FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE ARTS

Steve Gladstone writes: “As kids, my brother and I tapped into movie making with the help of our grandfather, who supplied us with a Bell and Howell 8mm camera, tripods, lights, editing equipment, a projector and paid for all the film processing. We recruited the neighborhood kids as our actors, wrote scripts, explored camera angles, employed special effects, and learned how to tell stories through film, including one epic called Water Boy, lampooning the 1960s Batman TV series. I played Water Boy, and was a natural in front of the camera, even leaping over a cement fence in a single bound!”

“Our love for the cinematic arts ran early and deep. We were both awed by the 1933 film King Kong, brother Frank was struck by just how Kong moved, planting the seeds for a career for him in animation, and I created a stand-up bit where I acted out the entire story in 60 seconds, playing all the characters, including Kong. Frank was also captivated (even prompting an asthma attack) while watching Disney’s Pinocchio, sparking him to become a gifted cartoonist and paving the way for his future career with Disney, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks.”

“When I was around 10-years-old, I saw the movie Carousel and after hearing Gordon MacRae as Billy belting out Soliloquy, I was gobsmacked. Somehow it struck me even then how words could be insufficient to express emotions, and when words fell short, people bursting into song to fully express themselves was for me a natural thing to do. The musical propelled me into a different level of being. (Crushing on Shirley Jones also helped me fall in love…every time I hear ‘If I Loved You,’ time stands still.)”

“My gateway role onto the stage was the old Shakespearean actor Henry in The Fantasticks. I was 17 at a summer camp in Georgia and the drama director approached me for the role, as I was a lanky dude with a character face. It was love at first part.”

“Returning to that same summer camp as the drama director for several summers, I staged musicals including Carousel, The Music Man, Man of La Mancha, and West Side Story. I found myself one morning chatting with the camp director who had asked me about my future. I said to him that I was thinking about giving acting a shot in order to get it out of my system. He said, ‘Or get it into your system.’ Prophetic.

“While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Florida, I glanced one afternoon at an audition notice tacked up on the student union bulletin board for Paint Your Wagon being held at the campus theater and landed a part. The musical director was a voice professor and invited me to study voice with him, where I was introduced to opera. I turned out to be a basso, sang the role of Seneca in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea and Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. My love for opera has been steady ever since.”

“After being second from the right in the chorus (I wasn’t a very good tap dancer) in Anything Goes and the Prince in Romeo and Juliet, I graduated from the university and hit the road in a Florida tour of ‘Waiting for Godot,’ my first paying gig. Theatre was now running steadily through my veins.”

“Though I didn’t have the discipline to pursue a career in opera, I was stoked to follow a path in the musical theatre. I tripped the boards in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, Minnie’s Boys, South Pacific, and Godspell, then left the stage for 21 years to work a full-time day job and raise a family. During that time, I landed some bit parts in movies and TV shows and was the principal character in numerous commercials. It was easy enough to leave the job to be a day player on a shoot but holding a full-time job during the day and acting in a theater at night was burning both ends of the candle.”

“During this time away from the stage, I started writing for the stage, collaborating on 3 musicals, my bailiwick being book and lyrics: Max, The Million Dollar Sandbar, and South of the North Pole, a New Holiday Musical, which garnered an ASCAP Musical Theatre Award.”

“Also, during all this time, not only was I loving acting both on stage and screen, but I was slowly losing my sight from a rare retinal disease and became totally blind by age 35. As I would continue my love for acting, I was always grateful to those artistic directors who saw me first, rather than my blindness. It became a creative collaborative process of counting steps, turning a certain way, reacting to a voice rather than a face, keying off stage and set pieces and the like, in order to appear ‘sighted’ on the stage and screen, since the lion’s share of roles I played were sighted characters. Actually, the stage and set turned out to be an ideal workspace (small and confined) for a blind person to negotiate.”

“After leaving the world of retail in the late 1990s, I began to wonder what’s next?’ Hmm. The thing that kept coming to me was my first love, the musical theatre. But now I was a blind actor and wondered if anyone would hire me? I figured the way to find out was to audition, and if no one gave me work, I would just do something else. I did and I did. After runs in Little Mary Sunshine, Fiddler on the Roof, Titanic, The Rocky Horror Show, 1776, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, I had opportunities to mine some dramatic characters. I landed a plum role in Blind Date (finally I got to play a blind character) in the intimate space of New Theatre. I went on to perform in several seasons of New Theatre’s Shakespeare Festival, culminating in playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. It was at New Theatre where I fine-tuned my classic chops.”

“Other straight plays where I won nifty roles included Amadeus, Three Sisters, Our Town, and recently I came off Antigone, where again I played a blind guy, the soothsayer Tiresias.”

“What kept me in this world of the stage and screen? Love. As children, we loved to play. So, I’ve just never stopped playing.”

Steve Gladstone

http://resumes.actorsaccess.com/stevegladstone

STEVE GLADSTONE AS SHYLOCK IN THE MERCHANT OF VENICE

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