Nathan Simmons came to Dalhousie with a plan to study science, but he soon found that his life would follow a very different script.
Always curious about acting, but having little experience, Nathan chose "Introduction to Acting" as one of his first-year elective courses. That decision led the fourth-year student to discover a passion for performing, a new plan for his career and a sense of family among his fellow students in the Fountain School for Performing Arts.
But first, he had to get over his stage fright.
“I always wanted to (act), but I was nervous to audition and nervous to be in front of crowds,” Nathan recalls. “In Introduction to Acting when we did a scene for our classmates, that was the first time I really performed a character in front of a group of people. That’s when I broke through the stage-fright thing.”
By the time he reached third year of study, Nathan realized that the stage had become a second home.
“The moment where I said to myself that I could see myself doing this for 20 years or more was in third year,” says Nathan. “We were doing The Oresteia and it was a show with a lot of lights and no props. I remember when I came out onto the staging area, I just felt like, ‘’wow, this is where I need to be.’”
Despite his ever-growing confidence as a performer, a self-belief reinforced by professional gigs on television shows such as the CBC’s Studio Black and stage productions such as The Colour of Courage – not to mention starring roles in Dalhousie’s mounting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the upcoming Coram Boy, Nathan is not content to rest on his laurels.
Becoming a role model
“There wasn’t a lot of influence of theatre and acting in my life and within the program I’m one of the people with the least experience,” he says. “I’m always trying to work that extra bit harder.”
For Nathan, that hard work includes his effort to become the kind of acting role model he didn’t have while growing up in East Preston, N.S. On February 17-18, he’ll be sharing his experiences in Speaking in Tongues: African Nova Scotian Storytellers, a Halifax event featuring a variety of individuals from the African Nova Scotian community. He has also toured with Voices of Black Theatre, performing in Once: Africville Stories.
“Voices of Black Theatre does a bunch of performances and productions in the Black community and about the Black community. I feel like if I’ve done a good job I can stir something in another Black youth to follow their dreams and be an actor.
“For me, this is about inspiring another young Black person to have the courage to say, ‘this is me and this is something I can do.’”
After finding himself on the university stage, Nathan himself is certainly inspired to continue pursuing his own dreams.
“It’s where my passion is. If I can get up in the morning and do something that I love to do, that’s something I should focus on.”
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