By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Imagine playing the role you were born to play.
That's exactly what 2009 Catawba College alumnus Paul Saylor is doing with the role of Curly in the national tour of the beloved musical, "Oklahoma!"
"My dad and his family are generations deep in Oklahoma," Saylor explains. "They love the show."
Saylor saw the movie as a kid. The role of Curly is what he terms a "classic musical theater leading man." Those types of roles have become Saylor's bread and butter.
Having moved to New York late this summer, Saylor saw a call for a 6-foot-tall actor who could "sing a certain way and look a certain way." Just the way Saylor sang and looked.
"I thought, well, sign me up," he says. "They're looking for a specific thing, and that specific thing is you." But the audition, he admits, was "pretty intense." There were actors there who looked and sang just like him. "Fortunately, I happened to be selling what they were looking for," Saylor says.
Rehearsals began in September, with the tour commencing three weeks later. Ever since, Saylor has been crisscrossing America, playing many small towns. He's seen much of Middle America. There's not a lot of time for sightseeing, though.
"It's pretty much one night, one town," Saylor says. "That is very tiring."
Still, he says, "I'm doing a show that I love for people who might not otherwise get to see it."
His company has performed for audiences from fewer than 100 to 3,000, in some "very cool theatres." His favorite has been the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Conn., the very theater where "Oklahoma!" was first performed. Over the years, performers have signed the walls there, and it was exciting for Saylor to find names of movie stars and Broadway stars, back when they were "Chorus Girl No. 6," for example. It made Saylor realize he's part of a greater thing.
A favorite city along the way has been Asheville, where he saw many friends. The company also spent several days in Seattle.
The son of psychologists Bart and Conway Saylor, he grew up in Isle of Palms, S.C. In high school, he auditioned at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, where he was approached by officials from Catawba. "They found me," Saylor says. "I really liked the people I talked to and we just hit it off."
At Catawba, his favorite production was "Urinetown." "I was with friends I had grown close with over four years," Saylor says. "It was a show I loved with people I loved."
"He picked Catawba because he knew he could get training in acting, singing and dance," his mom says. "He didn't want to specialize. It's given him the versatility to do a lot of different things professionally." The Saylors saw their son in "Oklahoma!" at UNC-Pembroke. "Honestly," Conway Saylor says, "it was beyond my wildest dreams. He was born to play this part."
Saylor is due back in New York by the end of January, where he wants to put down roots. He has an agent and he doesn't yet know what his next role will be. "Hopefully," Saylor says, "it'll be onward and upward. I'm open to any and all possibilities at this point."
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.
PHOTOS: Urinetown: The Musical
VIDEO: Paul Saylor on Being a Member of Catawba's Choir