Zach Adkins doesn’t have much down time while playing “Dmitry” in Anastasia: the New Broadway Musical, but he took the time to talk about his journey from Ashtabula to New York City, and share the things he’s learned along the way.
“I grew up as a chubby kid in one of the many cul-de-sacs of Ashtabula Township. Shy to the outside world but a performer to my family, having been born into a town where parents place success on how fast you can run or how far you can throw a ball, I learned early on the power of words. I never had a ‘thing’ growing up. My family enjoyed singing but I was never really interested in performing as a child. When I got to high school I started to blossom.
“As a bet with my sister, I auditioned for the school musical my freshman year. I was excited to perform but more focused on being dance partners with my then high school crush. That production ended and I was still single. But I found something more important. I’d finally found the thing that made me special. And I never looked back.
“After, I went on to work on over ten productions with Edgewood and the Ashtabula Arts Center. Then I headed to Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music where I worked on many projects, many of which were professional, before graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Music Degree.
“Since graduation, I signed with Abrams Artist Agency and moved to New York City. I spent a year on the road playing “Richard Bailey,” u/s Charlie Price in The First National Tour of Kinky Boots. After completing my time on tour, I came back to the city to start work on Anastasia. I was tasked with the job of ensemble/first cover for Dmitry.” He has since moved into the part of Dmitry full-time.
Zach credits Kimberly Godfrey, Director of Theater & Music at the Ashtabula Arts Center, and Bill & Mary Ann Kline, theater directors at Edgewood Senior High School, with much of his early success, calling both parties “mentors and dear friends.”
“The Klines took a chance on me my sophomore year of high school. Without them casting me as the lead, I would never have moved onto the Arts Center or continued with theater. I originally met Kim Godfrey on her first production at the AAC, High School Musical. Kim and I hit it off right away, and she sparked my interest in theater. She was the one to prepare me for college auditions and ultimately help me find my way to Baldwin Wallace.”
Having auditioned for and graduated from a theater school, Zach is able to offer his insight on the process to young performers looking to do the same. “My suggestion while picking a school is to research their Senior Showcase, their affiliation with regional theaters, and their agent signage rate. Moving to the city not being part of the actors’ union and not having an agent is an uphill battle that leaves most actors out of the professional world. Not saying it can’t be done – I know many highly successful actors who started out without representation or Equity backing. But you’re setting yourself up for a higher level of success with those two things.”
On the subject of success and failure in theater, Zach notes it’s important to remember that the former must always be earned, and the latter is a vital part of growing as an actor: “Success is fleeting. Broadway is a pass-through, not a landing point. It isn’t a club; working on one show doesn’t mean you’re entitled to another. It’s a business and people will not do you favors. Nothing comes easy – everything is about work ethic. And failure is an important aspect in every part of life, but there’s a difference between not being right for a role and being unprepared for an audition. Being wrong for a role – when you’re not tall enough or you have the wrong type of voice – is out of your control. Being unprepared is when you haven’t worked on the material or you stayed up too late the night before. Coming in prepared and educated helps you build a positive relationship with the casting director, and having that positive relationship leads you to other projects. That’s how I got my audition for ‘Anastasia’ – a recommendation. And this outlook is not actor-specific; replace ‘audition’ with ‘job interview’ and it applies to all.”
Zach’s advice to theater students who are just starting out is no-nonsense: “Performing is one of the only professions where people with no knowledge of how it all works can pass judgment on you. And they will, all the time. If this is the life you want, make it happen. So often I watch parents, teachers, and friends stifle wonderful young actors. It’s up to you to make this your life; no one is going to shower you with compliments and hold your hand throughout it all. Stand up and be proud to be an artist. And never stop learning and studying your craft. Art and great theater hold up a mirror to the world, and the world is constantly changing. Never lose the interest to become better than you are today.”
See more of Zach Adkins when he comes back to his hometown this fall for a one-night concert at the Ashtabula Arts Center on October 20. Find details and buy tickets here.
by Mandi Frazier, Ashtabula Arts Center