Drama Students See Play As Springboard

Neighbors/Pasadena

Career In Acting Enticing To Some In Northeast Farce

November 22, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

The end of this story won't be written for some years yet -- if at all.

It all depends on which members of the Northeast High School Drama Club have the courage, drive, talent and sheer blind good luck to take their after-school pastime and turn it into a career.

Included in the group's production of Moss Hart and George S. Kauffman's classic 1939 farce, "The Man Who Came To Dinner," which opened last night and will run through tomorrow night at 7 p.m., are several performers who wouldn't mind giving the theater a try, despite thehazards.

They include actors Nikki-Anita Whitehead (Miss Preen), Daniel Cook (Sheridan Whiteside, the title character), Sheila Russo (who in the best Broadway tradition took over the role of Maggie at the last minute), Ben Anderson (Bert Jefferson) and David Haynie (Banjo).

"I'd like to to be a professional," said Whitehead, 17.

"This summer, I went to New York for a month, auditioning for some commercials, and I also do some modeling on the side. I'd like to pursue the theater as a career. So this is like a hobby for me right now, but it's also practice for my future."

"I have other things I'd ratherdo," said Russo, 15. "I really love lacrosse, and of course there's school, but if a director called up and asked me to be in his movie, I supposed I'd go."

Cook, another 17-year-old who dreams of the footlights, said "I've been doing shows since the eighth grade, and I've had a couple of leads in other shows. This isn't just an after-school activity (for me), this is such a commitment."

Both students said that they were aware of the difficulties of making a successful career in the theater. But that isn't really deterring them.

"You'vegot to have that positive attitude that you've got something to fallback on," Whitehead said.

"Now, I've had a lot of experience at going to auditions and not being called back. You've just got to keep trying and trying and trying, and then if you can't get it, that's part of life. You just have to live with it."

Cook thinks she may try community theater while pursuing a full-time career. Whitehead plans to major in early education, with a minor in theater and dramatic arts.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing in the next 10 years, so I want to have the education to fall back to become a teacher," she says.

Ben Anderson, who also plays football, says "I would love to do this as a career, but after I get out of college I'm going tothe police academy, because that's what I've got my sights on.

"But whichever college I happen to be at, whether it's Anne Arundel Community College or Towson State, I'm going to do this, and if I get the break, I'm going to go for it."

Although some people have suggested he make acting his career, Anderson cautioned, "this is just the high school level. When I can get out into the college or the community theater level and really impress some people, then that's when I can take this into consideration."

Director Ron Price, a history instructor at the school, says he's "pretty proud of these kids," but avoids encouraging anyone to try a career as an actor.

"Truthfully,I don't advocate it," he said, "and the ones I think have the most potential are definitely headed in a different direction.

"It's a tough, tough profession," he added, "and I try to make people aware ofthis.

"Ten years ago, for every actor that was working, there were 500 unemployed, and that's not my idea of a future unless that's all you know. You've got to be at the right place at the right time, and you've got to be trained from the word go."

Not all the experience to be gained through "The Man Who Came To Dinner" is in the theater, however.

Stage manager Damian Griffie, who built the set, and Fred Bosworth, who is in charge of lighting and sound, are both finding the experience useful for the technical careers they plan to pursue.

"For me," said Griffie, "it's a hobby, because I like to build things. But I guess it could be preparation for my future, because I'mgetting ready to go into civil or mechanical engineering, so it helps."

Bosworth, who said he got roped into handling the wiring thanks to his electronics hobby, said he "really got into the set up and design of lighting and special effects and sound systems.

"But I'm hoping to go into the theatrical field, doing lighting and sound and technical design."

Bosworth's technical background already has begun to pay off, with offers of scholarships and work opportunities outside of Maryland. And there was one unexpected dividend, of a sort.

"I was doing some tech with the Lyric Opera House this winter," he said.

"Except I ended up getting drafted to dance instead, becausethey were short of guys. So now I'm dancing with the Maryland Balletin their production of 'The Nutcracker' at the Lyric."

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