Outside of participating in a small amount of theatre in high school, I have no formal acting training. I did grow up as a performer on stage, though. My grandmother was a huge fan of Elvis Presley, so I was exposed to him at a very young age. Because my living room impersonations of him in front of the television went so well, my grandmother began to make me homemade Elvis costumes. That’s how my journey as a performer began.
A local Elvis impersonator began inviting me to join him onstage from the time I was about three years old. I also joined a children’s performing company. We traveled to different venues locally and did musical numbers from movies and Broadways shows. A lot of my exposure to numbers from Broadway shows came from being introduced to them by the director of that performing company.
Looking back now, I realize that acting was always a passion of mine that I didn’t really know how to express. I’ve always loved watching movies. I’ll watch (still to this day) my favorites so many times that I’ll begin quoting them and acting out scenes in my living room. However, when I was younger, I never really considered that I could act in a play or a musical professionally. I was acting though, as Elvis, on stage for years and years. I just never really made that connection between what I was doing as an impersonator and being an actor.
Cut to 2016 and I was still performing as Elvis. I got recommended by that same local Elvis impersonator who first brought me up on stage to fill the role as the young Elvis Presley in The Million Dollar Quartet. This was a non-Equity production at a dinner theater about an hour and a half away from my home. The role required me to play guitar (solo, yikes!) which I didn’t know how to do at the time. So, along with learning the entire show, in a two-week rehearsal period, I got a crash course in the world of theatre.
I kept getting recommended for other Million Dollar Quartet productions across the country and I ended up doing two more non-Equity productions before finally having the chance to join Equity. My fourth production of the show was at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois. When I was offered the contract, I was also offered the chance to join Equity – something I knew nothing about. I asked some other actors and directors about their thoughts on joining and did some online research to see if it was the right choice for me.
I decided to get my Equity card on that contract. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would be offered any other Equity productions so I wanted to go for it, because I knew that some actors work in theatre for years to get that card and I was still in the first year of my theatre career. Day one of that production at the Paramount Theatre, I had my first Equity meeting. It was great to be surrounded by other members in that production from whom I could learn. It didn’t take long to realize strength of knowing that you’re supported by other Equity members and you’re not just in this alone.
Now, going into my ninth production of MDQ, I am continuing to learn the power of Equity and the pride of having people stand people behind you in the workplace. I’ve also been an Equity deputy on multiple occasions. Representing the group by being deputy was another great learning experience for me. I love the feeling of being part of a team. I really believe it has made me a better performer and person.