Actors find expression in local theater

TCAN Players (from left) Frances Vella, Paul Collins and Chris Erath prepare for “Tenor.”
Scott Bump
TCAN Players (from left) Frances Vella, Paul Collins and Chris Erath prepare for “Tenor.”

Forget all the usual stories of aspiring actors who endure years of fruitless auditions followed by more years paying their dues in the chorus or ensemble before ever climbing their way to a hard-won moment in the spotlight.

Twenty-six-year-old Tony Lopez of Natick says his first audition happened quite by accident.

He was a shy, reclusive student at Babson College in Wellesley — “I was a giant nerd in high school, and continued that way in college,” in his words — when he decided to put his technical savvy to use as a backstage technician working on sound and lights. One day as he was closing up the theater, he saw a friend standing amid a group of people and walked over to say hello, hoping it might help him make some new friends.


It turned out the cluster of people was in the midst of an audition, and as Lopez tells it, he somehow just got swept up in the crowd. He was handed sheet music and told to sing. Before he knew it, he had a part.

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That was more or less when the acting bug bit for the first time, but he buried the impulse for several years while finishing his education and embarking upon a career as an entrepreneur. Earlier this year, one of his theater friends from Babson drew him back in; she urged him to try out for a part in the Natick-based TCAN Players’ production of “Lend Me a Tenor,” which opens Friday, and he was given the role of Max.

Judging from the backgrounds of the cast members in “Lend Me a Tenor,” the paths taken to the stage by community theater enthusiasts are many and varied.

Chris Erath of Framingham began acting at the age of 6 and continued in various productions until college. He gave up the footlights to attend graduate school and become an economist, but in his 30s he began to feel that something was lacking in his life.

“In the model of left-brain versus right-brain, I began to feel that there was something I was missing out on by hanging out only with people in quantitative fields like economics,” Erath said. “You meet a very different kind of person in the theatrical world. I don’t want to subscribe [to] the usual stereotypes about dour economists, but there’s something to that stereotype, and I felt compelled to interact with people who were about as diametrically opposite of the stereotypical economist as you could be.


“That’s what brought me back to the stage. I also coach high school basketball, so as I see it, I have one foot in the world of economics, one in the world of theater, and one in the world of athletics, although I don’t actually have three feet.”

Sharon Kivnik of Framingham is another community theater devotee who acted in her high school years and then left the stage for many years to nurture a career with a computer company, and to raise children and focus on their activities.

“Then one day I decided I wanted to take voice lessons,” she said. “My voice teacher thought it would be good practice for me to go to some auditions. The second audition I attended, for a production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ with Needham Community Theatre, yielded a part in the production.’’ Now she’s playing Julia in “Lend Me a Tenor.’’

“I’ve met so many wonderful and talented people in the community theater world,” Kivnik said. “It’s a small community. We run across one another all the time.”

For Paul Collins, the route to community theater was partly triggered by his passion for music and his hobby as a musician.


“Memory was something I had to work on as a musician, and I thought taking an acting class in which I had to learn lines would help a lot,” said Collins, a 52-year-old from Medfield. Collins took his first class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and estimates that he’s done 18 plays in the past four years at community theaters throughout the Boston suburbs, including Medfield, Millis, and Watertown.

“I’m totally addicted at this point. Once this production is over, I’ll be preparing for “Enchanted April” in Middleborough,’’ he said. “What I love most about this is the camaraderie. You’re hanging out with people who are basically children and goofballs at heart, and this is our venue.”

Of course, for an adult with a career or a family or both, finding the time for tryouts, rehearsals, and performances can be almost overwhelming.

“It’s a giant time suck if you have a large part,” said Lopez. “It can be like a part-time job.”

For Lopez, who is simultaneously trying to start a business involving a bar that features video games, juggling priorities is critical. “The world of an entrepreneur tends to be 24/7,” he said. “You’re always living and breathing your business.”

But that can also be the very best reason for busy adults to take part in community theater, Lopez said. “It’s an escape. Acting requires so much energy you don’t have the capacity to be distracted by anything else. There’s no multitasking when you’re at a rehearsal.”

“Lend Me a Tenor” opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Center for Arts in Natick, 14 Summer St., and runs for seven shows through June 22. Tickets are $20, or $18 for TCAN members, and $12 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets or see a schedule of performances, call 508-647-0097 or go to www.natickarts.org.

BALLET MEDLEY TONIGHT: The Needham-based Charles River Ballet Academy presents a program of excerpts from “Swan Lake,” “La Bayadere,” “Don Quixote,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “The Nutcracker” as well as new contemporary pieces Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Friday at 7 p.m. in the Regis College Fine Arts Center, 235 Wellesley St., Weston.

The performances will also feature a special “Meet the Dancers” event for children at intermission. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 508-545-1257 or go to www.charlesriverballet.com.

BROADWAY CLASSIC TODAY: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston presents “South Pacific,’’ opening Thursday at 3 p.m. and running through June 22 at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington St., Waltham.

Individual tickets range from $35 to $63; season subscriptions and group tickets are available at a discount. For more information or advance tickets, visit www.reaglemusictheatre.com, or call 781-891-5600.

ART TO EASE HUNGER: “Work For Food,” a show and sale of original artworks on paper by 45 Boston-area artists to benefit local food relief organizations, is taking place through June 26 at Room 83 Spring, a gallery at 83 Spring St. in Watertown.

There will be a special reception for the participating artists from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The gallery’s regular hours are Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., as well as by appointment. For more information, go to www.room83spring.com.

Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.