Home on the stage: Ben Adams brings pizzazz to Orlando church productions
Home on the stage
By Brian Hudgins
Ben Adams bring pizzazz to Orlando church productions
A short-term plan gave Ben Adams (B.F.A. ’88) a place to flourish in Florida and the opportunity to use his full toolbox of skills acquired as a Texas State student in theatre and dance. Little did he know it would turn out to be a career path for the long haul.
Today, Adams is the director of visual arts and set design for St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando.
"We graduated and moved to Orlando to work at Universal and Disney as kind of the first step of our career journey," Adams says. He was joined on this journey by his wife, Stephanie Zerbel Adams (B.S. ’88), who earned her degree in music education.
Before choosing Florida, the pair took off on a 10-month theatre company tour. It proved to be valuable, featuring a production team of four actors. "It was a great practical application of recent theatrical education," Adams says. "We were able to see the United States and grow as performers and people."
The tour solidified the couple’s relationship and career direction. "We thought that we would move on to Los Angeles or New York afterward to work a couple of years, but we have found Orlando to be home," Adams says. He got a part-time job at a CBS-TV affiliate, and she started at Universal Studios Florida. Both also worked at Disney World, but the majority of their job opportunities came through Universal.
As a performer at Universal for 15 years, Adams played Elwood Blues in "The Blues Brothers Show." Later, as director for Universal’s "Halloween Horror Nights," he made the transition from performer to director.
In 1995, the Adamses began attending St. Luke’s and served as volunteers for its productions. By 2007, Ben Adams was named the church’s director of visual arts and set design. St. Luke’s staged "Driving Miss Daisy" at the start of 2018 and "Peter and the Star Catcher" in the spring. Other shows at St. Luke’s have included "Hairspray," "Big River," and "Beauty and the Beast."
The off-stage supervisory role Adams developed during the last decade has given him a chance to use the full complement of skills he learned at Texas State. Being able to pull from lessons in a mid-1980s stagecraft class is one, while two semesters of sewing gave Adams necessary costume skills. There are also the verbal cues from former professors. "There are many times I think, ‘What would Dr. Hannon do?’ he says of Dr. Dan Hannon, the distinguished professor emeritus of theatre who died in 2015. From a performance standpoint,
Adams says he has often drawn upon the originality and creativity he saw in Dr. Charles Pascoe. The former director of children’s theatre for Texas State, Pascoe died in 2010.
Adams says meeting Stephanie at the university and having the opportunity to perform with her in professional and community theatre stands out as a career highlight. The couple has a son, Asher, who is a professional photographer and is also active in music and local theatre. "We raised our son in the theatre," Adams says "He did his homework while sitting in the aisles."
St. Luke’s also has a 21-year history as one of the founding and leading community partners behind Shepherd’s Hope, a faith-based nonprofit that helps provide healthcare access for uninsured and underinsured residents in Central Florida. Producing videos for Shepherd’s Hope is a way for Adams to share his skills. "It’s a way for performers and actors to be philanthropic and give to a great cause," he says.
The most rewarding part of the process, Adams says, is to work on a show and see volunteers meet for the first time. Painting or building a set piece allows people to start new friendships that often continue after a show is closed. "When I leave for the day, that’s what brings me the most joy," he says.