Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be involved in theatre. I came to Austin College with the goal of becoming a high school theatre teacher, But through the opportunities I have gotten through Austin College (Namely a few internships in New York and a great opportunity to direct various projects) I realized that my interest in the entertainment industry surpasses both a career in acting and a career in theatre education. I want to actively create theatrical experiences through collaboration with creative people.
While working with the Powerhouse Apprenticeship program (an opportunity I went for with the encouragement of Kathleen Campbell and AC alumni Mateo Ervin and Harrison Wilke) I got to direct a short play called Amazing Grace and then collaborate and help devise an amazing show called Germany’s Children. From there my horizons widened. I met Mean Girls actor Danny Franzese and he told me something I will never forget: “Keep doing theatre, whether an Actor or a Producer or whatever, because you BELONG in this industry”. This, along with my experience and support from Powerhouse directors Tom Pacio and Ed Cheetam, gave me the confidence to come back to AC and work on expanding my horizons.
I did a research project on Rocky Horror, and which ended with me directing and starring in a Shadow cast performance, an event that I truly believe was one of my most successful I’ve ever had at AC. Then I went out for the Stella Adler Summer conservatory, where I not only honed my craft as an actor, but I was able to make new friends in the industry and network with alumni like Kim Powers, who taught me that one of the most important parts of being in entertainment is building and strengthening relationships in addition to your creative talent.
Then, my senior year, I was able to direct a full-length play for Homecoming and it was amazing. I grew so much as a director and as a person, that I couldn’t wait a whole semester to get out into the real world, and then I discovered that I didn’t have to wait. I realized that I would have .75 credits left to complete my spring semester, so I began looking into alternative things to do in the spring. Kirk Everist, Kim Powers, and Kathleen Campbell all gave me resources to look for internships and potential jobs all over the country. Kirk helped me with my CV and Kim helped with my cover letters, and Kathleen got me into contact with Allen Liedkie, my future employer. Allen should be writing about how I came to be with the company, so I’ll let him explain that.
It was a big decision to come to stay in London for the semester. I was already going to be in London for the JanTerm, courtesy of the Stephens Scholarship, so it made sense to try and stay behind. After talking it over with Kirk and Liz Banks, I made the decision to stay. Vanessa Baker agreed to do a special directed study with me to complete my final .75 credits, Dan Pucul not only gave me some really sound advice, but he also has been a great connection between me and Allen, since they were in the same class at AC. Honestly I swallowed most of my fears of coming to work for Allen in London after Dan gave me a great pep talk and explained that Allen was a friend of his. So at the end of the JanTerm I waved goodbye to my peers going to the airport in their bus before hopping in a taxi and going off to my new home in north London.
Working in London has been a whirlwind of events. A usual day consists of me submitting Actors from our agency for roles, managing schedules for upcoming events, and more recently, preparing everything for our next event, Actorshop’s New Visions, a night of short plays with 7 new directors. I’m helping produce the event, and I’m also one of the directors! So I have rehearsals as well. Every day Allen and our CEO, Derek, work with me to help me understand all the different workings within Actorshop, from representing clients to producing to leading trainings in various schools and businesses in London. On May 9, I’ll be making my London debut as a producer and a director. Then I’ll be returning to Texas for graduation.
Post Graduation, I plan on moving to New York in August. I am up for a few jobs in Theatrical administration, and I plan on applying to many more. I also hope to continue to work for Actorshop in some capacity, from New York. But I’m not sure about that yet. Regardless, I hope to connect with the troupe of AC alumni that have gathered in NYC and I hope to collaborate with them to create great theatre. I’ve learned a lot about starting projects here in London, and I’ve gotten a taste of different styles as well, so I hope to bring those back with me to NYC.
As for AC Theatre, anyone can get involved, that’s what I loved most about our theatre. I met two of my best friends through the AC Theatre department, and they are both as different as can be. Spencer Nystrom started out as pre-med before going into research, and he was involved in theatre from day one our freshman year. Sarah Davis became a theatre/English double major, and used her experience in each department help fuel her passion to do a thesis involving both disciplines. And all three of us got our start simply because we asked to do it. The theatre welcomed us with open arms. Whether you were involved in theatre in high school or not, if you have an interest to do it, the AC theatre will take you in. Just show up to an audition, come to an improve workshop, strike up a conversation with Liz or Kirk or Dan, take a Theatre course just for fun. It’s possible, it’s fun, and it’s life changing.
I’m from Arlington, Texas, and graduated from Austin College in 2003 where I received my B.A. in Communication Arts with an emphasis in theatre along with a French minor. I have been acting since I was seven years old when I was cast as the rambunctious church mouse in my childhood church’s annual Christmas play. From that moment onwards I was hooked. I continued to act throughout my youth, into my teens and throughout my high school career where I had the honor of winning best supporting actor at Arlington High School before graduating.
When deciding which college to attend I was most attracted to Austin College because of the involvement expected by the theatre major’s on the program. From acting to directing, lighting design to set building, I had one of the most well rounded mix of practical and academic learning, led by Kathleen Campbell and Dub Narramore, which I still refer back to in my work today. During my time with the Austin College theatre program I acted in over 15 plays, directed 3 and worked on a large number of plays in various technical capacities, guided by the beloved and missed Andy Williams.
