According to Rob Nash, just about everyone you know has a dream to do something creative.
Nash, a veteran actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian, didn’t wait for his breaks in the entertainment industry to make his dreams come true. He wrote his own one-man plays and managed to maintain a career as a stand-up comedian for the past 24 years. In two free workshops this week at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, he shows you how to get your creative ideas out of your head! (The workshop is free and open to high school through college-age students.)
Get to know Nash and hear how he got his start in the business in the following interview with Beth Miller, Patel Conservatory Community Ambassador/blog writer/part-time novelist...
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I started doing musical theater at age 11. I started writing and doing stand-up when I was 20 while I was still in college. I think I was the first out gay comedian doing mainstream clubs outside of New York or L.A.
My first one-man show was 12 steps to a More Dysfunctional You at Off Center [now the Shimberg at the Straz Center]. It was like: gay, 12 steps and AIDS 101. None of that was talked about at the time. I think it was one of the first plays outside of New York or California to talk about AIDS .
I was on the road for 21 years, and I’ve been on VH1 and Comedy Central.
Q: You wrote material that was edgy at the time. Was that something you struggled with?
A: No, I’ve never been able to keep secrets. I‘ve always been kind of out there. I was the black sheep of the family; they were all very conservative. I was the underachiever at school, but I was funny. In the 70’s, in school we always heard, Be yourself. I really took those mantras to heart.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Houston, TX. I’m now living in Austin.
Q: What inspired you to become an actor?
A: When I was seven years old, I memorized The Chicken Heart by Bill Cosby, and everyone loved it. I always wanted to be a comedian after that.
Q: What inspired you to start writing one-man shows?
A: The stand-up comedy world was dying in the late 1980’s. Clubs were folding all over the country. I was a feature act, which meant I’d come on second. I thought I’d jump over the headliners spot and go right to a one-man show. I was very much inspired by Lily Tomlin.
Q: How did you get your first show produced at the Off Center Theater [now Shimberg]?
A: Wendy Leigh [now the Vice-President of Education for the Straz Center] was booking the Off Center at the time. She watched the video (yes video!) the day I came through Tampa with a stand-up comedy tour, we met and she booked my first play, 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You.
Q: What was it like having a successful show off-Broadway? [Holy Cross Sucks!, 2005]
A: It was so great. It was eight years of work to finally get to that point. It was rated in the Top 10 Broadway and off-Broadway shows of 2005 by Time Out New York Magazine, so that was exciting.
Q: Do you have a favorite actor or comedian?
A: Lily Tomlin. She is the mother of my kind of work, playing all characters and changing characters on a dime. She saw my play Senioritis! (about 12th-graders’ irritation with their last year in high school) at the West Beth Theatre in Manhattan around 2000/2001. I told her I do what I do today because of Appearing Nightly and Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She told my manager she loved [my show]. Yay!
Q: As a writer, I struggle to make the time for my personal creative pursuits. How did you make that work before you were able to do this for a living?
A: You need a deadline. With 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional You, I booked the theater before I even wrote it. I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought I’d do some stand-up and monologues, but then I started writing the characters and it turned into a play.
Just about everyone you know has a dream of writing a book or something else creative. There’s nothing like the support of a workshop to inspire you: having to show up for it forces you to be creative.
Q: Tell me about Cindrella, from which you'll be performing excerpts at your workshops?
A: It's a 10-minute play showcasing my kind of work for all audiences. Cindrella is Spanish for Cinderella. She's a young Latina girl whose ugly step-mother and ugly step-sisters won't throw her a quincinera and try and keep her from the skater prince's ball.
Q: You’re directing LOL: the Musical this summer at the Patel Conservatory. What can students look forward to with this production?
A: The ride of a lifetime! I'm bringing 10 years of teaching, 34 years of musical theater, 24 years of standup and improv and 21 plays worth experience. We're gonna make some great art!