There is so much for Ascension Parish to be proud of – from star athletes to star students, this parish produces some of the best young citizens in the U.S. Zac Denham is one such success story. As a graduate of St. Amant High in 2004, he was an active member in the band, drama, and choral departments. He is also a licensed cosmetologist from the Paul Mitchell Vanguard School in Baton Rouge. His real passion, however, is acting. To realize this dream, Denham packed up and moved to the Big Apple in search of work.
In New York, Zac has studied musical theatre performance at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. There, he worked with some of Broadway and TV’s talent such as: Catherine Cox, Ray Virta, Evan Pappas, Dan Daily, and more. He graduated in the spring of 2012.
Even before graduating high school, he had already booked his first job as a New York actor, with a supporting role in the developmental workshop of the new rock musical “Grey Street.” After that he went on to be a part of the premier reading of upcoming play “Afterglow.” He also attended a summer intensive program for young performers called Broadway Triple Threat. The Creole caught up with this local-turned-star, to ask him about his life as an entertainer, and his roots in Ascension Parish.
Q: How did you get into theatre/acting?
A: I always had a desire to entertain. As a child, there was never a dull moment in the house, and I was always putting together some sort of show in the living room. My mom and grandmother loved the classic movie musicals (The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Little Shop of Horrors), so I was exposed to the world of musicals even as a young child. As I got older, I started making home movies with my friends and family. I would write out a script, direct, and we would film the movie. We would sometimes get in trouble for making a mess in our parent’s houses, but we all had fun doing it. Once I was in high school, my friend Kara suckered me into auditioning for a show at Center Stage. I remember my audition to this day. Not my best moment, but I was cast in the show anyways. I haven’t been off of the stage since to be quite honest.
Q. Who is your theatre role model?
A. I have had quite the privilege to be in the same room and learn from some Broadway royalty (Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Walter Bobbie, Tom Kitt). It’s always a humbling experience to get advice from, or learn in any capacity from, people who have made great careers in the industry for themselves. I’ve been lucky enough to have been “taken under the wing” by Catherine Cox. Cox is a well-established actress here in New York. She’s known for her work on Broadway in: Footloose, Baby: The Musical, Barnum, and the upcoming musical The Memory Show.
Q. What productions have you been in?
A. At ACT I was in Grease, Guys & Dolls, The Nerd, Cabaret, Plaza Suite, You Can’t Take It With You, The Fantasticks, award winning director for children’s musical Rapunzel, choreographer for Godspell, award winning actor/choreographer for Fiddler on the Roof. At the BRLT I was in My Fair Lady, Forever Plaid, The Pajama Game, The Producers, Singin’ in the Rain, and Camelot. At Center Stage I was in The Wizard of Oz, Oklahoma!, Footloose, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Q. Tell me a little more about your time at ACT and BRLT. Did anything you learned there make you the actor you are today?
A. ACT will always hold a very special place in my heart. I spent the better part of my teenage years on that stage. I strongly believe that had I not had a positive and loving outlet, such as ACT while growing up as a very confused and conflicted teen in such a small town, there is no telling what kind of choices that I would have made in my life. As an actor/artist, I have been given so many amazing opportunities at that theatre, but more importantly, I have a family there that I hold very dear to me. There is such possibility there, and I hope that ACT will continue to bring quality work to the community. I hope one day to return and possibly direct a show and kind of “give back” to the place that has been there for me along the way. As for my time with BRLT, it was 2006 and I was in “Cabaret” at ACT when the artistic director of BRLT approached me to audition for ”My Fair Lady.” It was always one of those things that I had hoped to be brave enough to try and do more work at a different venue, so when I was invited, I was beside myself. BRLT always seemed like it was so much bigger than me, and I couldn’t possibly be good enough to be part of a project there. But once I started working there, I made the same kinds of bonds along the way, just as I had at ACT and Center Stage. I also received a lot of recognition for my work around town as well. It’s always funny when people recognize you from being in a show, so I absolutely loved being a local celebrity. With BRLT, I was given opportunities to expand what I have to offer as an actor, and share it with an even larger audience. As an actor, the goal is to constantly challenge yourself. You can only learn so much from the same directors and choreographers. It’s important to expand your opportunities to study and work with other people in the theatre world. Otherwise, you’re robbing yourself from personal and artistic growth.
Q. What do you love about Ascension Parish? Is there anything you miss about Ascension in the Big Apple?
A. Oh, wow. Well, I love Ascension Parish for lots of reasons. My mama is there, my family is there, Sno’s Seafood and Steakhouse, Ralph’s Supermarket king cake, Cal’s Bakery chocolate donuts, CC’s Coffee House, karaoke at Park Place. This list can go on and on. As for what I miss about Ascension in the Big Apple, I miss being able to get in my car and go for a drive. I do, I miss driving. It’s true though, it’s the simple things that you don’t think twice about when you’re home, but once you don’t have those things or experiences, you realize the importance of simplicity. The thing I miss most though would have to be the food. We just do it differently back home. I think I’ve been to every Cajun [laughs] restaurant in this city and the outer boroughs. Out of all of them, only one fills the void and it’s still not quite the same.
Q: Tell me about your time at Center Stage.
A. Center Stage was another place I spent a lot of time as a teenager. It was always a great time with great friends there. As an actor, I’m grateful for Center Stage because it’s where I was given the opportunity to perform two of my favorite roles to date during my time with Center Stage (Willard in Footloose and Leaf in Spelling Bee). I was also a teacher and mentor there for the younger students for various camps/classes. That was always one of my favorite things about it. For me to be so in love with theatre and being on stage, and sharing that passion with younger kids and guiding them, and letting them know that “it’s ok” to be different, and making the students feel safe and special while they’re there. That is invaluable. I hope that Center Stage continues to be a safe haven for young people like it was for me, and that they’ll continue to crank out quality work.
Q. Lastly, is there anything you feel particularly passionate about letting Ascension Parish know?
A. I want the people in our community to support the local performing arts. Subscribe to local theatres and see shows, attend various performances around town. You don’t have to be an actor or an artist to support and respect it. I’m also a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association. It feels good to finally be paid to go to rehearsal and perform in a show. I’ll be going on the road beginning January 21 in the national tour of Seussical: The Musical. I’ll be playing the Cat in the Hat from the beloved children’s story. I’ll be traveling around the country through June 16. For ticket information, visit http://www.theatreworksusa.com/ and click on the Seussical logo. The tour will be playing Lafayette on April 3, which I believe is around spring break. So if the kids are off of school, and parents are looking for an activity, bring them on out to the show!