“I started out in the middle school band,” he says, “but I dabbled in theatre.”
His first stage role was Demetrius in the Lakeview Middle School production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “It had been rewritten by the theatre teacher to be all about the 1960s and 70s,” he says, “so it was called A Midspring’s Hallucination. We had all the [period] clothes, sight gags everywhere. It was a very interesting show. My best female friend actually wore a pair of skinny jeans that my dad had worn in his first band back in the 70s.”
Parker was hooked. “I was thrilled by the experience,” he says. “The entire thing was wonderfully exciting for me.
“I do feel some sorrow for the audience members that had to sit through that [show],” he adds, “but it was pretty amazing.”
As he entered high school, marching band proved to be cost prohibitive, so he focused his artistic talents on theatre. “I just wanted to keep some sort of performance in my life,” he says, “but I ended up falling completely in love with it.”
Last year he had another opportunity to do Shakespeare during his senior year, playing Leanato in Much Ado About Nothing. The experience was so powerful that he is already anticipating his next opportunity to do Shakespeare in a more professional setting.
So far, Parker, who is majoring in theatre at IPFW, has appeared in just under a dozen shows, including the recent awe-inspiring production of Our Town directed by Dan Butler at IPFW. But his latest role is his biggest and most challenging – the title role in the Department of Theatre’s upcoming production of Gint. Based on Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, the show is a modern retelling of the classic.
“Pete Gint is a very interesting individual,” Parker says of his character. “First, he is not well liked by anybody except his mother and eventually his lover, Sally Vicks. Pete has a hard time committing to anything and would much rather run from responsibility than face it head on. He is a very clever person, though, and extremely resourceful. Those talents are what help him get his way out of situations.”
He calls Pete “a very gray character,” and hope that audiences keep an open mind about him, waiting until the end of the show before judging him. “It would be fascinating to hear [the audience’s opinions],” he says.
The thrust stage at the Williams Theatre, where Gint will be performed, adds to the realism of the show, he says. “The stage allows for a wider, more natural range of movement. And when you see the amazing set we have, you will understand why that range of movement is essential.”
That Parker won the lead role in Gint is remarkable given that he is only a freshman. He credits director Jeff Casazza for giving him and the other freshmen in the cast, Darby Bixler and Brock Ireland, a crash course in many lessons they will be learning throughout the next few years in class.
“We’ve gotten a lot of introductions to concepts we will be learning about in his movement and voice classes in the future,” he says. “It’s very exciting.”
The decision to attend IPFW was a difficult one for Parker. “I called my friend at Ball State at the end of my senior year, freaking out about [choosing the right] college,” he says. “He told me to breathe and explore my options and that I will know when I’ve found the right place. He was 100 percent correct.”
Parker himself would advise young actors to keep an open mind. “You have to make sure you are doing [theater] for the art,” he says, “and are willing to go through a lot of work to learn the craft. You need to be excited and ready to learn and then leap right in – or do both at the same time.”
Although IPFW might not have been his first choice, he was pleased to discover that the university is not only one of the most cost-effective but has a first-rate program as well.
“I was blown away by how professional and personal the program was,” he says. “It had the sort of personal feel that other programs [lacked]. On my tour, Craig Humphrey gave me tickets to see [The] Women of Lockerbie, and that was totally different than any theateer I had seen previously. After that, I was very adamant about [enrolling] here.”
Parker is also grateful to the rest of the IPFW faculty. “They have all helped me in different ways,” he says. “The great thing about the department is that you get a wide range of classes that immerse you in every aspect of theatre to gain a better understanding of them all.”
He says he isn’t even experiencing the sense of ruthless competition he had expected. “Not only am I learning from the faculty,” he says, “but the upperclassmen are immensely helpful and supportive.”
He is grounded enough to welcome the challenge of auditions without turning it into a stressful situation. “I try to only focus on getting [the part] instead of worrying about what others are doing,” he explains. “They are all here doing the same thing as me, with all the same anxieties as me, so it’s really useless if I start treating everybody as a threat. You’ve just got to go in and prove that you are the solution to the director’s problem.”
Parker hasn’t decided yet what his career path is, but he is open to anything, as long as theater is involved.
“My job doesn’t necessarily have to entail acting or directing,” he says, “but I want to be involved with the art somehow. I think my safest bet is to continue looking for opportunities and taking them when they arise.”
He says he is grateful for the opportunities he has experienced at IPFW.
“Everybody here has been so welcoming and there is so much skill and talent everywhere you look.
“I am really just in the perfect spot right now.”
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