I came to FRP when I was 10 years old, the Fall of 1990. I saw some friends, who had been taking classes at the Children’s Theatre, performing at Kenmure and loved it. I started taking classes when the next sessions started. I remember the first class was on the Loundes House porch with Wendy Wilkins. I was hooked. Wendy was amazing. I went, knowing it was called the Flat Rock Playhouse, expecting a place like Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I wasn’t disappointed. I felt like I belonged. Wendy had a way of making us feel special and important. I started as a shy only child and through the years grew up and found confidence in myself. Middle School and High School are tough. But I had found a way to express myself. I also remember meeting John Walsh Degance that first day who ended up being, and still is, one of my best friends. I think every kid should have that experience.
FRP was the place to be as a kid. I wanted to spend all my time in the midst of the professional actors, designers, directors, etc. So, I worked the concession stand, I even washed dishes in the Jim Dan Dee Hall. I watched every show I could. I would study actors, try to imitate what they did on stage. I would help strike the shows. I would work the follow spot. Even be in a show when they let me. I would do anything I could to be on the rock. There was an energy about the place. A loyalty and respect for the work. A loyalty and respect to other artists. Everyone worked together to make something great. It seemed like every show sold out. Sometimes they would sell the bench in the very back of the theatre. Leona Farquar used to tell us the story of FRP when it was a tent and how everyone would work together to put it up and take it down. It wasn’t just about money. It was a community, a family, not only for the artists, but also the patrons.
An early memory:
Wendy Wilkins used to point at me and I would immediately begin laughing. I had a pretty noticeable laugh at the time. It became a ‘bit’ at performances. In between skits or songs she would point, I would laugh, making the audience crack up.
I was a part of the first Conservatory class. It is a college level training class that Betsy Bisson started. I was in the class with my best friends and also some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. We worked hard and held ourselves to high standards. Because of Betsy, the Conservatory class, and my friends, I was able to go to college and grad school completely prepared for every challenge I might face.
Betsy Bisson has influenced me the most at FRP. She is the reason why the YouTheatre exists. She is the reason why the YouTheatre has a new building. Why children were in Mainstage shows in the Summer. Why thousands of kids have had their lives changed by the experiences they got taking classes at the YouTheatre. She is why I’m a working professional actor. Thank you Betsy!
It has been a pleasure to work at FRP over the years. On Sunday I closed RED by John Logan. It was such an honor to be a part of. To act with Duke, who was also a teacher of mine at the YouTheatre. And with Angie Flynn-McIver, the director, who I’ve had the great pleasure of working with before at North Carolina Stage Company in Asheville. I would consider RED to be the most astounding moment of my career at FRP. Next up is Proof, directed by Neela Munoz.
I would also like to take this time to thank Robin, Scott, Paige, Mark, Dale, Duke, Vincent, Billy, Neela, Dennis, Wayne, Peter, Michael, Janie, Barbara, Linda, Chris Ort, Bridget, Bruce, Todd, Bob Cooke, Ben, Ashley, Cara, Emily, John-Walsh, Edie, Jared, Chase, Brooks, and so many more for being great examples and teaching me how to be a professional theatre artist.