Like more than 70% of the students at Austin College I had the chance to study abroad during my education. Dede Hosek put a bug in my ear during freshman Intro to French class, to consider study abroad in Paris. So during my junior year I jetted off to Paris for a life changing experience. I fell in love with Europe and its culture. I took the opportunity to visit as many countries as I could afford during my studies and quickly came to the realization that I wanted to live abroad at some point in my life.
Immediately following my fall semester in Paris I joined the London Theatre Jan Term for a month of watching the best actors in the world perform plays I’d read through my education. I was also introduced to new writing and talent I’d never heard of and felt deep in my core that I wanted to be a part of the London theatre scene professionally after finishing at Austin College.
In my final semester at Austin College I discovered a number of acting schools based London where I could get my M.A. in Acting. After applying to East 15, I was accepted to audition and eventually given a place on their highly selective M.A. Acting course. I accepted the place, packed my bags and headed off for my European dream of becoming a professional actor in the UK.
My course at East 15 was intense! We had twelve-hour days exploring every aspect of acting they could throw at me. Voice, dance, movement, stage combat, characterization, theory, singing, on and on and on! That year is a haze of learning four to five different parts at a time and performing them under the scrutinizing eye of the heads of school. Towards the end of my time at East 15 I secured my first professional acting job – the lead role in Killer Joe, a play set in and around Dallas, Texas. In October 2003 I made my professional debut at The Old Vic in Bristol the critics said, “Allen Lidkey as Chris was excellent playing with enormous on-stage energy” and “Allen Lidkey is suitably beyond redemption as the murderous son.” You’ll notice my name changed around this time. Casting directors were having trouble pronouncing my last name so in an effort to make it memorable, I changed it to the phonetic spelling Lid-Key, Lidkey.
I continued to go from strength to strength landing roles in theatre, short films and other projects. In 2005 I got my big break when I selected along with 30 other actors, out of over 3000 applicants, by Kevin Spacey to perform in the first 24 Hour Plays at the Old Vic in London. This event gave me the exposure that I needed and from this my career really took off.
I landed my first film role in The Walker where I made my film debut acting alongside Woody Harrelson and Lily Tomlin. Following that I worked with Kirsten Dunst and Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, but sadly most of my scenes were cut in the film … not my favorite part of the business. But I bounced back and was cast in the action packed Ridley Scott film, Body of Lies, where I worked along side Leonardo DiCaprio.
Between filming jobs I had the privilege of taking part in a number of plays. I started a theatre company along with Jo Christie, called the Squat Collective, which produced shows in landmark buildings and disused spaces around London, and had the privilege of interviewing Sir Ian McKellen for a project I developed celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
In 2007 I had an audition for a job that has changed my life. I was called in by Actorshop for a corporate role-play job. I’d never come across this style of work before and was intrigued by the concept. In a nutshell, Actorshop develops and delivers interactive drama-based training programs for companies around the globe helping an organizations people develop their soft skills and promote business growth.
Since then I have made this my career focus and now I’m one of the directors of Actorshop and I travel the globe writing and delivering programs for top businesses, including HSBC, BP, international law firms and two Fortune 100 companies. That travel bug I got from studying in Paris is still with me I guess, ha ha.
Beyond Actorshop Training, Actorshop is a diverse company consisting of Actorshop Productions and The Actorshop Agency. At the heart of everything we do is acting and all our departments support the craft and personal development of actors. Actorshop Productions, our film and television branch, has won 3 BAFTA’s for our work in children’s television and The Actorshop Agency represents a wide range of talent who are regularly working in film, television and theatre.
In the immediate future I’m trying on the hat of Producer. I’m producing a night of short plays starring The Actorshop Agency’s talent and assistant producing on a number of new projects, which are currently in the development stage for television. The newest and most rewarding project I’ve had to work on is hiring the first Actorshop Intern, Anika Payne.
Anika Payne, a senior at Austin College, contacted me through Kathleen Campbell about a possible internship with Actorshop. Anika was interested in the way we work as a company and was hoping to join us after the London Jan Term in 2015. After meeting Anika I couldn’t say no. She has been the most valuable resource to Actorshop and me personally. Anika has assisted on program development and delivery with our business clients and schools. She has become the assistant Talent Manager for The Actorshop Agency, managing the careers of over 25 professional actors. She is also going to have the opportunity to make her London directorial debut in the night of short plays I’m producing.
Personally Anika has allowed me to remember, and reinforced the value and strength of the liberal arts education Austin College provides. Any task we throw at her she can accomplish with her own voice and personal flare. We’ve reminisced about our time in Austin College’s theatre department and how Austin College has set us up to be strong leaders of today.
Anika is wrapping up her time with us here in the next month and she’ll be missed very much. But that’s not the end of her time with Actorshop. Actorshop is expanding our business in the US over the next couple of years and Anika will be an integral part of that process.
I hope to return to Austin College as a visiting professor in the near future teaching a course on Drama Based Learning for Schools which will bring the Theatre Department and Teaching Department together to explore working with schools in the local Sherman area, a project that’s very dear to my heart. More details to come soon….