by Lorie Lewis Ham
This Valley is filled with more than its share of talented performers. Here at KRL we would like to spotlight some of these actors, directors, writers, singers, etc and give them a moment to be recognized for their abilities and successes. We would also like to let our readers know about some wonderful talent in their own backyards that they have the chance to enjoy.
The first person to be spotlighted is local actor Peter Allwine, who has performed in multiple shows with various theater companies. Born in Panarama City in Southern California, Peter moved to Fresno when he was only seven after his parents divorced. “A lot of my family on my mother’s side lives here in the Valley; which is why she decided to move here.” Born to an actor father, Peter says he got the bug from him.
As a child, he grew up watching musicals and fell in love with them. His first taste of theater came as early as second grade when he was the narrator in his class’s production of Charlotte’s Web. However, he didn’t truly become hooked on acting until junior high. “I’ve been insanely lucky to have had such wonderful teachers along the way, starting with Charlene McElhaney at Kastner, Jim Schlievert and Biz Fiester at Clovis West, and the amazing directors I’ve had the pleasure to work with since then.”
What Peter loves most about performing is being able to take the audience on a journey for a few short hours away from their cares and worries and entertain them. “And leave them hopefully a little better than they were when they came into the theater.”
Over the years, Peter has worked with many performers and local theater companies and considers himself very lucky. His past shows/characters include Che in Evita, Roger in Grease, Lt. Cable in South Pacific, Mary Sunshine and Billy Flynn in Chicago (separate productions), Cosmo in Singin’ in the Rain, Jinx in Forever Plaid, and Leo Bloom in The Producers—all with Good Company Players (GCP). Elsewhere he has been Jamie in The Last Five Years (Organic Theater Factory and Aethon Theater), Schroeder in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Sandy Johnson Productions), and Jack in Into the Woods (Theater West), just to name a few.
“He has been performing for the company for many years now, and is one of our audience’s favorite performers,” said Brandi Martin, Publications Coordinator with GCP, with whom Peter is currently performing as Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie.
“It’s hard to believe that we have been lucky enough to have Peter involved with Good Company Players since 1996,” shared Dan Pessano, Managing Director of GCP. “I’ve enjoyed directing him, and I have especially enjoyed sharing some onstage time with him. I expect Bye Bye Birdie to be one of his best roles.”
Possessing a wide vocal range, Peter says he inherited from his father, he sees each show as a chance to grow a little more as a singer. “I’ve had no formal training as a singer, so for me each show presents it share of challenges and I use little tricks I’ve learned over the years to keep my voice in top form.”
Life experiences are something that he feels has helped him grow a lot as an actor. “The past 10 years have been interesting (aren’t everyone’s 20’s though), and I have been able to put a lot into perspective and that has not only helped me grow as an actor, but just as an individual.”
Connecting with a character is something that he has found to be one of the hardest things about being an actor at times. “[Performing in] Chicago in 2008, I was playing Billy Flynn and I never felt like I got it, that I truly ever connected with the character. The director (the wonderful Scott Hancock) kept telling me—you are doing great, you’ve got it down—so I kept doing what I was doing. But throughout the entire 14, 15 week process of rehearsal and run I never felt like I connected with Billy. So for me, sometimes that can be the hardest part. Otherwise, it will always be the dance. I have never had any dance experience, so whatever dance skill I have I’ve accumulated over the years by just being in shows.”
Scott Hancock, who currently teaches private piano/voice lessons, has directed Peter in many shows over the years. “Peter is a consummate professional. He shows up to the first rehearsal extremely prepared and ready to rock and roll. He has a great sense of when things need to be serious, but also knows when to inject some humor into the process to keep the process fun. Most importantly, he is one of those actors that you don’t worry about onstage. From the minute he hits his mark through the curtain call, he is rock solid.”
