Alex Vanburen is living his childhood dream of being Young Tarzan on the Barter Theatre stage. Who hasn't watched Tarzan and then dreamed of swinging through the trees, being able to talk to animals and not having to wash your hands before dinner?
"I watched Tarzan so much when I was little, so I was so excited when I heard there was an opportunity to audition for Young Tarzan," he said. "I imagined myself as Tarzan while playing with my sisters and friends for years."
That imagination stood him in good stead when he found out that Barter Theatre was looking for someone to play Young Tarzan in Tarzan: The Stage Musical.
"I found out the Barter was looking for someone who was 12 or younger who looked 10 years old or younger. I fit that part, and this is an absolute dream for me."
The auditions were "crazy and suspenseful. But fun," he says. "I had to sign in and get a number on the day of the audition. The auditions were on the main stage, and when we were done you had to wait to see if you'd get a call back. If you got one, you had to go back on stage and read through some of the character's lines. When we were dismissed we were told that if we were selected, we would receive a call within the next couple of weeks. We actually received the call within a few hours, and I was asked to do all of the performance instead of splitting them with another young actor. I am so excited that the Barter has given this opportunity to me."
In addition to his acting, Alex has to sing; and he says the music is "great." Phil Collins and David Zippel composed the songs.
He also had to learn a few stage effects, like jumping off a platform and climbing ropes.
As if singing, acting, jumping and climbing weren't enough, he says it has "taken a serious commitment to learn what is expected" with regard to lines and staging. "But I really enjoy doing it because this is my dream job. It is really fun that this production involves improvisation."
The time commitment for this dream job is immense, especially for a student. "We have been rehearsing since the middle of July, two to three days a week for two to four hours. When school started in August, my rehearsals have be in the afternoons after school. They typically last two-to-four hours, three to four days a week. I do my homework in the car on the way to or on the way home from rehearsals. On the days I don't have to be at Barter, I spend time at home practicing, when my homework is finished."
But all that work is worth it because "it is fun playing this role, because I am working with a lot of other actors. And the director, Richard Rose, is really nice to work for. It is much better than I could have ever imagined. I'm having the time of my life. I hope this is only the beginning of me working as an actor with Barter Theatre."
Alex says this is his dream job, and he hopes to become a resident actor at Barter Theater or work off-Broadway.
"The actors, stage management and director at Barter are so nice, and I just love performing." He says his favorite part of the role is getting to hang out with "Terk." Terk is the gorilla who teaches Young Tarzan the way of the apes.
Alex spends the first act on stage and is in the ensemble during the second act, except when he reappears as Young Tarzan during a flashback.
Before this debut role with Barter Theatre, Alex took classes through Barter's Youth Academy. He has been involved in productions at the Lincoln Theatre (The Princess and The Pea), Jonesborough Repertory Theatre (Camelot) and in school and at church. He is in drama at his school, Liberty Bell Middle School, Johnson City, Tenn., and has been in chorus since elementary school.
While he enjoys drama and musicals (like Tarzan), he also loved playing King Arthur in a comedic production of Camelot.
When he isn't rehearsing, Alex enjoys being involved in his school chorus and singing in the church choir. He like to read, do gymnastics, run, climb and hike.
Alex is 12, in the seventh grade and lives in Johnson City, Tenn., with his dad, Alex, and his mom, Nikki.