Oscar winner shares journey with drama students

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ROME TOWNSHIP — It was in high school that Oscar winner Tom Hanks found out what he wanted to be. And he’s not looked back since.

Hanks shared what it was like to become an actor and what he has learned along the way with drama club students at Fairland High School as part of a statewide videoconference Monday morning.

Hank was in Cleveland as part of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival and was interviewed by NPR Saturday host Scott Simon before taking questions from students in the audience.

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“I loved high school,” Hanks said about the mega school he attended in California. “All I remember I did was laughing. I was aimless.”

That was until a friend of his was in a class play and Hanks came along for the theatrical ride by taking a small part in the Tennessee Williams’ classic, “Night of the Iguana.”

That became “the most exciting thing about going to high school,” he said.

One of the first and most enduring lessons he mastered when he lost his first audition.

“But you pick yourself up and try again,” Hanks said. “You won’t get every job.”

Coming to the Great Lakes festival now was a homecoming of sorts for Hanks who got his first professional job there.

“The first season we were there to move scenery,” he joked.

But it was the repetition of working in live theater that taught Hanks the discipline of acting.

“You learn to be a professional,” he said. “You motivate yourself. … You just can’t be saying lines. You’re having the worst day in the world. You’re fighting the flu and show up and work and act as if you have not a care in the world. This is what a professional artist does.”

Fairland High drama student Aija Anderson wants to go to performing arts school after graduation. She found life lessons from the interview.

“You just pursue your dream and do what you want,” she said.

Classmate Shelby Fuller appreciated the chance to see beyond the public Hanks one sees on screen.

“It is cool to see what actors are like,” she said. “You see what is the true personality.”