Andrew Cooper won’t be upstaged

Courtney Dickson, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

If you've spent any time around the visual arts department, this face is probably very familiar. Photo courtesy Kelsey Gilker

If you’ve spent any time around the visual arts department, this face is probably very familiar. Photo courtesy Kelsey Gilker

If learning about the life of Andrew Cooper doesn’t make you feel like you aren’t doing enough with your life, I don’t know what will.

Cooper wrote The Untold Tales of the Brothers Grimm, the first TRUDAT play of the year. It sold out. He played the flamboyant Peter Bellum in the Actors Workshop Theatre (AWT) production of Gossip. He’s taken on the role of the publicity manager for the AWT. He’s also got a full course load and two jobs. This guy is nothing short of a superstar.

He grew up in a busy household, with nine siblings (including a twin sister). Though three of his sisters were out of the house by the time Cooper was a toddler, there were seven children battling for their mother’s attention. His father was often away for work. Cooper said this could be a reason he was attracted to the stage – he needed some kind of attention.

Acting wasn’t his first career choice. In fact, as a child he was cast in the school play, but instead of saying his one and only line, he stood there and waved to his mom. In high school, he was interested in pursuing business. Oddly, that’s how he fell into the world of musical theatre.

Cooper was taking a marketing class in Grade 11. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he hated it. He frantically looked for another course to switch into, and a friend recommended musical theatre.

That year, the class was putting on the classic West Side Story.

“I had no idea what it was,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I was the only person in my class who didn’t know.”

It was then that he found a new love for the performing arts. He was inspired to enroll in dance classes and more acting classes. In Grade 12, he was cast as the lead for his musical theatre course.

Upon graduating from high school, Cooper went to Halifax to study performing arts at Dalhousie, but after a year he transferred to TRU.

He’s been in plenty of AWT plays and Director’s Festival shows, and just this past summer Cooper worked with Project X, a professional theatre company in town. He got the chance to play one of his favourite roles in the Project X production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and worked with two of his professors. Cast as the role of Snoopy, a role he’s been recognized for around Kamloops, he loved how physical he had to be to bring the lovable beagle to life.

“I really love those roles where I get to do fun things with my body as well as my voice,” he said.

Part of his love for movement in theatre comes from his love of and training in dance; it’s taught him how to control his body.

Taking dance classes inspired Cooper to become a dance teacher. He’s currently working at Sistas Love to Dance on the North Shore, teaching jazz, hip hop, contemporary, ballroom dancing and of course, musical theatre.

All three performing arts professors, Wesley Eccleston, Robin Nichol and Heidi Verwey, have served as mentors for Cooper. He said they all have different acting and teaching styles and he enjoys the variety he gets from each of their classes.

“They’ve all been instrumental in launching me from being a student into a working professional,” Cooper said.

His professors have been inspiring outside of the classroom, too. Verwey acted alongside Cooper in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Nichol directed it. Cooper said it was great to work with these women in a professional venue, and come back to school this fall and have them as instructors.

Cooper attributes part of his success to how many people he’s got to know in the area and in his chosen field. He said the key to any person’s success, regardless of where they want to end up, is networking.

“A lot of vocations are like this,” he said, “but the theatre community in particular is all about who you know. Do extracurriculars, go to special events, do everything you can – take classes, really broaden your horizons and meet as many people as you can.”

Cooper graduates in the spring, and has dreams of acting professionally.

“That’s the aspect of performing arts that I really love.”

He’s already lining up auditions and emailing directors, primarily within the province. If chosen for shows in the area, he’ll stay here for a while, but he wants to end up in Vancouver because it’s a larger hub for performing arts.

If he could, Cooper would love to be cast in Les Miserables, ideally as Enjolras, the charismatic leader of the Friends of the ABC. Though it wouldn’t be a starring role, it’s the one he believes would be most exciting and enjoyable.

“I’ve never been interested in romantic leads. I think they’re kind of boring,” he said.

He’d also love to be part of the comedic Broadway show The Book of Mormon. He grew up in a Mormon household, and thinks the musical is hilarious.

If he had the chance, he said it would be great to get cast in West Side Story again, now that he’s a professional.

If acting doesn’t work out, Cooper has a couple of other career ideas. He said doing publicity for AWT has been a great experience, and he would love to do publicity for a theatre should his path lead him there. Obtaining a master’s degree is something he would like to do eventually, and he’s also considered becoming a university professor for the performing arts.