How Much Did The Cast Of High School Musical Make Actor Eric Sheffer Stevens: His Training, and Adjusting to Acting on a Soap Opera

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Actor Eric Sheffer Stevens: His Training, and Adjusting to Acting on a Soap Opera

Actor Eric Schaeffer Stevens (who played gay neurosurgeon Reid Oliver on As the World Turns) talks about his acting training in college. That training continued with private coaching, Broadway office roles, graduate school and more. .

Susan Dansby: Were you interested in acting as a child?

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: Yes. I’m not sure if it was more than people’s interest, but I was very interested. And in high school they did a musical; And it wasn’t something they ever asked me to do. Or someone asks me to do it. So I never really got it until college, and I applied to the theater program at Wheaton and got in.

But I kept my literature major. That was my diploma. After that I moved to New York to pursue it. To see where it went. So I’ve done a couple of little things here — just going through the trade documents [i.e., Backstage and Show Business Weekly] That I would interview, on the Lower East Side, in the village and in the church basements.

Susan Dansby: The Off-Off-Broadway Route?

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: Oh yeah. And there is great value in that.

Susan Dansby: I absolutely agree.

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: But it can also drive you crazy. And I studied here [in New York City]With Michael Howard, that changed my approach to everything and changed the way I work. It really kicked my butt on a lot of different things.

Then in ’98 I went to school in Alabama. It is mostly classical; But they perform new works and modern plays. It’s not all Shakespeare, despite the name.

Susan Dansby: So the Alabama Shakespeare Festival isn’t just theater? is it school

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: Well, they’re affiliated with the University of Alabama, which is why I’m such a big Crimson Tide fan. So you are accredited and doing your actual work through the University of Alabama; But you are a resident of the company as a non-equity member of the company.

So you get professional experience and rehearsals with people you really admire. A much more important part of the training was actually rehearsing and being around people who knew how to do it.

Susan Dansby: It’s like heaven on earth for an actor.

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: You did the sound, you did the motion, and you did the text and a lot of the story. In particular, the history of the theater. But other than that, he was just immersed in rehearsing and doing shows.

Susan Dansby: And you mentioned Michael Howard. Is he an acting teacher?

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: Yes, and it’s been 50 years here in the city. He has a studio here and is still teaching. He is fantastic and has been a mentor and just a great teacher to so many people. So I was lucky enough to be involved in that for a few years in the late 90s.

Susan Dansby: Well, that’s one of the things that really impresses me, because the soaps are so fast. They move so fast. And the writers call it “first draft” media. Whatever the acting term is, it’s probably the same thing. Where you go with your instincts rather than having much time to delve into the text.

So classical training and of course working with an acting teacher really serves you well – something that a lot of people don’t really think about.

Eric Schaeffer Stevens: Yeah, it’s funny; But it’s a very unique experience on its own — which I thought was a fantastic workout. It trains a completely different set of muscles. So you can’t be in your head too much. You prepare as much as you can reasonably remember, then make a snap choice.

And because we don’t really rehearse in soaps, you don’t have a lot of time with the script — you only have it for a few days before you actually shoot it — and then they just put you there on the floor in front of the camera and you do it. And so it was — I loved doing it.

Disputes? Instead of spending a lot of time thinking about how to approach it, you just do it.

And it’s also very helpful — to balance your thinking side or your “background research” side.

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