From the moment he first walked onto a stage when he was five years old, Jacob Bradbury said he was hooked.
“It was automatic,” he said, as he recalled singing a song with Gary Graham. “I can’t remember what the song was, but I just remember feeling that energy from the audience that every actor wants.”
That initial jolt of adrenalin propelled Bradbury into youth theatre with Theatre Newfoundland Labrador and, eventually, the bachelor of fine arts theatre program at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, which he graduated from in April.
The next step for him is more like a leap, directly to New York City, where he will attend the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, a three-year graduate program for the theatre arts.
If the Actors Studio name rings a bell, it might be because of the “Inside the Actors Studio” television program, where Actors Studio Drama School dean emeritus James Lipton interviews famous thespians in front of an audience of students.
The school has launched the careers of a few notable actors, including Paul Dano and Bradley Cooper.
The Actors Studio itself is an organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights in New York City. The current co-presidents are legendary actors Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Ellen Burstyn.
Bradbury had looked into the program before, but it wasn’t until his last semester at Grenfell that he made contact again, sending in the required letter of recommendation, statement of intent, professional acting resumé and head shot. He was invited to New York for an audition — he actually had three other auditions, all in New York in the same week, with the London-based Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts — but the Actors Studio stood above them all.
“That’s the one I really wanted,” he said. “The Actors Studio has been the school of my dreams for a few years now.”
Performed for a panel
With the help of his uncle, fellow Grenfell theatre graduate Mark Bradbury, and Grenfell professor Jerry Etienne, Bradbury selected and perfected a two-person, roughly five-minute scene, which he and Etienne performed for a panel of personnel at the school.
“They were in complete darkness and you couldn’t see them, all the light is on you,” said the 24-year-old Corner Brook native, the son of Bob and Gertrude. “You basically take a breath and go into the scene.”
After the first audition, he was approached outside the room by a member of the panel, who told Bradbury she liked what he did, but wanted him to go further with it, so he was asked to perform the scene a second time. Again he left the room, but was then brought back in for a chat session, where the panel asked about details of his life and acting background.
“I went outside again and another woman, who I had not even seen inside, took me aside and said, ‘OK, we usually don’t do this, but we want to give you a shot. Usually we don’t tell people when they’re here that they have a shot,’” he said. “I was completely taken aback.”
He’s hoping the program enables him to act professionally, whether it be in film or stage.
“I love acting and I will continue to act throughout my life,” he said. “There’s nothing else that I’ve fallen in love with like acting.”
He said he’s also the first Newfoundlander to get into the program.
“I am extremely proud of that,” he said. “No one from Newfoundland has gone to the Actors Studio.”
Bradbury departs for New York to begin his studies in August.
In the meantime, he’ll be starring in the Off-Broadway Players production of Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on April 16-17, as well as at the provincial drama festival at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre on April 21.
According to a press release, the play, inspired by the Bosnian war, challenges audiences to see past aggression and violence to the beauty of love, compassion and forgiveness. It is directed by Jordan Stringer.
Bradbury plays the part of the soldier, who enters the hotel room of characters Ian (Jim Parsons) and Cate (Addy Schoichet), after which a series of brutal events unfold. The production contains strong language, violence and mature themes and admission is restricted to those 18 or older.
“I don’t want to get into details about what (the solider) does, because I don’t want to ruin it,” said Bradbury. “But the show is very, very dark.”