Friday, August 19, 2011

From Ballet to Brain Cancer to Classes at SCR

Rob Johnston
Rob Johnston started dancing during his sophomore year at UC Irvine. He liked that it kept him in shape and made him feel connected to his artistic side, so after graduation he continued classes at a studio in Anaheim. Then, in November 2008, he suffered a seizure during class. He was only 29 and in seemingly perfect health. But an MRI and subsequent tests revealed cancerous masses on the front and back parts of his brain.

“Being diagnosed with cancer so young, especially after having lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 17, really forced me to look at my life from a lot of angles,” he said. “And I found there were a few things I’d never done for whatever reason, whether it be fear or no time.”

Rob is a fan of "Glee," having been part of a show choir in high school, and a big fan of the actor Max Adler, who plays the homophobic (but closeted) football player Dave.

“His character had a pivotal scene early in the second season which was just amazing to watch him go through. I remember watching that scene and going, ‘You know what? I want to learn how to do that.’”

Rob, right, with fellow students.
“I almost talked myself out of it before it hit me that, at this point, what have I got to lose?”

A Google search turned up SCR’s classes, and Rob enrolled.

Like any first-time acting student, Rob remembers feeling “extremely nervous” on his first day. But that soon wore off.

“Diana [Burbano] is the perfect teacher for people who just come off the street wanting to give acting a try, which was 90 percent of my Acting I class. We were totally comfortable with her by the end of the night.”

Since then, he has taken Fundamentals of Acting II and III with Greg Ungar.

“Greg really stepped it up a notch and challenged me…He really laid it on the table and pushed us to bring our best to class.”

Rob, who works in the undergraduate admissions office at UCI, has found that taking acting classes helps him at work.

Rob with a fellow student.
“The classes allow me to come into work refreshed, since I’ve been able to focus on something new.”

These days, beyond some weakness and fatigue on his left side, Rob is feeling good. Doctors are monitoring the tumors, but so far haven’t recommended removal or radiation.

Now that he’s feeling confident he has the necessary tools to give his best performance, Rob’s planning his next challenge: “I am going to start auditioning for some local theater and student films here in Orange County, and then go up to L.A. to audition for TV and film.”

Note: You can help support Rob in his fight against cancer by liking the picture of his “everyday moment” on Mastercard’s “Every Moment is Priceless” Facebook page

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