Hollywood actor participates in symposium for CSU Theatre students
PHOTO CREDIT: Actor Stephen Tobolowsky stands with CSU Theatre student Josh Harp at the book signing after the symposium.
Hollywood actors Stephen Tobolowsky and Ann Heard, who are married, held a symposium and book signing before the State Theatre Gala on Jan. 13 in the McClure Theatre at the Springer Opera House.
The event was a partnership with the Georgia Repertory Theatre, where they talked about their lives and lessons in the acting industry. Columbus State University theater majors were strongly encouraged by their professors to attend the symposium as an unofficial convocation event, as well as to meet inspirational figures in their area of study.
“As a young actress, hearing Stephen and Ann talk about their experiences in the acting industry was so rewarding,” CSU Sophomore and theatre major Macy Frazier said. “They were also so supportive of all of us and encouraged us to pursue our careers with passion.”
Tobolowsky teaches comedy and improvisation techniques in Los Angeles and has appeared in hundreds of television shows and films, including roles in “Groundhog Day,” “Spaceballs,” “Mississippi Burning,” and “Californication,” as well as appearances in shows such as “Murder She Wrote” and “Glee.” His popular radio podcasts of autobiographical stories were turned into a book titled “The Dangerous Animals Club,” and his signature talent in storytelling also inspired his newest book “My Adventures with God,” which was available for signing at the event.
Paul Pierce, Director at the Springer, introduced Tobolowsky. “This is our chance to show our students how first steps in their careers might look,” he said. Tobolowsky proceeded to address more than just the theatre students with impactful bits of knowledge and wisdom.
“The biggest thing you need to know is that 95 percent don’t do it. I don’t mean not succeed, but they just don’t do it,” he advised. “If you do something… those are successes, because you’re already ahead of the game and ahead of the person who didn’t do something.” Tobolowsky also gave advice specific to the actors in the room about auditions. “You may not get this one, but they’ll remember you for the next one,” he said. “You are here for the marathon, not the sprint, if you’re an actor.”
Tobolowsky finished his inspirational speech and let his wife Ann take a turn. Heard is from Griffin, Georgia and earned her undergraduate degree in Early Literature. She eventually returned to school to take acting classes even though she had no background in acting. And though it seemed like an impossible dream at the time, Heard is now a successful actor and director. She moved to Los Angeles and met Tobolowsky, and they have been married for thirty years.
The actors and audience took a more sombre tone when an attendee asked about Tobolowsky’s time working on “Glee.” He explained his feelings after his co-actor Cory Monteith passed away due to drug and alcohol abuse in 2013.
“I have terrible mixed feelings about Glee because of Cory. I loved Cory so much; he was such a great person. I think of Cory, such a bright light, a beautiful person, gone,” he said. “You get this one life, don’t throw it away, it’s not a joke. There is something in us that will eventually lead to self-destruction. Don’t do that. There is nothing more precious than your life.”
The couple shared stories such as the time Tobolowsky had to turn down a main character role of Al from the television show “Home Improvement” because he had a baby on the way, or the time he got a role because he had recently fallen off a horse while riding on the side of an active volcano and broke his neck.
Tobolowsky attributed his urge to start writing to the accident. His doctor told him that it was a fatal injury, so Tobolowsky began writing stories about his life that he wanted his children to know. He explained that it was not for the money, but it all actually happened quite accidentally.
He was contacted to do a podcast telling his stories, which then spread across the National Public Radio. Tobolowsky was contacted about publishing those stories in a book, and he now has a second one published as well.
The director had to step in to end the session due to excessive questions from an inquisitive audience. “I felt as if the lecture was informative but also very casually engaging,” CSU freshman and theatre major Garrett Williams said. “It allowed the audience to understand that just like ourselves, everyone experiences tragedies and triumphs.”
Students also seemed to take a liking to Tobolowsky on a personal level, and not simply as a role model. “I felt as if Stephen was a very honest and caring person. He has worked extremely hard in life and rightfully deserves what he has,” Williams said. “He also has some great personal examples to help encourage anyone interested in pursuing the same field of work as he does.”
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