Gray, Olynyk Take Their Game To A Different Stage

Oct. 29, 2010

SPOKANE, Wash. - Two Gonzaga University men's basketball players have taken their game to a different hardwood stage, the hardwood stage of the Magnuson Theatre in College Hall on the Gonzaga campus, to be exact.

Senior Steven Gray and sophomore Kelly Olynyk are part of the cast of "Romeo and Juliet" which concludes its two-weekend run this weekend. The final performances are scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

For Gray it's his second go-round of a theater production, although this one is drastically different than his lead role a year ago in the reader's play "Take Me Out". For Olynyk, he kind of tagged along at the urging of Gray to "come and find out" if he would like it or not.

As was the case last year with "Take Me Out," this year's play is also under the direction of Rev. Kevin Connell, S.J., principal at Spokane's Gonzaga Prep.

Gray wasn't certain if he was going to give acting another try this year, but Fr. Connell "was on me a little bit, like you should come and audition. But I didn't know if I had the time this year."

When auditions rolled around, Gray figured why not and enticed Olynyk to join him. Neither have any regrets.

"Come the day of auditions I figured when am I going to do this again, so why not. I'm really glad I did because it's been a lot of fun," Gray acknowledged.

"Steve was going and asked me if I was interested in trying to do it with him. I was like why not, I have nothing else to do since there was no basketball going on. I'll go try it. I've never done it before but it seems kind of interesting. So I went and got a part," Olynyk recalled of last spring's auditions.

But the roll he auditioned for didn't end up being the part he got because he was in Turkey the first part of September playing for Canada in the FIBA World Championships basketball tournament when auditions were starting back on campus.



"In the summer I came back late because I was with the national team, so I didn't have the part I actually got. I came back a couple of weeks late and it was about a month before the play started," Olynyk said. "Fr. Connell said if I still wanted to be in it he'd give me a different part. I said sure, I'll do it because Steve was doing it and I thought it would be fun."

Gray plays Tybalt, Romeo's rival, while Olynyk plays Abraham, who is Romeo's friend and a servant in the Montague House. At the end of the play Olynyk also plays a watchman who works under the Prince.

"I'm around Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio a lot on the Montague side," Olynyk explained of his main role.

Neither Gray nor Olynyk have many lines.

"The character I play isn't the wordiest of people," Gray said. "He's very straight to the point, gets out what he has to say in a very concise manner, so the lines haven't been too bad."

Olynyk likens it to what he has to do daily on the basketball floor.

"I have four different scenes of a couple lines. I only have one speech that's over eight or 10 lines. Everything else is kind of dialogue lines because I'm usually with a group of three or four people," Olynyk said of his speaking parts. "You would think it would be hard at the start, but it's really not that hard. You practice it so much. It's like running over a (basketball) play or shooting. How do you remember how to shoot? Well, you do it enough times, or how do you remember how to run a certain play. You run it enough times that you remember it. In the rehearsals we run it so much you start remembering other people's lines."

But Gray said he wouldn't want to be Romeo.

"I couldn't have been Romeo, far too many lines," Gray chuckled. "Watching the play he (Romeo) goes through so many emotions in such a short time, but to remember all the lines on top of it wouldn't have been for me."

Olynyk is enjoying the experience, something which allows him to channel his energies in another direction when he's off the basketball court.

"I love it," he said enthusiastically. "It's really something else other than just basketball to focus on. It sets your mind free a little bit. For three hours a day you get to go be someone else and I think that part is really cool, too."

But it is a little tougher than he originally thought it would be.

"It's a lot more than I thought it would be. It's not just speaking or moving. Some of it is improvisation, thinking on your feet and stimulating your brain. I think it's a really good thing to broaden your horizons and cross basketball with other stuff. I'm sure it helps your basketball, too, like your IQ and thinking on the floor," Olynyk said while drawing an analogy between basketball and acting. "You have to remember stuff; you have to be saying stuff while doing stuff, so I think it's all good for your game as well."

Gray said this play is considerably more intricate than the reader's play he was in last fall, and it's made him become even more appreciative of the theatre.

"It is a little tougher because we have the whole deal, a whole bunch of stuff I didn't realize in doing the first one that goes along with these full productions. All the tech stuff, a whole group of people making certain the lights do this, and these sounds come up, and the people who work on the sets, the costumes," he said in amazement. "I didn't realize we have to come to the make-up workshops and just the time everyone has to put in to make sure everything runs smoothly has been so different from the first one. The first one we had a couple of boxes and t-shirts and that was it, and we had the script. I didn't realize so much went into it."

Gray said this experience has been "less nerves and more excitement.

"Acting is like anything, even in basketball. The first time you come out for Midnight Madness you're nervous. I think it's sort of you have that feeling, that you've done this and you know what it's like when you get out there. Once you get out there it's like rehearsals. You just have more adrenalin because there is a crowd. I think I'm more excited than nervous, and I'm not near the lead so that makes it nice. The first night was awesome. We played in front of a sold out crowd," Gray said.

And both agreed having their teammate there made it a little more special.

"A lot of fun having Kelly there," Gray said when asked what it was like having Olynyk on the stage.

And they are, after all, rivals.

"We are from different Houses. He's a Montague, part of Romeo's posse. We don't get along. We don't interact, me to him, but we don't get along," Gray said of their relationship in the play.

And, not to ruin the play, but Tybalt does get killed in the play.

"I make it right past intermission and then I'm gone," Gray smiled.

And, yes, Olynyk was a little disappointed when he found it he's not the one to do the dastardly deed.

"I was a little disappointed," he joked. "But I have to stop a guy from saving Steven so basically I aid in his death, so I am happy."

They haven't given much thought to their acting futures - whether it is another Gonzaga play or long after their collegiate careers are over.

"I don't know," Gray said when asked if he would maybe be doing more acting somewhere in the future when he has settled down following basketball. "I definitely will be going to the theatre and watching. I have a new appreciation for them. Other than school field trips, which were fun, I would have gone to more but it wasn't ever anything I would say I was ever really into (as a youth). Who knows how I'm going to feel watching. When you watch something you get that want and desire to do it again. I see myself doing something else, potentially, but we'll see."

Olynyk, with two more years of college ahead of him, isn't so certain if he will return to the theatre stage.

"I'd like to, but it's a lot of time commitment. I can't say one way or the other whether I'm going to do it again or not," he said of his acting future.

But for now, they are enjoying both sets of hardwood stages.

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