If you've ever driven through Mid-America on I-70, odds are you've passed through Hays, Kansas. It's the center of the universe, and reality as my young mind knew it. Growing up in a small western Kansas town, live theatre was sparse, and I didn't realize my passion for it early on. But the countless nights I hammed about the Gutierrez casa in costumes scrapped from my family's wardrobes, paired with the evenings I spent glued to the TV watching "Grease," while all the dirty innuendos went right over my 6-year-old head, proved otherwise. I was entranced by every Disney animated musical and spent a good part of my childhood pretending I was in a magical world of Disney.
Despite all the parading around in the home, I grew inherently shy (and chubby) in grade school. My parents encouraged summer theatre camp through our local arts council, and I hated it. It wasn't in my nature to perform in front of large groups of people I didn't know, let alone dressed up as Baby Bear while Goldilocks at all my porridge... Yo Goldi, It's not your porridge.
But music had always been in my blood. One of my first memories as a toddler is giggling on the floor as my dad played guitar and sang "La Bamba," shakin' his booty and nodding his head at me to sing along. I would only laugh, completely enthralled. I picked up my own instrument: piano. Hundreds of hours, lessons, and classical competitions later, proved I had a gift. I preferred to escape to my piano, without talking.
Through junior high, my focus turned to sports. Year-round basketball tournaments & sports camps consumed me--it was never the 'off-season.' I was completely invested, as most teenagers in the midwest are. I have a vivid memory of one of my teachers asking me in 8th grade if I was going to do choir in high school, and I laughed it off, and replied with a lofty, "ME? No way. I do sports."
Welllll... as fate would have it, fast-forward a couple years, six seasons of basketball, and countless bottles of Gatorade later... my thirst wasn't quite quenched. Thankfully, I kept up with my music. Even picked up the saxophone (dedicated band man, here. Thanks Mr. M!) I auditioned for the "Hays High Chamber Singers"--the elite, audition-only choral group in our school. I made the cut, as you probably assumed, thus propelling me into my first musical, Oliver!
My parents will attest, this time around, I came alive. The curtain went up on opening night, and Fagin valiantly rounded up his thieving minions and blazed his way, air piccolo in-hand. I fell in love with this way of expressing myself. It propelled me to attend Oklahoma City University, majoring in musical theatre, and I was fortunate enough to spend my summers doing stock musicals at Music Theatre of Wichita under the guidance of Wayne Bryan. These two places helped groom this green, garden-of-a-man to make the move to the Big Apple.
Upon arrival to New York, my first audition out of the gate was for Disney Cruise Line. A couple callbacks later, and I was shipped out to sea, performing the title role of Aladdin in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular aboard the Disney Fantasy. After a few seasons of working for the mouse, it was time to get back home.
New York city is now home. I live each day 'in the arena' pursuing the dream.