At its core, the world of theater functions not entirely unlike that of a sports team. A director, like a coach primed to crowd-please and rake-in successful reviews to make top rank, works arduously to draw-out latent talents amongst players. The producers, meanwhile, map out the schematics of “the game” to set a solid foundation. And the actors, like all great competitive sports players, give 100 percent of themselves in a collaborative effort to make it to Broadway – their version of the Super Bowl.
Put in this context, Guy Mandia may just be Temple’s MVP – most valuable performer.
Mandia, 20, a once prominent high school athlete from Drexel Hill has spent the last two years of his Temple career honing his skills as an actor, singer and dancer in productions like “A Chorus Line” and “Urinetown,” and has been cast as Action in the national tour of “West Side Story.”
“I was in the middle of my human sexuality class, presenting my final project when I got the acceptance call, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s New York – what do I do?’” Mandia said. “So I left class – usually our teacher had us do feedback – but it was my ‘emergency.’ The voicemail said to call them back, and that they had a ‘present’ for me.”
Mandia first auditioned for a role in the production in early March in New York City after receiving word about an open casting call, walking on stage wearing bright-white sneakers to stand out from the rest of the all-black donning theatrical pack.
“I went in there expecting nothing, expecting to be cut after the first round, but I got called back for every part on the Jet side [of the casting],” Mandia said.
After the fourth round of callbacks, Mandia was encouraged to read for the part of Action – a character he describes as “a psycho” – where his skills shone through and allowed him to be selected among two others to specifically audition for the role, eventually being offered the gig.
From there, Mandia’s decision was not difficult.
“I always told my parents that if the opportunity arose I would definitely take it, and they’re all for it because they don’t have to pay [tuition],” Mandia said.
As of now, Mandia will not be returning to Temple, but expressed feeling thoroughly prepared for his new role thanks to his time spent at the university.
“When you’re in school, you’re learning the techniques of acting, and I feel like I learned what I need to know right now in the two years I was here,” Mandia said. “I’m really comfortable with how I’m going to take on the part – any part, really – at the age I am right now.”
From here, Mandia moves on to the rehearsal process of the production, beginning on Sept. 24 and leading up to the premiere date of Oct. 29. Having already done promotional photoshoots for the play in addition to an action-packed, Broadway-esque commercial filmed in Chicago, Mandia has learned to appreciate and embrace the “anything can happen,” live element of his work.
“It’s just a really big treat to see so many faces looking at you wide-eyed, and you’re just putting on the performance of a lifetime. It’s amazing to think what’s going through their heads while you’re performing,” Mandia said. “It’s great to hear little gasps and sniffling noses if you’re doing a good job, so I think live theater as opposed to movies or something is a lot more interesting, I like being on stage with all of the costumes, sets and lights.”
Peter Reynolds, head of the musical theater department at Temple, emphasized the immense progress made by Mandia since he first began working with him as a freshman.
“We did an improv exercise during ‘Urinetown’ rehearsal where the cast was playing with different physical personas for the show,” Reynolds said. “Guy made a bold physical choice that made me double over with laughter. That was definitely a moment when I thought, ‘This guy – Guy – really has something!’”
Brandon Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.