Bright lights, big city
A local thespian is following his dreams to an exclusive New York acting school
It’s OK to be jealous. How could you not? At 22, local actor Brett Andres is living the dream that every creative person secretly wants to live: moving to New York to pursue a career in the arts.
Upon seeing an ad in the back of a theater trade magazine, Andres applied to The New Actor’s Workshop and was invited to audition in San Francisco. The conservatory offers a two-year intensive program, and only 36 students are admitted each year. Though Andres is modest when discussing his acceptance, a little research reveals that his achievement is nothing to sneeze at.
The New Actor’s Workshop was founded by Paul Sills, Mike Nichols and George Morrison. Sills is the son of Viola Spolin, often described as “the mother of improvisational theater,” whose legacy is the invention of the “theater games” style of acting instruction. Nichols won an Academy Award for directing The Graduate and has also directed such films as Postcards From the Edge and The Birdcage. Morrison has taught acting to Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and Ving Rhames, among many others.
Andres says the style of instruction, as he understands it, is an improv approach to method acting: “Using your own life to make your characters more honest.” And though he’s obviously excited about the chance to learn his craft from such esteemed professionals, Andres’ face really lights up when talking about The Big Apple.
“Being in New York is going to be fabulous,” he says. “I’ve never lived outside of Nevada. I’ve never even been to New York.”
Andres spent most of his young life in Gardnerville. He moved to Reno four years ago when several of his friends enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno, but he never joined them in pursuit of higher education. In fact, Andres has never had any formal theater training. His life’s work just sort of dropped into his lap.
“I was in high school, and I was taking drama for an elective,” he says. “My teacher basically begged me to do a play. Once I was on stage and everyone was clapping, that was it.”
Now, Andres says, theater is something he can’t live without. He started working with Renaissance Projects in Carson City about three and a half years ago, and when Renaissance merged with Brüka Theatre, he merged with it. Reno audiences have seen him most recently as Lodovico and Officer No. 3 in Brüka’s Othello, but he’s also played larger roles as the detective Little Murders, the younger brother in The Homecoming and the choice part of the butler in Clue.
“I love comedy. That was one of my favorites,” he says.
He also looks back fondly on his role in The Homecoming, but for a different reason: He loved the way the dark, dysfunctional play affected the audience.
“Nine out of 10 people hated the show,” he says. “They were very perturbed by the show. I think that’s great—to make you think.”
Not that Andres enjoys perturbing the audience per se. He simply feels that it is theater’s job to stimulate people, to make them think and feel, and to offend them if necessary, and he’s disturbed by the decreasing support for live theater across the nation.
“Art is dying, especially in the field of theater, and it’s because people aren’t supporting it,” he says. “Nobody’s going to see shows. … In all of America, theater is dying.”
And before he leaves for the bright lights of the big city, Andres has one last thing to say to the people of the Truckee Meadows:
“Go see theater, for the love of god!"