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Theater Thursday: Acting 101

Acting hasn't been a part of my life for too long, but in the last few years it has been incredibly influential and undeniably eye-opening. As someone who constantly downplays his own successes and skills in an effort to never deny the opportunity to improve, I do recognize that I am composed of some measure of talent when it comes to performing on stage. And as I approach my eleventh production in almost five years, the conversations I've had and the memories I've shared with my theater family have made me realize I don't remember all of my previous productions as well as I had thought.

And so this blog series seeks to delve deep into the experiences I've had thus far, as few as they may be when compared to those my many people I've acted beside. Every Thursday for the first couple months of Spring, 2018, we'll be looking back at my history with Brainerd Community Theater, and how it has helped to shape and define what it means to be Nicholas Kory.

For the first post in this series, there is no better place to begin than my final semester of my two-year degree at Central Lakes College, in the Spring of 2013...

Finishing my Degree

Going into the Spring semester of 2013, I only had electives left to fill out my seven-year-long two-year degree, and so I decided to branch out a bit and have fun. Two of my classes were with the late Thurman Knight - an influential man who is more than deserving of his own tribute on my blog - and the last one was Acting 101 with Patrick Spradlin. Unlike my other classes, I was not the oldest student in Acting 101, but I was one of them.

First day of class I arrived early, as I generally do, and found a seat towards the back, in the corner. A preferred perch from which I could observe everyone else as I determined how exactly I would fit into this group of students. As people began filing in, a young man sat next to me - average-height, somewhat lanky, and rather outgoing and excited to be there. He had the unique name of Orion, and was full of referential jokes that I acknowledged with an amused smirk but rarely made eye-contact (a bad habit of mine when I am losing patience with someone). He was immediately disrupting my desire to be a passive observer, as he seemed to latch onto me for whatever reason and insisted on conversing.

And then Patrick came in, he introduced the class to us, spoke about his goals for the class, about what he liked to see from students, and about what he didn't want to see. Ultimately it seemed like if you did the work, even if you weren't terribly skilled or knowledgeable, you'd do fine, and that was nice. As someone who had absolutely zero acting experience, it was nice to hear that he didn't hold any expectations other than to just be studious.

Acting Like Myself

The class continued as most classes do, albeit a bit more physical than most. We acted silly, we told a lot of jokes, and we generally got comfortable around one another. I did my best, but I was still in this weird transitional part of my life where I was trying to strike a healthy balance between the timid, self-defeatist attitude I had adopted since about 2008, and a mentality that was more open and confident. Orion continued to sit near me throughout the first few weeks, and by this point he had made it clear that his goal was to emulate the comedic acting styles of Jim Carrey. I responded to that declaration by saying that I just wanted to learn how to act.

I didn't know it at the time, but this was where it all started. I believe that this was my first indication that acting was something that I could do, as myself and for myself. There were plenty of actors that I respected, and occasionally that I would imitate from time to time, but when I actually thought about acting, I didn't think about anybody else. I thought about the character, and how I could try and become that character.

I don't think I've ever disappeared into any of my roles, and honestly I don't think I ever will. I'm not on that level of acting. I think that I will always shine through my characters, that people will always see me on stage as me playing someone else. That resignation is a little annoying, but at the same time I'm okay with it. Part of growing as a person is accepting your own limitations, and learning how to work with/around them, right?

Mandatory Auditions - The Glass Menagerie

I've shared the story about how I went from acting student to aspiring thespian multiple times, across multiple mediums. If you're unaware, I went with a group of other, single friends on Valentine's Day to Brainerd Community Theater's production of Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum in that same semester, Spring of 2013. It was a hilarious and mesmerizing production, and I remember seeing Kevin Yaeger walk on stage in full Roman general regalia and I thought to myself "I can do that."

But another story I haven't shared as much is that of my first audition. Patrick had said at the beginning of the class that, if ever a show was going on while we were in his class, that auditions would be mandatory for his students. And it was during this time that auditions were being held for The Glass Menagerie, directed by Gary Hirsch. I attended, my confidence having risen a bit after performing some scenes well in Acting class (one of which was a scene from a play called Dearly Departed, which will come up in next week's Theater Thursday post!), and read the isolated dialogue that would be part of the auditions over and over again.

I got called in, and both Patrick and Gary were seated in the empty theater to observe those auditioning. There was a table and a chair in the center of the stage, and Gary greeted me and thanked me for coming, and said "you can sit if you want." Behind Gary, Patrick shook his head definitively, indicating that I should remain standing for the audition. I'm still not sure if Gary was aware of the silent direction from Patrick, but it was helpful at the time, and amusing to think of now.

I did my lines. Gary gave me some direction, and I did them again. For anyone who saw CLC's production of The Glass Menagerie, it's no spoiler to say that I didn't get it. There were only four roles in the entire show, two male and two female, and those went to the endlessly talented Kevin Yaeger and Mitchell Dallman, two actors I would get the pleasure of sharing the stage with later.

I was a little disappointed in myself for not getting a part in my first audition, but next week's post will outline how that disappointment was short-lived and soon I found myself not only on stage, but performing a role that I was already somewhat familiar with (a rarity among my acting career).