Scott has also enjoyed working with Peter as an actor, most recently in The Producers. “Peter is an incredibly generous actor. He knows when the spot light is his, and when it isn’t. He is always willing to pass the comic or dramatic baton to allow his fellow cast mates their moments as well. He really is one of my favorite actors to share the stage with.” (Scott is also a writer here at KRL & owns Scott Hancock Piano & Vocal Studio)
Actress Ashley Taylor has worked with Peter in what she considers some of her most vulnerable on stage moments. “The first was in Chicago, where he had to literally rip my clothes off me every night. The second was in Last 5 Years where the entire show was just the two of us. To say that I trust him onstage is the biggest understatement I can think of. He’s incredibly talented, an absolute professional, and one of my very favorite people in the world.”
Last 5 Years was produced by the Organic Theater Company and music directed by Ashley’s husband, Anthony, who is also the artistic director of the company. “Peter is one of the most magnanimous actors I know. He’s been in just about everything. But he has never been anything but humble and appreciative for everything he has worked for.”
“I’m grateful for all that I’ve had to this point, and if I had to walk away from performing today I could look back on my theater career and be incredibly proud of all that I’ve had the opportunity to do,” said Peter. “I’ve been very blessed to work with amazing people and hope that this fun ride doesn’t end anytime soon.”
An actor that Peter has performed with on multiple occasions is Darren Tharp. “We have been dubbed the Odd Couple, which I would love to perform with him someday. Peter is a very generous actor on stage and off. His sense of humor and timing is shear perfection. It’s almost strange when I’m working on a show and he is not by my side.”
Peter’s day job is working at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) as Program Support Staff. He has worked there for nine years—first as part of their Performing Arts Department editing in-house videos, and then as Head of the Technology Department working in computers. Recently, he was promoted to an administrative position. “I love the new challenges it presents everyday.” While balancing work and performing can be a challenge, it’s one Peter feels he has mastered. “It can be a little taxing, but you kinda build up the defenses and learn to live on little sleep.”
During his rare off time, he enjoys reading, singing, television, spending time with loved ones and friends, and going to the theater. “You can learn so much from seeing great theater with great actors. It’s inspiring.”
When asked who his heroes are, they include many of those he has worked with through the years and definitely his father. “My father has been the greatest inspiration to me when it comes to performing. Never have I met a more talented, funny, genuinely humble person, and I wish he were still with us so (hopefully) we could work together in some capacity.”
Peter’s current role as Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie holds a special place in his heart because of his father. “My dad was supposed to play my role (Albert) in his high school production of Birdie, but because he wasn’t a senior, he got cast as Mr. MacAfee. And I know that (Albert) was a dream role of his, so in a way, my playing Albert is an homage to my dad.”
One piece of advice that has always stuck with Peter came earlier in his career. “One piece of advice I had given to me, that I have since instilled into my Junior Company kids at GCP when I’ve directed pre-shows is this, don’t suck. Dan Pessano told me this when I was performing children’s theater for GCP when we used to travel up and down the Valley performing for elementary schools. Best note I’ve ever been given.”
For anyone who wishes to be an actor, Peter encourages them to just get out there and do it. “If you are young and wanna get involved find out how, be it at school or a local theater company, and just go and do it! If you are out of school and have always wanted to come and do a show, come audition! If you don’t get into the show the first time, audition again and again until you get in. Never give up on that dream if it’s what you wanna do. Be prepared to be rejected a time or two. It’s very rare that you’ll get a lead right off—I did ensemble work for two or three years before I got an actual “role”. It’s usually all about paying your dues and proving yourself before you get “promoted” to a lead role. But those rare occasions do happen—who knows, it may be you!”
As to the future, Peter just wants to keep doing this as long as he can. While he would love to be on Broadway, he is happy to just perform here in the Valley. “For me what keeps me happy is just knowing I have a venue to perform at.” He would like to try his hand at doing more plays, and now only auditions for shows he’s truly passionate about. “I won’t do back to back to back shows like I used to; getting older and hopefully a little wiser has made me more picky and choosy with my projects.”
KRL recently had the privilege of seeing Peter in Bye Bye Birdie on opening weekend at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, where he plays opposite his girl friend, Danielle Jorn. Peter is one of my favorite local actors and singers and he was wonderful in this show. If you’re looking for a chance to escape the worries of life and go on a “journey” with Peter, this is a great choice. The laughs are multiple, the story is fun, and Peter’s voice is a joy to listen to no matter what the role.