“Nick George is an Acting Classes Coach at The Playground. Here’s Part 2…”

Welcome back! I’m glad that you’ve returned for the 2nd installment of this blog series that I’m writing in conjunction with The Playground Los Angeles, Gary Spatz’s Young Actors Conservatory.

Gary Spatz really is such an inspiring guy and his acting school is a unique and special place that has changed the lives of so many young people. I’m really excited to be a part of the impact that Gary makes in the world. To have been invited as one of the teachers on his senior staff to share some of my stories and experiences in this blog is an real honor.

In the first entry a few weeks back, I shared with you about how the beginning of my acting journey sprang from a traumatic event in my life as a young man. I’m far from the first person to have been lucky enough to find a way of turning dark moments in their personal history into something creative and useful but I think this is one of the truly great things about art: Without the capacity to transform the pain and suffering of life into something that has some value…well, it would just be pain and suffering!

By October of 1997, now a junior at my new school, Hellgate High in Missoula Montana, I was well underway in reinventing myself. I had kept my head down during the week of football tryouts and instead had auditioned for both of the school’s renowned choruses. Much to my amazement I had managed to get into both as a tenor. I was elated and nearly blissed out by the 90 minutes a day that I got to spend singing and learning to harmonize with other amazing voices. I was making a few friends and school seemed to be off to a good start. I didn’t have a huge group of friends yet and my schedule was pretty open….but that wouldn’t last long.

One Friday night after a party, one of my new budding friends Sean Manraska pulled me aside after a Hellgate football game with some auspicious advice….

“Dude you really should come with me to the Madwoman of Chaillot play auditions next week.”

Sean mentioned that the drama teacher and his wife were pretty awesome people and that if I got involved with the theatre department I was sure to be “IN” with the cool kids at Hellgate. I thought Sean was lying. I had always been under the impression that drama folks were dweebs.

Sean had to be pulling a prank I thought. But after some further questioning, I found that he was in fact very sincere and was looking forward to auditioning. Considering that I was fully embracing my love for singing and that it hadn’t brought down a devastating social hammer of adolescent uncoolness, I decided to consider the audition over the weekend.

That Monday rolled around and Sean was right there at my locker first thing in the morning with such encouraging words as “Dude, you are so coming!” and “Don’t be a wuss, man!” Again, I was very curious about this apparent role-reversal for drama kids. According to Sean, I would not be a wuss if I tried out for the play.

I really did my best to get out of it that afternoon but I have Sean to thank for making sure I didn’t flake out. I went to the audition, read various parts on stage with these amazing huge personalities. Under the bright blinding lights on the giant Hellgate stage I had no idea what was happening up there…but something was.

You see, I was certain in my mind that I would never be allowed to act in a play with these brilliant folks who loved acting. I was terrified but I had nothing to lose…and in some ways I think there is great power in that. I kept reading the lines and trying to give it all I had and for some reason, the big intimidating guy just beyond the line of the bright lights kept laughing in this huge, rolling baritone at everything I was doing.

The next day, the cast list was posted and I had some reckoning to do. It turned out that I had been wrong about everything. About myself, the school, actors being dweebs…I was going to be in a play at Hellgate High School, directed by that laughing giant and his lovely wife….

Working on the play that fall and winter I was happier than I could ever remember being. I was drunk with pleasure, in fact. I would shoot out of bed each morning to go to school. I went from a C Student to an A student. I was making wonderful new friends (that unbeknownst to me at the time) would remain the nearest and dearest people in my adult life…and even more importantly, now, living over a thousand miles away from my parents, I had found my place. A new home on the Hellgate stage with the Knights and King Rothwell. If there truly is an acting “bug” I was bitten that fall.

Next week the journey continues! Thanks for reading.

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