John Lesser ‘12 has made a name for himself as the villain or the comic relief in Washington College drama productions, but when he enrolled at the College, the one-time history major didn’t foresee a future on the stage.
In fact, he didn’t even audition for his first role, as the jealous brother Don John in a friend’s senior thesis production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
“They held auditions, but I didn’t go,” John remembers. “Later, we were talking about the low turnout, and they cast me as the villain on the spot. That was how my career of playing evildoers began,” he says.
An engaging performer and self-described “people person,” John acted in musicals and sang in the chorus at his high school but planned to study history in college.
That plan was, well, history after he became involved in his first show.
“I had a lot of fun with it, and I was bitten by the acting bug. I started going to more auditions and doing more shows,” he says.
Between on-campus productions and local community theater, John has been in more than 15 shows since he came to college, and he has no plans to slow down.
“I just don’t sleep!” he jokes. “I always have more than one script on me at any given time, and I’m constantly running lines in my head.”
With a busy schedule of acting classes and rehearsals, John quickly learned how to manage his time and though he jokes that classes get in the way of college, he admits he’s learned nearly as much in the classroom as on the stage.
“My Improv class helped a lot with my acting; it totally gave me a safety net,” he says, explaining, “If a line is fumbled, you have to be able to stay in character and not worry about it. If there’s a second of doubt, the audience will see it and you lose them.”
Losing the audience is something John never wants to do.
“There’s a distinct difference between good applause and ‘pity-plause’, between ‘You were just on stage, clap, clap’ and ‘You were just on stage and I was there with you,’” he explains.
“My favorite part is having the audience be there with me on stage. If you can make the audience stay in their seats long enough to forget their bladders and their head chatter, then they’re yours,” he says.
John’s goal is to make everyone in the audience enjoy the experience; his enthusiasm even convinced the men’s basketball players to come to his shows.
“We met in Acting I,” John says. “I go to all their games, and they come to all my shows.”
Ever the performer, John exclaims, “If I had a giant basketball costume, I would wear it to the games to show my support!”
Though his favorite place is in front of an audience, John will step behind the scenes to direct his senior thesis. He got a taste of directing in class, and while he’s excited to see it all come together on opening night sometime in 2011, he knows it won’t be easy.
“I’m going through withdrawal not being on stage!” he says. “It’s very different, knowing what you want and what you would do, and being able to take and to give criticism.”
But don’t expect John to become a fixture in the director’s chair.
“I am going to become an actor,” he declares, quickly adding, “fingers crossed!”
He’s already taken on a few paid acting jobs and hopes to find more after graduation through WC’s vast network of alumni involved in theater, but he says the money is a secondary concern.
“I just want to act. From hectic auditions to forcing yourself to learn lines, to the jumpy anxiousness before you go on stage, to being on stage with people who’ve become your friends—I love it all.”
- Major: Drama
- Safe Ride
- Improv Club
- Chess Club
- Peer Mentor
- Student Events Board Main Stage Director
Q & A
High School? Broadneck Senior High School
First year experience/advice? One mistake I made my freshman year was not attending some of the events during freshman orientation week. I missed out on some bonding experiences.
Favorite place around Washington College? My favorite location on campus is the theatres. Particularly Tawes, the black box theatre. The number of shows I have done in there has made it the most comfortable places on campus for me.
Favorite Dance Move? My favorite dance move has got to be my version of the Dougie. If you run into me, stick around and you’ll more than likely see it.
Favorite Class at WC? SpTp Improv-Which is a special topics class that I had once a week for three and half hours at a time, where students became better acquainted with being on stage and creating a funny and free flowing scene. I felt this class helped me greatly with my acting ability and being able to recover from a mess-up on stage.
Recommended Professor? I have no “Recommended Professor” for the incoming first-year students. I honestly feel that every teacher here is overly qualified to be working at this college, and no student will be disappointed.
Most Memorable Experience as a First-Year Student? I can’t think of a “most memorable experience as a first-year student” but ask me for a story sometime and you will be thoroughly amused.
If I Could Be Any Animal? it would have to be an albatross. Large awkward bird? Get to fly over the ocean all day? Yeah sure! Why not! Have you seen The Little Mermaid?
One Thing You Shouldn’t Forget to Pack? your personality and sense of humor. Please don’t forget them!