Every summer growing up, my family would vacation in the Great Smokey Mountains. My mom, dad, grandma, brother, sister and I squeezed into our Ford F-150 extended cab pickup truck as we made our way from our home in rural Michigan to Pigeon Forge, TN. The clock started ticking the minute we pulled out of the driveway, as Grandma's daily ration of Vicodin never seemed enough to keep her in good spirits for the long road ahead. With no time to stop along the way, the bright red Coleman coolers (the same coolers that were recruited for the annual fall camping trip) were packed with tinfoil wrapped turkey, mustard and government cheese sandwiches along with gallon zip lock bags of my dad's homemade Chex Mix. Nine hours later, stomachs full, legs cramped and Grandma barely sedated, we arrived at our budget hotel (whose continental breakfast took a pretty good ass whooping during our stay).
The muggy summer days were filled with games of putt putt at Hillbilly Golf, french fries in the shape of miniature airplanes at Waldo Peppers, and rare shrunken human heads at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. But no adventures were more fun than the two days we devoted to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. It was a time portal into a world where metal was forged by blacksmiths over hot red embers and sweet corn bread was cooked in cast iron dutch ovens. The smell of aged wooden cabins and powder sugar’d elephant ears floated in the air, while country music twanged in the background, inviting you to relax and enjoy a throwback to simpler times.
Tucked away in the back of the park was a replica of the two-room cabin that Dolly had grown up in with her 12 siblings. I flinched as I pictured the 13 of them piling in to our pickup truck for their own family vacation. The cabin was filled with odds and ends that had lived in her original home and it was there, on the back wall just behind wood burning stove, that I discovered a small, inconspicuous golden plaque that read:
“Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” - Dolly Parton
Any one person’s story can change the way we think – and in changing the way enough people think, it can change our world.
I come from a family of storytellers, a gift my dad has perfected over the years and has unwittingly handed down to me. My style of storytelling comes directly from those who've influenced me, from Eddie Murphy’s stand up comedy and Eric Bogosian’s vibrant rants to John Leguizamo’s “Freak” and Spalding Gray’s personal monologues. The only guideline is one performer alone on stage, everything else is fair game. It’s dangerous territory, and I love it.
There’s an energy that’s unparalleled when alone on stage, armed only with the anecdotes of your own experiences, feeling the electricity of the audience as you dip, twist and bound through the stories of your life.
I'm a graduate of Baldwin Wallace Conservatory's Musical Theater program, under the direction of Victoria Bussert. In 2014, I made my Off-Broadway debut performing my first solo show, GREEN EYES, JUST LIKE YOU AND ME to sold out audiences at the prestigious Studio Theatre on Theatre Row in New York City. The play has since been published on Indie Theatre Now, and has been performed to sold out houses in various cities across the US, including The Marsh, San Francisco. Other favorite regional theatre credits include Alan in EQUUS (Allman Theater), Paul in A CHORUS LINE (Porthouse), and Edgar (the bat boy) in BAT BOY, THE MUSICAL (Cain Park). I currently live in New York City where I spend my time writing and working as a theatre, film and commercial actor.