Q & A With Local Actor Eric Estep

Nov 5, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Here at KRL we love to take our readers behind the scenes of local theatre. This week we are chatting with Fresno actor Eric Estep, who also happens to be in the upcoming CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre production of All Is Calm opening on November 12.

KRL: Current day job, and other jobs you have had?

Eric in “Moonlight and Magnolias”

Eric: Currently, I teach Drama/Theatre Arts at Alta Sierra Intermediate in Clovis Unified. Prior to that, I taught elementary grades for 22 years in a neighboring school district. This year marks my 31st year in public education.

KRL: Schools attended?

Eric: I’m a 1987 graduate of Fresno Christian High School. After high school, I attended UC Riverside for a little over a year, then returned home to finish my Liberal Studies degree at Fresno State. Once I completed my BA, I earned my teaching credential through Fresno Pacific University and have been teaching ever since.

KRL: When did you first get involved in acting and why?

Eric: I love the art of storytelling, which essentially is what theatre is all about, right? For me, performing has always just been a hobby, but there’s something about entertaining others that I truly love. I think this started at an early age for me having earned the “Best Storyteller” award when I was in kindergarten, LOL.

Growing up, I was always encouraged to get into acting but it wasn’t until high school and then late into my 20s that I started to pursue it in earnest as a creative, expressive outlet. I remember attending shows at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater with friends and just being in awe of the talent! It took me 10 years to finally build up enough nerve to audition for Good Company Players but once I did, my life truly changed.

KRL: What was your first part?

Eric as Harold Hill in “The Music Man”

Eric: I played Larry (the boyfriend) in a production of Cheaper by the Dozen during my freshman year of high school (and 30 years later I directed my own production of the same show!) It wasn’t until many years after my first play that I even entertained the idea of doing a musical. I knew I could sing but was far too intimidated to try it in front of an audience. When I finally took the leap and auditioned for my first musical, I surprised A LOT of people. My own parents were stunned!

KRL: What are some of the shows you have been in, and the parts you have played & with what companies?

Eric: Good Company Players (GCP) gave me my start but I’ve also worked with CenterStage Clovis, Children’s Musical Theatre Works (CMT) and even Fresno State as a guest performer in The Playboy of the Western World (thank you, Brad Myers!) While my resume isn’t super extensive, I can honestly say each production I’ve been a part of has been a special and gratifying experience, for me personally.

Eric in “The Will Rogers Follies” with Good Company Players

Fun fact: I’ve played Harold Hill in The Music Man twice, Daddy Warbucks in Annie three times, and Francis in Forever Plaid four times! I think my most fulfilling role was Will Rogers in GCP’s first production of The Will Rogers Follies, although I really struggled with the rope tricks! Other shows/roles I’ve had fun with include Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast, Victor Fleming in Moonlight and Magnolias, Benny Southstreet in Guys & Dolls, John Dickinson in 1776, Theodore Roosevelt in Newsies, and Juror #3 in Twelve Angry Men.

KRL: Do you have a favorite type of show to be in?

Eric: While I’ve done more musicals, I’ve really enjoyed the few plays I’ve appeared in (far less pressure!) I’m particularly drawn to dramatic pieces but love comedies, as well. I don’t consider myself to be a natural comedian, but I have been known to do some pretty ridiculous things on stage in the name of comedy. I have to admit, there’s no better feeling than making someone laugh.

KRL: What do you like best about acting/singing?

Eric in “Annie”

Eric: I find the theatre allows you to explore all kinds of different personas outside of your own. I love picking up a script and discovering a character’s “voice”. It also allows you to be – and often times, even demands you to be – someone outside of who you are in real-life, which can be really fun! Off-stage, I’m a pretty reserved kind of guy (except at home or with those I’m closest with – then I’m pretty goofy). On-stage, once the spotlight hits, I’m willing to do pretty much whatever a role requires.

KRL: What is the hardest?

Eric: Anyone who’s ever done a show with me knows that choreography/movement is NOT my greatest strength as a performer. It usually takes me WEEKS to learn the simplest dance moves and even then…

KRL: Future goals and dreams?

