Stagestruck: Local boy makes good
It is impossible to resist the cliché of local boy makes good, because James David Larson, a 2007 Clackamas High School graduate, has certainly done well for himself.
The 22-year-old just completed a two-year theater arts conservatory program with the prestigious Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City and has booked his first national tour, playing two roles in 'Spamalot.'
But more than anything else, Larson wants people to know that he appreciates the opportunities he was given in high school and said he can't speak highly enough about drama teacher Susan Scovil, who has just retired.
'I love to praise her; she inspired me to be better,' Larson said, adding that during his four years at CHS he was in 'Richard III,' 'My Fair Lady' and 'H.M.S. Pinafore,' among other productions. He was also in band, choir and orchestra.
After graduating from high school, Larson went to Southern Oregon University for two years, where he took advantage of the university's connections to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. But when he told his performance studies teacher, Doyne Mraz, that he wanted more, Mraz recommended that he attend Meisner's.
'It was time to take a leap of faith; I'd never been to New York before I moved there for school,' Larson said.
Once in New York, he studied with Richard Pinter, learning the Meisner technique as developed by Stanford Meisner, 'one of the greatest acting teachers of the 20th century,' he said.
'He created his own acting technique of living truthfully under given imaginary circumstances,' Larson added.
As his two years drew to a close, Larson began auditioning and booked a summer stock season at Millbrook Playhouse, where he did four shows, including playing Buddy Holly in 'Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.' The playhouse, located in Mill Hall, Pa., has been a showcase for professional summer stock actors since 1963.
It was a grueling rehearsal experience with 10 rehearsal days and then 10 show days, Larson said, but the 'Buddy Holly' performances were the most rewarding of his career so far.
'I knew we had a good show when we got a standing ovation for our senior preview night. The seniors usually don't give standing ovations, but they were on their feet,' he said.
'It was really the most challenging show I've ever done, because I had to carry the show; the last 30 minutes were like a rock concert of all of Buddy Holly's hits,' Larson noted, adding that he really did play the guitar onstage.
Larson was also cast in the playhouse productions of 'The Odd Couple,' 'Annie' and 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.'
Once his stint at the Millbrook Playhouse was over, Larson came home to Clackamas to see family and get ready to return to New York, where he is beginning rehearsals for the national tour of 'Spamalot' right now. He will play Not Dead Fred and Prince Herbert and will perform one solo entitled, 'Where Are You?'
The musical opens in Baltimore in early October and will tour for one year. Unfortunately, Larson said, no Portland performances are scheduled.
'Spamalot' is essentially 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' adapted for the stage, he said, adding that what he really loves about the show is that it 'lampoons musical theater, yet honors it' at the same time.
His goal in life is to be continuously employed as an actor, Larson said, noting that there are some people interested in representing him. Once 'Spamalot' is over, he will return to New York, where he will keep auditioning in order to get his name known.
As far as advice to aspiring young actors, he said he only knows that what he has done has worked for him.
He added, 'Never for a second did I believe I couldn't do it. If you have it in you, then you find a way to do it. I'm always in that zone; I can't do anything besides pursue this.'