_Michael Stewart Allen, a 1995 UNC alumnus, is a cast member of the Broadway hit and Tony Award-winning play “War Horse,” which opened at Durham Performing Arts Center Tuesday.
Staff writer Madeline Hurley spoke with Allen about his time at UNC, his life in New York and “War Horse.”_
Daily Tar Heel: Did you always plan to pursue acting?
Michael Stewart Allen: I was always interested in acting. … I thought I wasn’t going to do it when I got to college.
There was a thing back then — I don’t know if it still exists — called The LAB! Theatre. I got into a show there my first week I got to school.
And also seeing shows at PlayMakers, I just really realized that I could do this as a profession as well.
DTH: What did you do after graduation?
MSA: I did teach high school for one year. Once I wasn’t satisfied with that, I packed up everything I owned, put it in a U-Haul van and moved to New York City.
I gave myself two years to see if I could make it, and I’ve been there 17 (years) now.
DTH: What were your first few years in New York like? What were your biggest challenges?
MSA: For actors … once you’ve got a job, it is really kind of like vacation. You’d be doing it anyway. You love what you do. I love what I do. But getting the job takes a lot of work.
DTH: What was the first thing that went well and made you decide to stay in New York?
MSA: When I first got to New York, I got a job just for myself as a security guard in the Diamond District, and I worked from midnight to 8 a.m. It seemed like the perfect job because I could have all day for auditions and to take classes.
I did that for about a year, until I realized that I wasn’t doing well in auditions anymore because I was so tired.
About halfway through the first year, I got cast in a show at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and I wound up doing a show there … and that was really the first big break I had.