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My W&L: Nick Lehotsky ’15

“I had been drawn to W&L by the wide array of courses I would be compelled to take, but was hardly aware of how they could help my desired profession.”

As a first-year, I auditioned for the Bentley musical Cabaret, on a whim. Not because I like musicals (I really don’t, though I have grown to appreciate them) but because I’m always on the lookout for new acting experiences, which challenge me to apply acting and other skills to a final production. The audition consisted of a one to two minute monologue, and cold singing from the musical score. I felt confident in my mediocre monologue skills, but knew for certain I couldn’t sing. Hopefully, the director would understand.

He did more than understand; he opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. I came to W&L completely unaware of what I wanted to do with my life, and the director not only helped me discover that I want to act, but that I want to focus intensely upon acting. At the time, I thought such a concentration required a transfer, namely to an acting program elsewhere. He helped me find and polish monologues, as well as apply to several great acting programs. Everyone in the Theater Department supported my choice to transfer, and several professors wrote very touching letters of recommendation. I auditioned at the universities, briefly interacted with a multitude of talented people, and found that studying for four years at a highly competitive program meant sacrificing some things.

Namely, performing on a stage in front of a public audience. Until, in some instances, late in my sophomore year. And then, I would be contending with the numerous other talented individuals for a single role. By this point of my freshman year at W&L, I had performed in Cabaret (playing a character who also was born in Harrisburg, PA. Coincidence, you might say. Typecasting, my father sardonically remarked), and several other shows, not to mention some readings, all of which had public audiences. I talked with Grant Aleksander ‘12 after a session of Professor Martinez’s Acting for the Camera class (which he guest taught) about my difficult decision, and he reminded of just how unique my situation was. As Grant had once been in the same boat, he understood the necessity of polishing one’s skill set for the highly competitive job market, but from my freshman year alone, I’d had more roles than I’d probably get in all of my time at an acting program elsewhere. Like I said before, I relish new acting experiences. Right there, the choice became obvious, and my heart (well, all of me, really, but a little metonymy never hurt anybody) remained here.

Thanks to the numerous opportunities on campus, I developed my acting skills through frequent involvement in a large number of productions. And the liberal arts curriculum worked out pretty well, too. I had been drawn to W&L by the wide array of courses I would be compelled to take, but was hardly aware of how they could help my desired profession.

Tom Oppenheim, the artistic director of The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, once remarked that “Growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous.” The summer before my junior year, thanks to W&L, I studied at Stella Adler, in one of their Summer Conservatory programs. Here I took classes in movement, scene study, Shakespeare, script interpretation, Adler technique, voice and speech, and improvisation. After this experience, it really hit me. So much of what actors do requires a thorough processing of dense amounts of knowledge in little time, often with unfamiliar material. Here at W&L, I was not only learning about topics outside my desired career, I was becoming aware of how my mind best grasps knowledge, and even how I can communicate that knowledge most effectively. W&L compelled me to follow the words of Robert Downey Jr., who once advised actors to be “[a]lways searching, sometimes hunting, but never resting.”

Hometown: Camp Hill, PA

Majors: Theater and English

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Mindbending Student Productions
  • 540 productions
  • Wednesday Night Live
  • Leyburn Library Work Study
  • the occasional MUSE piece
  • WLUR

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Stella Adler Summer Conservatory Class of 2013
  • Studying Abroad in Spring 2015 (London)

Post-Graduation Plans: Mill Mountain Theater Company. For the summer, anyway.

Favorite W&L Memory: Too many. Staying up to watch the sunrise. Reading one of my stranger pieces at last year’s MUSE launch party (and getting photographed by THE Tom Wolff ’14). Eating a Kenny burger. The Shannon-Clark English Major retreats. WNL sketches that were hard to perform with a straight face (Sexist SJC, The Tunnel of Friendship, Voices of the Puzzle). Max Chapnick’s hearty laugh. Meeting Theater and Dance Department Head Owen Collins in his painting jumpsuit. Hearing Chauncey Baker’s sexy car poem. Acting with Grant Aleksander ’12. Walking out of Payne Hall after submitting my final project for Professor Gavaler’s Superheroes course. Stage managing Rob Mish’s production of Vivien Leigh: The Last Press Conference and watching Betty Taylor perform. Throwing myself into two fantastic mainstage shows this year (Night of the Iguana and SPAMALOT).

