The first time I saw Roman was at an audition callback for Play on Players’ James and the Giant Peach. His Ladahlord garnered a standing ovation — at a callback!! I knew I was witnessing something special. He and my son, Grant, attended Governor’s Honors that summer for theater and soon became inseparable. They spent their senior year together in Play on Players, and Roman became our adopted son–we made sure we had plenty of orange juice stocked in the fridge on the weekends as he’s an orange juice connoisseur.
Roman’s talent is phenomenal. He’s a serious triple threat, just finished his Freshman year at Shenandoah Conservatory, and this summer he’s got a professional gig playing Seaweed in Hairspray at the Dallas Theatre Center.
He granted us an e-interview, and without further a doo-doo, here it is:
How did you get your start in theater?
I began doing theatre my freshman year of high school. I knew I wanted to become an actor and I couldn’t afford any professional classes, so school was the best place to start. I originally wanted to do straight theatre only, but my best friends heard me sing and suggested I take musical because I’d “get all the leads”. Needless to say, I’m forever indebted.
What has been your training so far?
I attended the life-changing Governor’s Honors Program in Valdosta, GA during the summer of 2016 as a theatre major. I was under the instruction of the incredible Jennifer Schottstaedt and Melissa Porterfield, who led me and 17 other students in a variety of workshops and exercises over the course of a four-week intensive process. Furthermore, I was also chosen to attend two YoungArts weeks in 2017. One is the national program in Miami, Florida, and the other being the regional program in New York City. During both of these weeks, I was primarily under the instruction of Broadway veteran Michael McElroy, along with incredible master classes from the likes of Tony Yazbeck, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Olympia Dukakis, and many more. Finally, I have most recently just completed my freshman year at Shenandoah Conservatory as a Musical Theatre student. These opportunities have played a major part in developing me into the artist I am today.
What do you feel have been your greatest accomplishments so far?
I take great pride in being chosen as a National YoungArts finalist due to the extremely selective process that the program speaks about (only 20 actors were chosen from around the nation). Many of today’s huge names: Viola Davis, Josh Groban, Kerry Washington, Timothée Chalamet, and many more, were all previous YoungArts winners for theatre as well. YoungArts such a prestigious, historic organization and I’m truly honored to be a part of the family. Also, this summer I will be making my professional debut as Seaweed in Dallas Theater Center’s production of Hairspray. Dallas Theater Center took home the 2017 Tony Award for Regional Theater, further establishing themselves as an innovative and remarkably achieving American theatre ground. I am beyond honored to be working with such a fantastic, groundbreaking company, not to mention playing a lead character in such an incredible show for my first professional job.
What have been some of your favorite roles and why?
During my senior year of high school, I played the role of Jean Valjean in the school edition of Les Misérables. I loved playing the character for many different reasons, but most of all, it was the first time I had taken a bit of liberty into crafting a character on my own. Previously, I’d always gone to YouTube or watched bootleg recordings (I know, gasp) of shows I was doing to develop my performances. However, with this being my last high school performance, I felt that it was time to tap into my artistry more than I had before and build my character based off of research, experience, and who I was as an individual. It was so beneficial because it helped me to prepare myself for performing in college. The director of my first college show informed the cast that we were not allowed to watch any performances online, and strongly encouraged us to find ways to craft our characters on our own. After discovering all of the benefits of doing so, it is now how I will continue to approach the roles I am given in the future. For the record, I do not disown watching other performances while preparing for a role at all. In fact, in some cases, I see it as rather necessary. However, I also believe that we should trust enough in ourselves as artists enough to understand that we carry something unique that can be brought to the table. It’s about having faith in your own abilities to tell stories and connect with the humanity in them, a lesson that every actor must learn at some point.
What do you have coming up in the future?
As of now, (other than Dallas Theatre Center), I have no solidified plans for the future. I will continue to work on myself, my craft, and trust that God will provide me with the opportunities I desire as I continue to work towards my achieving my dream. Nonetheless, stay tuned…
What advice would you give to an aspiring thespian?
A wise man once told me, if you can see yourself doing anything other than theater, do it. It’s difficult advice, but it’s true. This business is brutal and tough. However, if you know this is your everything, if you can’t imagine your life without the stage, and if performing makes you feel like nothing else does, then do it. Keep working. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back from what you want to achieve. Trust that you carry something unique that you can give to the world. Outwork every other person in the room because your talent is simply not enough. Keep faith and great people around you at all times. Surround yourself with individuals who are going to pour life and love into you consistently and who genuinely want to see you succeed. That, more than anything, will keep you going. Having a relationship with Jesus has also helped me with acting, especially when I start to feel insignificant or worrisome about things. It’s allowed me to walk by faith and not by sight. And the biggest reminder: Take everything one day at a time. Don’t stress yourself out about the callback or the cast list. Don’t worry about what job you are going to have in three months. Instead, invest that energy into something that can go towards bettering yourself or your craft, and trust in the process. I love theatre with all of my heart, but even I have those days where I don’t want to do the work. However, if you can find a way to keep yourself reminded of the things I mentioned (or whatever works for you), then I trust you’re going to be alright! Philippians 4:13!
Thanks, Roman for such an amazing interview!!
Jody Key — speakeysie.com — 470-330-1499 — “Your KEY to Entertainment!”
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Roman, you are such an inspiration to many and Inknow that God will use you in an amazing way, especially in your recent journey of being a member of the Broadway cast of “Dear Evan Hansen”. This article was a fantastic way to get to know your heart. It was great advice for rising theatre “hopefuls”. Thanks for recognizing that keeping the faith will keep you in track. Blessings to you.