In the emotion-packed play Rabbit Hole, now being presented at Stages Repertory Theater, one of the standouts among the five actors on stage is the young actor playing Jason, the teenager who was driving the car that caused a death. It is a demanding role and one that calls for actor Mark Ivy to act in a light manner one moment, and oh so serious the next.
Not bad for a musical theater major, who doesn't get to fall back on his singing and dancing strengths -- particularly one who hasn't even graduated yet from Sam Houston State University and who isn't taking a semester off from school.
Instead, Ivy drives back and forth between Huntsville and Houston on an almost-daily basis for rehearsals and now the run of the play, the 2007 winner of the Pulitzer Prize. "We would have rehearsals like 6 to 11 at night. So I would leave school around 4 just to beat traffic," he tells Hair Balls. "A lot of times I get out a little early and I'd go back to Huntsville and do it all again the next day."
On weekends, he stays over with his parents in Sugar Land (he graduated from Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy in 2006.)
Making it work takes a lot of cooperation with his teachers, Ivy says: "The teachers at school want to see you work, they want to see you succeed. So if I had to miss a dance class my dance professor is really willing and lets a few dance classes slide so I can start my career. It's actually the same for my history professor and math professor, you tell them what's up and they tend to think it's really cool."
The whole thing is possible thanks to the internship program Stages started a couple years ago with Sam Houston. Ivy got a chance at the part when one of his professors, Tom Prior (who also works in Houston theater) told him about the upcoming production and that he might be right for it. About eight young men auditioned, all got called back for another read-through with the director and two weeks later, Ivy got the call offering him the part. "I was ecstatic," he says.
And Ivy was able to stumble onto a bonus. Stages extended its run of Panto Cinderella and the actor who had one of the parts had to go home at the Christmas break. So he got to fill in for the last few performances of that (and sing and dance).
His role in Rabbit Hole was a real stretch for him, he says.
"It's very tough material and with Jason in particular, all of Jason's moments aren't really light and fluffy. It's really hard to gauge when you're on stage and it's just silent. You've just got to know that you're doing your job. You've just got to be honest with the other actors," he says.
Now in his third year of school, Ivy wants to finish at Sam Houston. At the same time, he's now more willing to take on extra work and build up his resume. Juggling both is difficult, but possible, he's found.
And it's given his family a chance to see him in a professional production. "My mom is a stage mom extraordinaire," he says proudly. "She's been to three or four shows already. And my dad and my brother got to see it last week and my dad, he was crying the whole show. I'll embarrass him."
The Stages production of Rabbit Hole runs through Sunday March 22.