Few actors can say that their first gig out of college was on Broadway, but Adam Kantor can. After turning down callbacks for Rent's national tour to finish school, Kantor was cast as Mark in Broadway's last run of Rent.
How did he get the part?
"I ask myself that every day," Kantor says.
Kantor met Rent's director, Michael Greif (C81), when Greif came to Northwestern and directed the American Music Theatre Project's In the Bubble in summer 2007. Greif cast Kantor as the lead in that show.
He then recommended Kantor for the national tour of Rent, and Kantor auditioned but declined a callback to focus on finishing his degree.
Kantor, again with Greif's encouragement, then auditioned for the Broadway production, acting out a monologue by Mark, one of the lead characters and the narrator of the show. The monologue, which opens the show, was one of four pieces he prepared for his Rent audition.
During the audition Greif told Kantor, "Now do it as if you're talking to a stadium filled with artists your age who are like you."
He took the direction and tried the monologue again. "Michael said half-jokingly that that performance is why I got the part," Kantor says. "The way I took the direction and changed impressed them."
After earning the part, Kantor, who completed his theater degree last December and wrapped up a certificate in music theater, withdrew from the theater department's Senior Showcase. He now lives on the Upper East Side in Manhattan.
"I'm the youngest one in the entire company, from the backstage crew to the stage managers. … I'm the youngest person in the building," he says. "It's a bit overwhelming, but everyone seems to believe very strongly that I'm exactly where I should be, and I should be fine."
Rent, which has been running for 12 years, is a well-oiled machine. When Kantor stepped onto the stage March 24, his presence marked the only change in an experienced ensemble. (In April the producers extended Kantor's contract through the show's closing, Sept 7.)
"I don't think there is a program out there that would prepare anybody for this particular type of experience of being put into a show," he says. "But in terms of preparing myself as an actor, I think I utilized Northwestern's program in such a way that I feel prepared."
Originally from Great Neck, N.Y., Kantor played his first role in sixth grade: Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors. His first big lead was Daddy Warbucks in Annie, and that was just in seventh grade. At Northwestern he was one of only two freshmen to be in the cast of the Dolphin Show.
Since then he's been in many Northwestern productions. His role in Rent marks his first professional production.
The jump to Broadway has made Kantor contemplative about his success as an actor.
"The same way a mathematician enjoys solving a really hard problem, I embrace solving a complex role," he says. "It makes sense that I'm into acting because I've always had an interesting dichotomy of wanting to be a silent observer and loving to watch people … but at the same time a deep desire of wanting to have attention, to be seen and heard."
— Steph Yiu (J08)
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Photo by Joan Marcus