Eric in “My Fair Lady” in 1997

Eric: I often wonder what it would it be like to join a national tour of a show someday, with minimal choreography, of course! LOL I really enjoy singing and would like to try to do more of that in a concert-style setting. I’ve done it a couple of times, but it always makes me really nervous. It would be nice to learn to get past that. Also, having directed kids in several productions, I’d love to maybe try my hand at directing adults someday, but I think I’d have to learn to be more decisive and trust my instincts because I tend to overthink things.

KRL: Heroes?

Eric: My wife, Shannah. She’s the strongest, smartest woman I’ve ever known.

KRL: What do you feel has helped you the most in growing as an actor and singer?

Eric: I tell my students all the time that you can learn A LOT by just watching others and listening to people, so I do a lot of observing and a lot of listening. I pay close attention to how others rehearse and perform. Anytime a director I’m working with gives a note, I assume they’re speaking directly to me, even if they aren’t. I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with some wonderfully, talented actors and directors doing local theatre.

KRL: What advice would you have for someone wanting to get into acting?

Eric: Don’t wait! I was in my late-20s when I finally auditioned for my first community theatre musical, and I realize now how much fun I missed out on. Some of my dearest friendships have grown out of my involvement with local theatre.

KRL: Any funny and/or inspirational stories to share?

Eric in “Forever Plaid” in 1997

Eric: I met my wife doing my first show with Good Company Players back in 1996. We were both cast in the ensemble of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and understudied the leads. At the time, I had no intention of getting involved in a “showmance” but unbeknownst to me at the time, the whole cast had other plans and set us up for our first date after rehearsal one night. By the time the show opened, we were officially a couple and have now been married 24 years!

KRL: Awe what a sweet story! What is your dream role?

Eric: I have a few. Javert from Les Miserables, Sweeney or Judge Turpin from Sweeney Todd and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman are at the top of my list for dramatic pieces. For comedies, I’d love to have a go at Miss Trunchbull in Matilda or just about any Neil Simon comedy. Also, it’s kind of a family joke but I always say, “I would be a good Shrek!” That would be a lot of fun, I think!

KRL: Is it hard balancing a job and doing local theatre?

Eric: It is, especially given the work I do. I’m responsible for not only teaching but also directing/producing shows with my students, so the timing has to be right. It really forces me to carefully pick and choose projects for myself. I’m looking forward to retirement in a few years so I can – hopefully – perform more often!

KRL: I believe I have seen some of your children on stage as well is that correct? If so, what is it like seeing your kids on stage and sharing that love of theatre with them?

Eric as Daddy Warbucks in “Annie”

Eric: We are very much a “theatre family”, which has always been a special thing for us. It was never something we forced on our kids. They just saw how much fun we were having and wanted to come along for the ride! When I’m in the audience and one of them is on stage, you can bet I’m sitting there with a silly grin on my face or wiping away a tear from my eyes. Their talents far exceed anything I had at their ages and it’s wonderful watching them grow. I’ve had the privilege of sharing the stage with all three of my children, but a real highpoint for us as a family was in 2014 when the five of us appeared in The Music Man together. That was pretty great!

KRL: How Fun! Any hobbies?

Eric: I love to travel and am fascinated by history. I also really enjoy games/puzzles, reading, and an occasional round of golf. I used to be an avid tennis player but haven’t played in quite some time. I would love to get back into shape and onto the court again!

KRL: What is the next show you have coming up?

Eric: I’m proud to say I’ll be appearing in All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 with an extraordinary cast of gentlemen through CenterStage Clovis. In short, it’s a “docu-drama” about soldiers on both sides of WWI who temporarily cease fighting and celebrate Christmas together.

As an actor/singer, it’s proving to be very challenging material, but I know our production is going to offer a unique, powerful and moving experience for local audiences. We run November 12 – November 19.

KRL: Anything else you would like to add?

Eric: I am so proud and honored to be a part of the arts community we have here in the Central Valley. What we have is pretty remarkable!

Watch for an interview next week with the director of All Is Calm. You can purchase tickets and learn more on their website.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. And don’t miss out on Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where we feature mystery stories read by local actors!

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet. Lorie’s latest mystery novel, One of Us, is set in the Tower District of Fresno and the world of community theatre!<

1 Comment

  1. It’s a real honor to be alongside Eric. His work ethic and dedication to the craft is inspiring.


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