We all know the line from countless movie musicals: “Kid, you’re going out a nobody but you’re coming back a star.”
For Justin Alekoski, that’s what happened when, on a whim, he auditioned for the Santa Clara Players’ production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Alekoski wowed audiences as the flamboyant Christopher Wren, who, like everybody else in this play has a secret to hide.
A San José native, who says his first ambition as a child was to be a professional baseball player, has never strayed far from home. He went to school in San José and his day job is as a project manager at a local software start up.
He only ended up auditioning for The Mousetrap by a curious turn of events — almost as curiously coincidental as the ones in the play.
“I’ve never been on the stage,” he said. “But my aunt Karie Vaughn was in the Players and she moved to Ireland. One day, out of the blue, she sent me a message about Players’ auditions. My family encouraged me to try this, so I went to the audition.”
After reading for several roles in a “kind of square” way, Alekoski then “tried to put some character into it.”
His character so impressed Director Robert Casillas that he cast Alekoski as Wren.
“I was actually a little shocked that they chose me,” Alekoski said, “Even after I told him I had never done this before.”
Even for the most talented, success remains 95% perspiration.
“I had a very large learning curve,” said Alekoski. “I researched the play, watched videos of it. The rest of the cast were so good at what they do and I didn’t want to let them down. Getting my lines was difficult and I had to do a British accent. But the cast encouraged me.
“The character was difficult at the beginning,” he continued. “Christopher is gay but you can’t show that directly. In that time, being gay was taboo, so you can’t be explicit. You have to do it in gestures.”
Alekoski also helped develop the costume for the role.
“The costume mostly came from my closet,” he said. “My wife’s scarves became major props for me. I could be fiddling with a scarf and saying a lot about this character without speaking a word.”
Christopher’s extravagant hairstyle was also an education for Alekoski about hair products.
“I didn’t cut my hair for several months,” he explained. “It took me a while to learn how to do hair spray and gel to get my hair to stand up. As my hair kept getting longer during rehearsals it became harder and harder or to keep this hair standing up.”
Alekoski hopes to continue in community theater, time permitting.
“I work really long hours and performing is very time-consuming,” he said. “But I would like to continue if I have the time.”
“Justin was very pleasant to work with and did an amazing job with his role,” said Santa Clara Players President and Managing Director George Doeltz. “We would be delighted to have him back again.”