When I was nine years old my family moved to Maine. I didn’t know a soul on the entire east coast, let alone my new hometown. So my mom signed me up for a production of The Sound of Music. My reaction was to lock myself in the downstairs bathroom and hide.
Somehow my dear mother coaxed me out of the bathroom and promised me that if I didn’t like the theater company I didn’t have to stay. I went along with the intent of quitting the moment I stepped foot in the YMCA. But of course I didn’t. In fact I was welcomed into the company, and in no time at all I made fast friends with everyone in the show.
After the production was over, I found myself in production after production. The next year I played Mr. Darling in Peter Pan. After that show I playing Rooster in Annie, and then after that production I started getting main roles in shows like, Pinocchio, Into the Woods, You’re a Good man Charlie Brown, Grease, Hello Dolly, and CATS, to name a few. It was as if that scary guy in the neighborhood had given me a free sample and now I was a devoted patron. I just couldn’t stop being in shows. I began making new friends and started becoming more outgoing. The theater was changing me for the better.
Years passed and with every new show a slew of characteristics were added to my shy, door-locking personality. I was able to become easygoing and sociable. A part of every new character, like the happy-go-lucky attitude of Barnaby in Hello Dolly, stayed with me and was there for me to put on whenever I needed it.
I truly believe that theater has power to influence. And it doesn’t just influence the actors. I’ve seen audiences pulled into the world that is created on the stage. I’ve seen people cry and laugh because of what they’ve seen. The stage provides a place where the audience and the actor can feel what it’s like to do something that they would otherwise never do.
I recently played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. In the play Tevye is a hardheaded, tradition-minded father of five girls three of them don’t have the same feelings about tradition that he does. The daughters marry not because of arrangements, but because of love, and sometimes that love takes them away from their family and their faith. After one production my Russian-born French teacher came up to me and said, “Wow. When you were up there I was crying, because now I know how my father must have felt when I left home four years ago. I’m going home and calling him. Thank you.”
I believe in the power to change, the power to influence, and the power to learn. I believe in the power of the stage.