments out. More than once we’ve had to adjust staging after making a new discovery. Despite these challenges, it’s been so much fun.
The fact that we have had artistic challenges has made this show a perfect outlet for my creative side. Perhaps because of my career I struggle sometimes to stop thinking. Though there are some design decisions with software, at the end of the day it’s either right or wrong. It either works or doesn’t.
This kind of thinking can be poisonous in for an actor. While it is important to follow direction and learn the blocking and music, once that is accomplished it is important not to overthink, often there is no “right or wrong.”
The theatre is a crazy, fun, magical, imaginative ride, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.
- Thursday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m.
- Sunday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m.
For tickets, please visit www.weathervaneplayhouse.com or call 330.836.2626.