By LAURA HUMBLE – STAFF WRITER
Senior Andrew Stairs didn’t choose theater; theater chose him.
“I reached a point where I thought, ‘high school me couldn’t have known… [but] this is what I want to be a part of,’” Stairs said.
His journey began in kindergarten as narrator of a Nativity play, but he did not seriously begin his career until high school. Previously, he had enjoyed reading Shakespeare and attending shows at his local theater, but the drama department at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Ky. allowed him to explore his talents and stretch his wings onstage. His high school credits include Ferdinand in The Tempest, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar.
Even with all this success, Stairs only saw acting as a hobby. “I would put my nose to the grindstone for college,” Stairs said. However, once he came to Centre he fell in love with theatre all over again.
Now, Stairs’s enthusiasm for the stage is clear. “I love it. Working with professors and students to craft a play is one of the greatest joys I have here. I like walking out of Grant after performing back into Centre proper. I’ll be eating or something the next day with some friends, and I’ll see people staring, thinking, ‘That’s the guy with the bald spot I saw onstage last night,’” Stairs said.
Stairs might relish the recognition, but his favorite part of being a dramatic arts major is the ability to collaborate with other people. “A group of people gets together with an idea – ‘let’s do a play’ – and winds up a month or so later at ‘Hey that was fun.’ What happens in between is just so cool,” Stairs said.
He not only enjoys the acting aspect of being a dramatic arts major, but also everything—and anything—else that has to do with the stage. “It’s incredibly rewarding to study one discipline in three areas—performance, technology and design, and dramatic history and literature. While most of my work… has been acting, I’ve worked in our scenic shop and costume shop. I’ve tackled Sophocles, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Beckett, Churchill, Stoppard, and others,” Stairs said.
Though rewarding, acting requires high committment. “No matter the play or director, it’s always pretty time-consuming and draining, physically and emotionally. When I work, I go all in,” Stairs said. For Centre’s fall play Our Country’s Good he rehearses for two to four hours each weekday and runs through the play again on the weekend.
Stairs hits the ground running from the moment he wakes up, starting the day off right with some exercise before class. He attends rehearsal in the afternoon, arriving early so he can go over lines or blocking, stretch, and take a minute to gather himself. During rehearsal, he is onstage, doing homework in the wings, or having fun with the cast. In the evening, when rehearsal lets out, he grabs some dinner and does homework until late. Then, “[I] rinse and repeat,” Stairs said.
Our Country’s Good is directed by Charles T. Hazelrigg Professor of Dramatic Arts Patrick Kagan-Moore. “It is about the first English settlement in Australia—a penal colony in New South Wales—and its decision to put on a play using convicts,” Stairs said. His roles include Captain Arthur Phillip, the governor, and Robert Sideway, a convicted pickpocket and aspiring actor. The play runs from Nov. 13-15 at 8 p.m., and Nov. 16 at 5 p.m in Weisiger Theater. It is also worth a convocation credit.
So what are Stairs’s future plans? “In the past year, I’ve become much more confident and open to the possibility of exploring the field professionally,” Stairs said. This was reinforced by his study abroad experience in London. “While I’d certainly thought about it at home and at Centre, London made me consider the possibilities of acting and contributing to theater professionally.” Across the pond, he was fortunate enough to see Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw and James McAvoy and was inspired by the public’s love for theatrical performances over Hollywood blockbusters.
To give back to students what he’s been given is Stairs true passion. “Theater—all arts, really—in schools are invaluable. People lose sight on the impact arts education and outreach can have. I want to be an advocate and teacher,” Stairs said.
It seems Stairs will pursue this the way he pursues everything else: with passion and total immersion. “Take the leap,” Stairs said. “Cast aside your doubts about the field, the work, whatever. Have fun and explore. In the words of Professor Patrick Kagan-Moore: ‘Go play. ’”