The audience’s murmuring simmers down to silence as the orchestra begins the overture. The world disappears as the music swells and the lights brighten. Time stops. The heart races faster to keep up with the drums. A deep breath and the curtain opens in a new town. Homework and football games no longer on the radar. All focus is on the task at hand: performing.
This was the life of freshman Paul Schoeller last year when he starred in two national tours.
“It feels like everything that’s real isn’t there, so anything that’s in the show just kinda fills the gaps and takes over anything else that could possibly be on stage,” Schoeller said.
Schoeller toured the nation with two professional shows this past year. He was Friedrich in “The Sound of Music” as well as both Peter and George in “Finding Neverland”.
“I was a little confused at first,” Schoeller said. “I played George a ton until Thanksgiving and then I started playing Peter too. I had to change my mind set, or else I would’ve said George’s lines on stage or something.”
Due to the timing of the tour, as well as the constant day to day travel, Schoeller was homeschooled while on the road. He said one of the more difficult parts of touring was, quite literally, balancing homework.
“It was not very easy to do math homework whenever you’re riding on a bus and have a shaky table,” Schoeller said.
While on tour, Scholler learned the importance of adapting to situations. The different “houses” they performed in varied greatly from city to city, so the cast and crew had to adapt very quickly when certain set pieces could not be used.
“In “Finding Neverland”, we had this backyard fence that we had as our backstage for a time and we couldn’t have that in some houses,” Schoeller said. “In “The Sound of Music”, we couldn’t have the stairs in one house so we had to do the show without the stairs.”
The tour atmosphere constantly taught Schoeller to be prepared for anything and left a large impact on his lifestyle back home.
“He’s very professional. He knows what needs to get done and how long he has to get it done and he always gets it done on time,” sophomore Ty Hart said. “He’s just a very hard worker in all aspects of school and theatre”
Preparation is not the only thing Schoeller learned while on the road. Rubbing elbows with professional adult actors and performing alongside them, Schoeller learned much more from them about adulthood than his performing skills.
“I learned to fall asleep no matter where [I am],” Schoeller said. “I learned that you have to have respect for everybody because you could all be going through the same situations, but it doesn’t matter what your problems are, you have to put them aside and focus on what’s important.”
Junior Justin Goodwyn, who has known Schoeller for four years, was lucky enough to see Schoeller in “Finding Neverland” and was blown away. Goodwyn also expressed how he would never be able to go on tour.
“That’s terrifying to me,” Goodwyn said about going on tour. “It scares me.”
This fear is a general assumption Schoeller had been asked about. However, Schoeller was not scared on the tours. Schoeller said doing community theatre prepared him for the professional world and that eased the transition from Cypress to tour bus.
“I did a show called “A Christmas Story: The Musical” at Stageworks Theatre and that was with adults on mainstage,” Schoeller said. “While it may [have been] a small stage, [it was] still a great experience. I think that’s what prepared me for working with adults again on tour.”
Community theatre is not the only place Schoeller shined before tour. In fact, Schoeller has been performing on stage since fifth grade.
“At Black Elementary, I was Aladdin in “Aladdin Jr.”,” Schoeller said. “Then at Goodson, I was Charlie Bucket in “Willy Wonka Jr.”. My last show at Goodson was “Legally Blonde”, I was Warner. That’s when I got the call for “The Sound of Music”.”
While Schoeller has performed in numerous venues all over the nation and many in his own backyard, he said that he preferred the tour atmosphere. Schoeller enjoyed performing on all kinds of stages, trying new cuisine and getting to see different places. Of all the stops on tour though, his favorite was Spokane, Washington.
“The venue there is so pretty,” Schoeller said. “It had a giant dressing room and there were rollie chairs. We would roll around when we were on standby. [When] we went, their ice skating rink was open. It was outside and it was [shaped] like a ribbon. It was really cool. My dad and I went skating. It was fun.”
Schoeller said that he misses touring because he enjoyed doing the same show every night that left such powerful messages.
“I like to leave messages for people,” Schoeller said. “I like theatre because I can express myself. People can call me weird about it, but I don’t care. I can use my weirdness.”