Joe Tapia was first exposed to playwright William Shakespeare as a kid.
“I have his complete works at home,” he said.
However, the private high school Tapia attended didn’t have a drama club so he wasn’t exposed to theater at the same time.
“This all came later in life,” he said.
“This” is being an actor and being involved in theater. Tapia, a 27-year-old from Suffolk, is in his second year in Thomas Nelson’s Fine Arts program. He’s set to graduate in May, and recently was named the winner of a $3,000 scholarship from the Williamsburg Arts Council.
This particular scholarship, which is in its second year, is for a Thomas Nelson student in visual or performing arts. (Last year, the award went to an artist.) The student must have a 2.5 GPA and been accepted into a four-year school to study performing or visual arts.
In addition to getting ready for graduation and moving on to a four-year school, Tapia is preparing for his role of Tybalt in the College’s performances in April of “Romeo and Juliet.” It will be his first performance for Thomas Nelson, but he has been doing community theater for about nine years. In addition, he helped out with the College’s production of “Into the Woods” last year. This is the first time he has been able to work a Thomas Nelson performance into his busy schedule.
Tapia has impressed Torrie Sanders and Sandra Calderon-Doherty, both of whom have him in class.
“He’s always been an outstanding student,” said Sanders, who also noted his leadership. “He’s really good at helping other students get it. … He’s in my costume class right now, and while he was having some problems with our practical project, he was still helping other students who were having more problems.”
Said Calderon-Doherty: “He’s committed. … If you don’t have an actor who’s committed to making minute changes or emotionally trying out new things, you’re really not growing. He is one of those who takes that to the extreme.”
He hasn’t decided on a four-year college yet, but is looking at William & Mary and Christopher Newport University, among others. He does know what he wants to do after that, though.
“To pursue theater professionally,” he said. “That’s the goal.”