AT THE HAYLOFT
When I was seventeen, I got very lucky and was hired to work at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Lubbock Texas. I know that doesn’t sound lucky but it really was in many ways. I was hired as a “Haymaker.” Now, a Haymaker had several jobs. We did a pre-show before the main show which involved singing, dancing, sketch comedy -- none of which I was very good at. But our main job was to wait on tables and sell drinks before the main show and at the intermissions. Obviously, at seventeen, I was too young to serve booze but I think I must have lied about my age.
Anyway, the show that was in rehearsal at the time, and which ran for most of my stint, was the musical, “I DO! I DO!” It starred Brad Leland (Brad Williams at the time -- his real name. I believe someone was already using Brad Williams in SAG)and Leslie Thurman, a former Miss Texas and a really good singer. Brad was from Dallas and had come to Lubbock to go to Texas Tech.
When the Haymakers finished our show we could leave if we weren’t waiting on tables but I found myself staying and watching the show almost every night for months. Brad was a really gifted actor and I just enjoyed watching him work. I hadn’t been acting for very long myself at the time but had already decided it was going to be my career -- based on very little evidence that I could pull it off. Watching him work was like going to school.
What I realize now is that I really learned what it means to be a professional actor by watching Brad night after night. He never phoned it in. He was always creating, always trying new things, never satisfied, giving a full blown performance whether it was a full house or ten drunks who didn’t give a shit. Never letting what was going on in his personal life effect what he did on stage. He was a pro. Not even a very good singer, which you would think would matter in a two person musical. It didn’t. Brad stayed in Texas and has had a wonderful career. Friday Night Lights being the big pay off, I guess. I always enjoy his work; truthful, inventive, just a talented actor.
I’ve never had the chance to work with Brad. We were never close friends but I do make it a point to pester him once in a while... When I came to L.A. at twenty years old, I was far better prepared to tackle the business than I realized; a big part of that being owed to my time at the Hayloft and because of Brad’s example particularly.
The longer I’m in this business the more I start to look back at key times and people who helped me or encouraged me and feel a sense of gratefulness. And in Brad’s case, doing nothing for me specifically except being a great example of what it means to be a professional actor. And that example has had a profound influence on me as an actor even all these years later. I hope I have been and can be that same kind of example to actors starting out in this whack-a-do biz.
Thank you, Brad Leland.