NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio — Who says you can’t go home again? New York City-based actor Timothy Allen has, and he couldn’t be happier.
Until this summer, other than occasions such as Christmas visits, the last time he visited his childhood home in North Ridgeville for a lengthy stay was six years ago.
He is currently home for about seven weeks for his performance in “Matilda” at the Beck Center in Lakewood.
Born in Fairview Hospital, Allen lived in North Ridgeville through his high school graduation in 2000.
“My mom even lives in the same house,” he said.
Allen is the youngest of four. His siblings include a brother who teaches art in China and a sister in Pennsylvania, as well as a sister in Strongsville.
Allen started his acting career in the third grade “as a snowflake at the Old Town Theater” in North Ridgeville. Did the urge to act strike like a lightning bolt?
“It’s a bug,” he said. “Mom pushed me a bit, because she knew I liked to sing in the choir where you can make more friends. That one show was it. I was hooked.”
Allen participated in sports such as basketball and swimming, but, little by little, he increased his participation in area plays to three to four per year, beginning in seventh grade.
He performed in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in his senior year at the high school and went on to play the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” in Elyria, the role of Jesus in “Godspell” at the Huntington Playhouse and with workshop players in Amherst in “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
But Allen said he really loved North Ridgeville’s Old Town Theater, and played various roles there that were “comedic, second banana and a fun, little sidekick.”
Singing came naturally to him; he said he sang all the time — to the point that his mother “had to make a rule: no singing at the table.”
His acting ability was encouraged by a director one summer in Elyria when he did “Meet Me In St. Louis.” The director told his mother, “If Timmy is interested in this, he has a really good voice and has really good potential if he wants to be a professional actor.”
At the time, Allen was going into seventh grade and said the director “really lit a spark in me.”
Allen has come a long way since then.
After graduating from Kent State University with a degree in English, he taught English and directed theater programs at Midpark and Berea high schools. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in musical theater in 2012 from San Diego State University after feeling the call to go West. But he left California to come back to teach in Berea one more time.
“I ran drama programs and was performing on the side, so it seemed a natural time to move to New York City.”
It took a big leap of faith, he said, “because I didn’t know anybody, I was 31, which was like being 23 again.”
It was tough, he said, “and is still tough after six years.”
Between performances, wherever he can find an audition, Allen now commutes twice a week as a teacher at the Philadelphia Conservatory for the Arts.
“I have always been a teacher at heart, too,” he said. “I moved to New York to make contacts and build up a resume. I was looking for teaching jobs, but kept getting acting jobs. So, I am still teaching and still auditioning, but sometimes I am limited due to my teaching schedule.”
Allen has performed in various off-Broadway plays and regional Broadway productions, including “The Grinch” and “Annie.”
This is the first time Allen is performing in the Cleveland area since he left for New York.
“It is a great homecoming,” he said, “meeting up with theater friends in Cleveland and some Kent State friends.”
He has come home for the summer to play Mr. Wormwood in the Beck Center’s production of “Matilda the Musical.” He is happy to be back to also teach and encourage young people in the area, he said.
Now 37, Allen said he hasn’t considered the industries of television and movies yet. “I would need some other classes for camera work, for commercials, voiceovers — have had some, but would take more.”
What is worth it to go to New York City, he was asked?
“Well,” he said, “I still live there, so absolutely yes. It was the best but the scariest decision I ever made. But I have learned so much about who I am, and my eyes got opened to (so many things), especially multiculturalism.”
What does it take to succeed in New York?
“It just really takes getting out there and doing it,” he said.
His advice for other actors: “You have to believe in yourself and your potential 100 percent, and you have to be extremely patient. Just when you think you have nothing left, some doors open to you … if you do the work.
“Artists have the weighty job of holding up the mirror to our audiences. Many people may not be able to express their stories or their emotions, but sometimes an audience can empathize with a story when they see it on the stage. Suddenly, our struggles don’t seem as lonely when we can see that someone understands us.
“I really would like to emphasize, though, that living and working in Northeastern Ohio has truly been the keystone in my development as an actor and a person. While it may not currently be my home, it is my home in my heart. And I will be eternally grateful for those here that took a chance on me (that expanded) into the career that I have today.”
But Allen has one more goal beyond acting: “I would love to have my own family,” he said.
“Matilda” runs through Aug. 11 at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. For more information on the performances, visit https://www.beckcenter.org/.
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