The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 6, 2012

Through rain, wind and snow, traveling actors make sure the performance goes on

Actors are spreading their wings and moving easily beyond geographic lines to experience theater in new ways.

“There does seem to be a trend of actors traveling from afar to the Ashtabula Arts Center. We have a few from Cleveland and Akron this summer,” said Kim Godfrey, Ashtabula Arts Center theater and music coordinator.

She said the lead in the summer production of Godspell grew up in Concord Township, but is coming back from college in Michigan to play the part of Jesus.

Zach Adkins, 19, of Ashtabula, has been acting for five years and has been involved in a variety of productions at the Ashtabula Arts Center and many other northeastern Ohio theaters.

“I’m majoring in music and theater at Baldwin Wallace University,” Adkins said.

He said many of the auditions for the different theater seasons are held during the same time periods so an actor can audition for a variety of parts and then evaluate what fits his or her talents best.

Adkins said he would often audition for a part at different theaters in Ashtabula, Madison and Cleveland and then plan his acting schedule from there. He said part of the decision was what theater would provide the best fit or the most important part.

Grace Gentiluomo, 25, of Perry, said she has traveled to Ashtabula for performances for many years. She said a family connection to the Ashtabula Arts Center began the process, but growth in friendships has fueled her interest as well.

“I’ve met a lot of great people, old and young, It’s like a big family,” she said of the camaraderie that develops between passionate people committed to theater.

“I wish I could have gotten involved when I was younger,” she said.

Another aspect in choosing a theater is the type of performance being showcased.

Gentiluomo said many recent Ashtabula Arts Center productions have drawn her to audition. “The shows they have been doing are ones that I (like or match well with),” she said.

Another common denominator for actors seeking roles is the combined passion actors bring to their craft, Adkins said.

“The thing that is great is that you meet people who are as passionate as you are,” he said of his willingness to drive long distances to perform.

Adkins said he has long-term friendships with people from Perry and Conneaut that developed through the crucible of acting.

Rachel Keene, of Fairport Harbor, said there aren’t a lot of acting options in her immediate area so trips to Ashtabula County make sense for her. She said she has performed at the Ashtabula Arts Center and at the Oak Room in Geneva-on-the-Lake.

Weather can be a challenge for performers acting well outside of their home area. “We had a few nasty weather days (this winter), but the show still went on,” Keene said.

Godfrey said having committed actors is important.

“Most of the time the people who are cast know they have to find a way to make it,” she said.

One of the biggest problems relates to traffic issues that may develop in bad weather.

A major crash on Interstate 90 presented a problem for an actor coming from Cleveland. “She got here five minutes before the performance,” Godfrey said.

“As a director it’s a little scary. I’ve learned and I have to have some back-up plans,” she said.

Overall the interest from “out of town” actors out weighs any problems. “As theater coordinator I am trying my hardest to run our theaters as professionally as possible to obtain a higher status of community theater. I think people are coming from near and far because of the “buzz,” she said.

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