Nantucket Portraits

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A.T. Wilce

Rob Smith

Tell us about yourself.

I'm from Amherst, MA. I came out here in '82 when my friend from high school told me to come out for the summer. We were staying with a local family, and one night my roommate came home drunk and told our landlord that we were devil worshipers, so they tossed us out. But I was working for Todd Arno and he told me I could live above the restaurant. So I've spent a lot of time working as a painter, and in restaurants. I had my own painting business for a while. I left the island for a few years to go study at UMASS, and a couple more years to go live out in Seattle. But around '92 I realized that I wanted to come back to Nantucket. My dream is to be a professional actor, and plan B is to be a house-painter and a community theater actor. So when I got to be a certain age, it occurred to me that I could put more effort into the dream of full-time professional acting, so I started spending winters in New York, trying to integrate with the theater community there. I've been working with the Naked Angels... it's the longest standing readers-theater/writers workshop in New York. And I've found some great success in that.

A year ago February, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had 40% of my pancreas and some of my small intestine removed, a few rounds of chemo... But I sailed through it with a lot of support from this island, and from the theater community in New York. I was very lucky that my family was able to get me a small apartment in Boston, where I could stay during my treatment. I had my last treatment in November of last year, and so far so good. We think that we managed to nip it in the bud. But I won't really know until 5 years out.

Since my diagnosis, I'm down 80 pounds. I'm biking everywhere, I've been fishing, my blood pressure is great... Honestly, I can't complain about the cancer at all. It got me out of some bad habits.

Any advice you'd like to give?

If you wanna be an actor, there are so many ways to get into it. Even if you're shy and you don't want to be on stage, there's reader's theater, armchair theater... Nantucket has the short play festival, the improv company, three theaters... Lots of options. The more theater the better. Also, don't think too much. They always say "no acting, please." You see these people who get up on stage and they're very dramatic, and they're overly dramatic... and to the audience it's not very convincing, because nobody acts like that in real life. Certainly there are characters that are written to be that way, but for the most part over-acting doesn't sell. So be natural.

Most importantly, figure out what you want to do. When you figure that out, go for it. Do it. Don't let anybody tell you not to. Unless it's smack, or crack... other hard drugs. You can forget about those things. But do other things in moderation. Everything in moderation, except for love and passion.
 

Humans of Nantucket, modeled after the famous Humans of New York, intends to portray various members of the island community who share with us their lives, dreams and hopes.

Robert Smith is a local landscape and portrait photographer. He will soon begin building a website to feature his work, and will also shortly provide links to his Flickr and Instagram accounts. He can be reached at 508-221-6926