Favorite Class: I took Doctor Desjardin’s and Professor Abry’s Disorder and Chaos because of Jurassic Park (thank you, Dr. Malcolm). I’ve forgotten nearly everything I learned in the class, but my entire perception of order shifted because of their witty and patient approach. Tied for third are Professor Gavaler’s Superheroes and the three poetry classes I’ve taken with Professor Wheeler (230, Mid-20th Century American Poetry, and African-American Poetry). These two professors connected with me on a personal level that I treasured in my high school English teachers, and their multifaceted approaches to education prevented me from becoming too cynical. By this logic, it seems the Professor makes the class. Take note of this, people.

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Favorite W&L Activity: Cloud-gazing by the Colonnade has become a nice pastime of mine lately. I enjoy seeking out the Free Advice, when there are people at the Free Advice table. Acting is a thing I do a lot. (Never let it be said I’m not eloquent about my favorites.)

Favorite Campus Landmark: The bridge leading from the main parking deck to Commons. When the trees are full of leaves, when the fog has descended on Lexington, or when it’s late at night; turn towards the east and watch as civilization vanishes from your eyes. For five feet, anyhow.

What’s your passion? Making people laugh? I’ll settle for a smile.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? I’ve been re-reading the Dhammapada, which is a small book of sayings from the Buddha. There’s no way to make it not sound pretentious.

Why did you choose W&L? Gorgeous campus, the Honor System, the liberal arts: these are the big three. Growing up in a small town with trees in spacious front yards meant a lot to me, and taking a wide array of classes with self-scheduled exams was an added bonus. Remember, true believers, with great power comes great responsibility!

Why did you choose your major? Growing up, my two passions were reading and acting, and it’s what I’ve spent a large portion of my time here doing. I’ve grown the most as a human being through textual analysis and performing.

What professor has inspired you? It’s a cop-out answer, but they all do, in their own ways. If we were going by origins of inspirations, however, Professor Gavaler takes the cake. I became an English major after taking three of his classes. I’ve worked with both Professors Martinez and Mish on more than a half-dozen shows, readings and classes, so it’s safe to say they’re the Theater uncles I never had. Frankly, everyone in the Theater department serves as a testament to how much fun theater can be and I do consider them nearly family. I’ve had brief conversations with Professor Delaney, whose kindness and style exemplify how warm and well-dressed Professors here can be.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? I’m going to quote Chauncey Baker on this: “Take the free things.” Spending four years of your life in a town swaddled by nature and local businesses is a gift. During the summer it’s a balmy and bug-populated gift, but there’s so much to do, so little time. I was something of a Mr. Bemis my freshman year (what, no love for The Twilight Zone?), but eked out into the world through little experiences. Check out the Bookery (and say hi to Mary Sue Ellen for me), walk/jog the Woods Creek trail, smell at least two of the numerous scents in Sunday’s Child, sit underneath a tree on the main lawn (sans texts, sans music, sans eyes, sans everything) and breathe.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus? 1) That someone would never grab me by the lapels (or sew lapels onto my t-shirt just for the grabbing) and shout, “STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY.” Not that I would’ve listened to them, but I certainly would’ve come around to that conclusion more quickly. 2) Quotes go outside the period. Right, English Majors? 3) Seriously, though. There will be days (weeks, even) when the impossible will become a reality. For better or for worse. You’ll have some essays, short reflective writings, and a class project to complete by tomorrow when all of a sudden you’ll remember that you’re supposed to meet with your advisor to talk about scheduling things. Just then, your phone buzzes. It’s your father — are you free to talk? And in the midst of all this, a small beautiful something will occur. A fat squirrel will scurry past. Some sweet seasonal scent may waft by. That charming person will walk by and smile at you. Enjoy the little things.

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