Thursday, December 19, 2013

Theatre Conservatory Grad Looks Back on His Years at SCR

Kirby Wilson, Jaden Fogel, Nick Slimmer (as Thomas Shelley) and Hal Landon Jr. in A Christmas Carol.
Nick Slimmer was a little kid, but he was fast, a real athlete—until he broke his leg skiing off a cliff.  At 10 years old, the speed was gone.  Looking around for something to keep him active, Nick’s mom saw an ad for a TV pilot sponsored by South East Civic Light Opera.  He got the pilot, followed by the lead role in Oliver!  From that moment, Nick dreamed of being a professional actor. 

He had experience, but no training.  So his mom looked around again—and found South Coast Repertory’s Summer Acting Workshop for newcomers.

In 2006, at the age of 12, Nick Slimmer walked through SCR’s doors for the first time, one of several hundred kids whose parents had signed them up for the summer program.

“I enjoyed it all—from the morning yoga stretches through movement, mime and storytelling,” Nick recalls. “At first, I didn’t understand the importance of warm-ups or how movement and mime would help us as actors. I just knew they were fun.”

That was the beginning of Nick’s theatre education. His enjoyment—and understanding—grew through the two-week program, aided by his first (and still one of his favorite) teachers, Christopher Sullivan.

Nick and Kelsey Bray in Seussical.
“Chris was really funny, and he seemed to love what he was doing. I wanted some of that to rub off on me!” Clearly, Nick was ready to join the year-round classes expanding his study to character development and ensemble work, with—once again— Chris as his teacher.

By his second year, Nick had been in several shows outside of SCR, and when he joined Mercy Vasquez’s class, he was pretty sure he knew what acting was all about.

“I was used to winging it onstage,” he says, “but Mercy assured me that would not happen in her class.  I have to admit, there were times when I ran to my mom saying I never wanted to go back—because Mercy was too hard on us. But I went back—and learned to discipline myself and focus on the work. I truly believe that without Mercy pushing me in class, I wouldn’t have become the actor—or the person—I am today.”

After two years of training that refined his skills and added improv and dramatic play development, Nick was accepted into SCR’s Summer Players, which led to his role as John Darling in Peter Pan.

“When I landed that role, I was overjoyed—until the first rehearsal,” he remembers. “Then I looked around and saw all the older kids who had much more training. But once we got down to work, they helped me learn what I could achieve if I stuck with it.”

So Nick stuck with it—and soon was cast as Peter Cratchit in A Christmas Carol.

“That’s where I really learned about professionalism, not only from the older actors, who were professionals, but from what they expected of us. They treated us not just as kids but as colleagues.”

Nick performed in six more Players shows, making his final appearance in 2012 as the Cat in the Hat in the Summer Players’ production of Seussical, praised by Daily Pilot critic Tom Titus as “marvelous.” About Nick, he wrote, “Acting as ringmaster over this three-ring satirical circus is the Cat in the Hat, the mischievous feline smoothly enacted by Nick Slimmer.”

Nick at the Fezziwig party in
A Christmas Carol.
Thanks to Nick’s training with expert, caring instructors through the years, a mischievous feline was just one of many characters he learned to make believable.  But it all started with Chris Sullivan, who helped him see the joy in performing, and Mercy Vasquez, who taught him discipline.

Last summer, Nick graduated from SCR’s prestigious Acting Intensive Program for serious students preparing to take the next crucial step in their careers. And take the next step he did:  Nick can currently be seen in his first professional role, as Thomas Shelley in A Christmas Carol.

According to Takakuwa, Nick’s training has come full circle. 

“From his days as a child actor in the show until today, Nick has matured greatly, adding to his skills the ability to listen and be ‘present’ onstage,” she says. “And as others were for him, Nick has been an anchor and a role model to the children in the show, personally investing in their work, helping them understand the process and engaging them on stage.  That has been lovely to see.”

Next up?  Nick is researching BFA programs across the county while he keeps busy auditioning for upcoming shows.  This summer, he plans to direct a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.” 

He’s on our radar, and we’ll keep you posted.

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