Last month, we began a series of conversations with some of our better-known Thespians, talking with Missouri native John Goodman. (View a list of other distinguished Thespians.) This month, we meet another member of the City of Thespians, this time from the Keystone State.
Tony-nominated actor Stephanie D’Abruzzo
Avenue Q, Sesame Street, Scrubs
Peters Township High School, McMurray, Pennsylvania, 1989
D’Abruzzo’s theatre teacher and Thespian sponsor at her suburban Pittsburgh high school was Barry N. Wood. “The passion he brought to teaching theatre was unmatched by anyone,” she said. “We did five productions a year, plus he ran a dance company in the mornings before school. He’s the reason why I read an entire script and not just my lines. He’s the reason I am notoriously early to work. He’s the reason I have the work ethic that I do. And he is the reason why I believe that professionalism and all that it entails is more important than anything one brings to the stage.
“He’s also inspired me for a long time by something he casually said in passing: ‘Maybe when I’m eighty I’ll try to make a career of acting.’ That has stayed with me since the day I heard it. It’s a constant reminder that we have no idea where life will take us and that success can happen at any age. Everyone I knew wanted to make Citizen Kane
at twenty-five like Orson Welles. But look at what happened to Orson Welles. No one should want to be Orson Welles. You should want to be you. That’s what I learned from Barry Wood.
“My Thespian experience shaped my life in the sense that it gave me a place to do what I wanted to do. Nobody encouraged me to go into acting. But Thespians wasn’t about making a career. It was about doing shows and learning and having a great time. And everyone was welcome. I devoured my experiences doing the high school productions. ... I played every kind of role imaginable, from the chorus to the characters to the leads. And all of it helped me become the actor I am today. But more than that, all of it helped me become the person I am today. I respect my crew—you’d be shocked how many people do not—I value my job, and I never phone it in.”