Before Samuel Vickers was even born, his parents decorated his nursery in football-inspired decor.
Sports were something his father, a former college football player, wanted to share with his son. However, Vickers was born with hemophilia, a rare blood disorder that reduces the ability for blood to clot normally. It causes the individual to bleed much more than normal, even from the smallest injury.
Living with hemophilia meant Vickers was not able to play full-contact sports such as football or hockey, activities that typically attract the young children of Gunnison.
The diagnosis didn’t stop Vickers, or his devoted parents — Mindy and Paul — from embarking on a different journey.
Vickers ended up falling in love with acting in middle school after trying out for the Gunnison Art Center’s (GAC) annual comedy show, SonofaGunn. The “small role” ignited a passion within him, one that he is now looking to pursue as a career after he graduates from Gunnison High School in the spring.
“You always hear people say ‘go with what you love, not what will get you the most money,’” Vickers said. “I thought, ‘Well, I really love (acting) so might as well see where it takes me.”
Next stop on that journey: New York City.
Vickers and his mom traveled this week to the city to audition for a coveted spot in the theater program at The Juilliard School, the number one choice for anyone searching for an education in theater, music and dance.
The stakes — and pressure — are certainly high but Vickers is using the opportunity to challenge himself and grow as a performer.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Vickers posed.
Deciding to pursue a full-time career in acting was a pretty easy one for Vickers, as it has played a dominant role in his life ever since that first role in the GAC variety show. Itching to get back onto the stage, Vickers used every opportunity he could get, participating in the SonofGunn shows in the years after (he was the lead role in last year’s “GAC to the Future”) and the Missoula Children’s Theatre camps that come to Gunnison every summer.
Being a student at Gunnison High School (GHS), however, was when the interest really “sky-rocketed,” as Vickers explained.
It was clear to others as well that the young performer had something special to offer audiences, as GHS Drama Director Susan Barrett recalled.
Vickers landed the leading role of Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” his freshman year, a feat that rarely ever happens.
“We normally try to feature our seniors, those who have proven themselves trustworthy of a lead role,” Barrett wrote in an email to the Times. “But as we sat and discussed the casting, his name kept coming back up. He was such a strong candidate that we had to cast him as Captain Hook.”
One of the many leading qualities Barrett saw in Vickers was his ability to think on his feet and always keep the audience laughing.
Comedy is certainly one of Vickers’ strengths, and one of his favorite genres to dig into.
“He’s always been a ham,” Mindy Vickers said. “It’s been amazing to watch him, he’s really found himself when he’s on the stage.”
What calls him to the stage isn’t fame or fortune, but an opportunity to contribute to someone’s life, even just for a few hours and make them feel something.
“It makes me feel fulfilled and overjoyed if I make somebody laugh or cry and get emotion out of them,” he explained. “I like serving others and influencing positive change.”
Even with the adversity Vickers has faced with hemophilia, Mindy is thankful it brought him into the welcoming community of the arts.
“It’s been a godsend,” she said.
Vickers also recognizes this, and instead of letting his condition bring him down, he lets it empower him.
“You can’t think of what makes you less than,” he explained. “You have to focus on what sets you apart.”
After a whirlwind trip to New York City, Vickers will be auditioning in Denver for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy — located in New York, as well as Los Angeles. He has also kept his options open to multiple other colleges that boast a successful and dedicated theater department.
The pursuit of being a full-time performer is a difficult, uphill battle. Vickers knows this, however, is taking just the mere opportunity of auditioning for one the most famous performing arts colleges as a big step forward.
“Whatever happens, happens and I’m ready to take on whatever it is,” he said with a genuine grin on his face. “The chance I get to really try and strive or something like this is awesome.”
(Roberta Marquette can be reached at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)