Actors Guild's latest production, 'A Life in the Theatre,' brings together former teacher and student

Contributing Culture WriterJune 19, 2014 

Paul Thomas, left, and Cody Taylor were teacher and student at SCAPA. Thomas also directed Taylor in high school productions.

HILARY BROWN

  • IF YOU GO

    'A Life in the Theatre'

    What: Actors Guild of Lexington's production of David Mamet's 1977 play.

    When: 8 p.m. June 19-21, 26-28; and 2 p.m. June 22

    Where: AGL, 4383 Old Harrodsburg Rd.

    Tickets: $20 adults, $15 seniors and students, $10 military. Available at 1-866-811-4111 or Actors-guild.org.

Performing a two-person play is a tricky task. Each actor has an enormous amount of responsibility for the play's overall success, and much of that success rides on each person's ability to inhabit his or her respective roles.

There's also the matter of chemistry.

In David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre, which Actors Guild of Lexington opens this weekend, that chemistry is crucial.

Sometimes, that bond can only be honed through weeks or months of intensive rehearsal.

Or, if you're actors Paul Thomas and Cody Taylor, it can be found as soon as you walk on set.

"That's a great advantage that we had," Taylor said. "That two months of work trying to create this chemistry, we already had it done by then. The rest of it was just costume changes."

There's a good reason Thomas and Taylor had this bond immediately, but in working together as actors and being a part of this production, they are taking on new roles while also stepping into familiar territory.

Many Lexington theatergoers know Thomas. He's been an actor in the city for 40 years and has taken on various roles away from the stage — including serving the past 11 years as drama teacher at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

Taylor says he first became interested in acting when he was 4 years old and participated in numerous shows at the Lexington Children's Theatre. He transferred from Beaumont Middle School to SCAPA in the seventh grade. He initially majored in cello and minored in drama, that would soon change after he stepped into Thomas' classroom.

"I had never really looked at the more literary side of it. I had never had that great knowledge of plays," Taylor, 19, recalls. "He tells us many times he doesn't write (the plays) himself, but you couldn't tell it. He pays attention to every single detail you never would have gotten. Something about that passion and that attention to detail just drew my curiosity closer."

Thomas went from being Taylor's teacher to his director. He directed him in multiple productions throughout high school. Currently, Taylor is majoring in theater at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C.

The student and the teacher came together as fellow actors thanks to Actors Guild of Lexington's artistic director, Eric Seale, who ran into Thomas and thought he would be perfect for their upcoming production of A Life in the Theatre. He wanted Thomas to play Robert, a veteran actor in the twilight of his career, opposite Taylor as John, a young, up-and-coming talent getting his first taste of success.

Thomas says he was excited for the opportunity to work with his former pupil but also tackle a role that mirrored his own experience. Taylor says he was looking forward to reuniting with Thomas as a peer and actor on equal footing instead of the usual mentor/student relationship.

However, it initially put him in an unusual position when speaking to "Mr. Thomas" ... or was it "Paul" now?

"I thought at the beginning of rehearsals, 'What the hell do I call him?'" Taylor said, laughing. "For the first few rehearsals, I pretty much called him nothing. I just started conversations with him."

He eventually settled on "Paul."

Thomas said, "When you move from teacher and mentor to actor, we're very much equal. He's got to depend on me. I've got to depend on him. We reach a level of friendship that transcends the teacher/student one, and that's very gratifying."

Taylor adds, "It's just a little bit of an ideal moment for me. It's something I'm going to remember for a long time."

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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