When did you first get started in theatre?
I first got started in theatre when I took my first class at PAC. That was Acting Level I with Beth Harper herself in September 2006. Before then, the only onstage experience I had was in school plays that were required participation for all students. In quite a roundabout way, my decision to take that first class was related to my desire at the time to be the frontman of rock band! That's a story I will happily share in person if anyone is interested, but it is enough to say that since taking that first PAC class, I have never looked back.
Can you describe why you chose to attend PAC?
My decision to attend PAC as a "track student" (as we were known back then), was simply based on the experiences I had in that Level I acting class. I was pretty much hooked and had to get more, and enrolling as a track student was the way to get my fix.
What have you done since graduating from PAC?
Since graduating from PAC in 2008, I've been working in theatre in Portland pretty much constantly. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with a wide variety of companies and people over the last 5+ years, and last spring, I was honored to accept a position with Theatre Vertigo, where I remain a company member. Being a member of what I think of as an exciting ensemble has been wonderful so far, and I'm very excited for our upcoming season.
How has the training you received here affected your life and career?
Not to sound too hyperbolic, but the training I received at PAC changed the focus of my life! I still have my "day job," but when I took my first acting class at PAC, I didn't really have something in my life that I was passionate about. Now I feel comfortable describing myself as an actor, because that is where I focus my energies. Yes, I still work hard at being a software developer, but it is really now something I do so that I can pursue what has become my passion. To put it in the simplest terms, going to PAC led to me having an acting career, which I certainly did not have before.
What advice do you have for new acting students?
Wow, advice. Well, for new students, I would say the best thing you can do is to try not to shut anyone or anything out. I'm a pretty stubborn and opinionated person, and I also think I know what's best for me. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, but when you're setting out to learn, you can really only get everything out of it if you are willing to let it in. Even those things that seem like they don't apply to you. Maybe they don't, but maybe they do, in ways you would never have imagined if you hadn't let them happen.
Any advice for recent PAC graduates?
As for recent grads, well, when I graduated, I attended every audition I heard about, and accepted any role I was offered. There's certainly some debate over whether or not that is a good thing to do, but I know it was good for me. I quickly gained "real world" experience in the audition room and onstage, and made useful connections and friendships that I continue to enjoy. Having said that, at some point it is important to acknowledge that it is OK to know what you want and go for that, which will sometimes mean turning down roles. All of that aside, the most important advice I can give is this: be a decent person. I don't think it's a hard thing to do, but really just treat everyone you work with with respect and decency. Value other people's time, and trust me, they will value yours. Be polite, considerate, and kind, and don't be afraid to do a favor or two here and there. Those little acts come back to you when you need them. In a community like the theatre community in Portland, where everyone knows everyone, being a decent human being is one of the best career moves you can make.
Catch Tom on stage in Willamette Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (also featuring 2012 grad Bjorn Anderson) playing weekends, August 2-24 throughout the Willamette Valley wine country and in Portland.