How did a Broadway veteran like Jim Poulos get lined up to serve as a director for a Novato summer theater group for teens and college students? Simple: His godmother asked him.
Poulos’ godmother is Emily Gates, a longtime music teacher at San Marin High School, where Marin Summer Theater takes place.
"She asked, and I was available," Poulos says.
Poulos, a professional actor and San Marin graduate whose resume includes leading roles on Broadway, will be returning to the town of his roots to direct the first of three shows presented by Marin Summer Theater. Gates is a co-founder of MST with volunteer Pat Nims, who directs musicals at San Marin during the school year and will be at the helm for the upcoming production of “” MST is open to student performers, technicians and artists between the ages of 13 and 23.
Poulos will team with Gates and Nims to direct “Songs For A New World” by Jason Robert Brown. According to Nims, MST has "seen an uptick in audition requests since the announcement" of Poulos as director. A 2010 company member told Nims, “I didn't think I could be looking forward to the season any more than I was already. I was wrong.”
Gates has a long history of offering roles to Poulos. The first was in San Marin's 1980 production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” when Poulos was just 8 years old. He continued to work with Gates on many more projects when he went through the music and drama programs at San Marin before graduating in 1990.
Poulos says his most memorable high school performances were in San Marin's show choir. Yes, Poulos says he watches “Glee.”
He went on to appear in professional productions all over the country, most notably from 1998-2000 when he played Mark Cohen in the Broadway smash “Rent,” replacing Anthony Rapp, who originated the role. Poulos also played Huckleberry Finn in the original Broadway production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” He has performed on the daytime TV drama “The Guiding Light,” and he recently took part in a London premier of Hal Prince's new musical, “Paradise Found.”
Poulos humbly says he "got to work with a bunch of famous people" as if his own successes don't suggest that he's become a bit of a celebrity himself. The “Paradise Found” cast included Mandy Patinkin, Shuler Hensley, Judy Kaye, Kate Baldwin and other preeminent talents.
The list of impressive credits goes on, but for Poulos, “Rent” is a definite highlight of his career. "Most of Broadway is entertainment," he says. "It was great to be part of something with such a meaningful message."
Poulos says he loves living in New York, but he definitely misses home. He looks forward to returning to the Bay Area with his wife, Melissa Anderson, also a performer and director in New York, who grew up in San Rafael and graduated from Marin Academy.
Poulos' advice to aspiring actors? "Work hard. That's what it's all about."
Nims echoes this sentiment, "Jim’s experience and professional success will be inspirational to the company, and his work ethic will demonstrate to them just how hard one needs to work to make a living on stage," he says.
Poulos also acknowledges the difficulty surviving in show business.
“If it's something you have to do, then do it,” he says. “If there's something else you'd like to do, do that instead."
But the path for Poulos wasn't always certain. He set out to be a football player and played on the San Marin freshman and junior varsity teams. But by junior year, Poulos, who stands at 5-foot-6 today, "looked around at all the other kids" and realized he "would never be big."
Actually, he was wrong about that.
* Pre-Audition Workshop: March 26
* Auditions: March 26 and April 2
* Performances: July 7-30
* Location: Emily Gates Student Center, San Marin High School, Novato