When one first looks at senior Reece Suarez, “shy” isn’t a word that comes to mind.
With eyebrow and nose piercings and a sweatshirt featuring pop diva Christina Aguilera, Suarez gives off the impression of a bold and fearless individual. One might be shocked to learn that, until recently, he had been incredibly shy.
But about a year ago, Suarez found an immense passion for theater. And it’s allowed him to finally reveal the spunky thespian within.
“[Theater has] always been a thing that I’ve wanted to do, but I was always so terrified,” Suarez said. “I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t think I would even be accepted into anything.”
In fact, singing has always been Suarez’s main love. Ever since he can remember, he’s been attracted to the discipline. His idols include female pop music icons Aguilera, Ariana Grande and Amy Winehouse. But last year, when Suarez heard that the Thespians were putting on a production of “Into the Woods,” he couldn’t resist.
“I found out that the school was doing ‘Into the Woods,’ which is my favorite musical of all time,” Suarez said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my god. I have to audition.’”
In his first production, Suarez snagged the role of Cinderella’s stepmother. And that one musical sparked something inside him.
“This is what I want. This is what I love.”
“By the end of our first show, he was absolutely obsessed,” Suarez’s friend, sophomore Alana Agresspahl, said. “He auditioned for a theater camp [at the Broward Center for Performing Arts] … and he was amazing.”
Not even a year later, Suarez has already participated in six more plays and musicals. Currently, he is working on his seventh– a production of “Hairspray” at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. The musical will be a professional show, with adult actors playing the older characters. The production is a highly selective eight-week mentorship program in which students learn about acting, singing and musical theater. Out of the 100 people that auditioned, only 40 got in.
“I really didn’t think I was going to make it,” Suarez said.
Suarez initially heard about the mentorship program from his friends at the Broward Center for Performing Arts’s summer theater program. In this summer program, Suarez was able to be a part of the musicals “High School Musical” and “Tarzan,” as well as meet several new friends from different schools that share his passion for theater. One of those friends, Francesca Zacoor, believes that the rigor and intensity of theater camp allow for strong connections to form.
“Theater camps help foster really good friendships because, for a few weeks, we are thrown together and ‘forced’ to create the best show we possibly can,” Zacoor said. “We see the best and worst of each other in those few weeks through all of our blood, sweat and tears.”
But Suarez doesn’t plan to limit his passion for theater to high school or summer programs. After he graduates from CCHS in 2019, Suarez plans to move to California and pursue theater as a career.
“Ever since [‘Into the Woods’], I’ve just been like, ‘This is what I want. This is what I love,’” Suarez said.
“If there’s something that you want to do, just f—ing do it.”
After moving to the west coast, Suarez plans to take acting and musical theater workshops and begin auditioning for roles. Though the decision to move across the country straight out of high school may seem ludicrous to some, it makes perfect sense to Suarez, who never saw himself taking the traditional route of attending a university.
“[Moving to California] has always been in the back of my mind. Always,” Suarez said. “College was never for me.”
Though Suarez has little doubt that California is where he’s meant to be, his mother is a bit more conflicted about his plan.
“Being Reece’s mom is one of the most amazing gifts I could [have] ever asked for,” Suarez’s mother Candice Murphy said. “Of course, I do not want him to leave. I know that is selfish on my part. I am scared for him [because] the world is not kind in many ways, and a lot is to be learned. At the same time, I am so very excited for him. Reece is a very talented young man with so much ambition, determination and heart in his dream. I am sure that he will make it all come true.”
Emphasizing the impact that becoming a thespian has had on his life, Suarez says he doesn’t know where he would be today if he wasn’t involved in theater. He admits that he would likely be applying to colleges he had no interest in attending and would lack a sense of fulfillment in his life. But rather than always taking the expected path, Suarez encourages those like with big dreams like his to take a leap of faith.
“You can do anything if you put your mind to it. That’s so cheesy, but it’s true,” Suarez said. “If there’s something that you want to do, just f—ing do it.”
Photo by The Lariat Photography