Here is another in a series of interviews with principal cast members in The Sound of Music at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis.

Actor David Schmittou

Actor David Schmittou

Recently I was able to set up an interview with the very talented actor and singer, David Schmittou, who is starring as Captain Von Trapp in the current Beef and Boards production – The Sound of Music.

Q: David, I always like to start at the beginning – so tell me, where were you born and raised?

David: I was born in Oklahoma, but the family was in the process of moving when I was born. When I was only a month or two old, we moved to Boonville Missouri.

Q: So you lived in Boonville through your high school years?

David: I grew up in Boonville and lived there until part way through my freshman year of high school. Then my father’s work caused us to move around. We went to Miami, FL for a year and a half, then came back to Missouri. But this time, to Joplin, MO. I stayed in Missouri until I graduated from Missouri State.

Q: Are there any other performers in your family?

David: My mother was a singer. She had a beautiful voice, sang in the church choir and was a frequent soloist. She was a soloist at most of the churches around town. She also performed in a ‘Sweet Adelines’ type group called The Showboaters.

Q: What was your earliest exposure to theatre?

David: Other than seeing my mother perform, my first theatrical experience was a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore in Columbia, MO. I believe I was nine. I loved the show so much that I walked around for the next couple of weeks singing and whistling the music. My parents were so impressed, they went out and bought me the complete D’Oyly Carte recording of the show. (Three LP’s!) The following year, my parents took me to a touring production of My Fair Lady. And I was hooked! But I didn’t really think about performing myself. I was a terribly shy kid. But, I loved attending shows. Then in the eighth grade, I did a school play. It was a one-act that everyone in class was required to participate in. I got some laughs and as they say, “the rest is history…” I took drama courses in high school and auditioned for school plays and community theatre.

Q: Where did you study theatre primarily?

David: I attended Missouri State University and majored in theatre and dance.

Q: So what was your favorite college role?

My favorite college role? That’s a tough one. There were so many great experiences. I loved playing Rev. David in The Foreigner and Gary in Noises Off. I was lucky to be able to do both of those shows when they were new pieces. I also played Samovar the Lawyer, the Groucho Marx role, in A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine. That was the first time I pushed to be seen for a role that I wasn’t being considered for. But, I would have to say that performing in A Chorus Line was the high point of my college experience. Through a chance series of events, our university got the rights for the first non-Equity production of A Chorus Line in the United States. As dance isn’t my primary talent, I was truly forced to push myself. I had never worked so hard on a role before (and maybe not since), but it was quite a thrilling feeling of accomplishment. They pushed us very hard, and I believe we all rose to the challenge.

Q: What a great memory! After college, did you go straight into a theatre career?

David: I did not go right into acting after college. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to head to New York or to Los Angeles, so I spent a few years opening stores and training staffs in the retail world. When that job took me to the NYC area, I was able to see a lot of theatre, and realized how much I missed performing. And then, auditions for BRITT (Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatrical Training) came around; I auditioned and was accepted into the program.
It was a year-long program that Burt Reynolds started when he was running his dinner theatre in Jupiter, FL. They held auditions in Florida, NY and LA, and each year they would choose a company consisting of 10 or 12 members. We spent the year taking classes and workshops, rehearsing the season and performing in the productions with Equity actors. At the end of the year, we’d learned quite a lot, had added a half dozen roles to our resumes, and had earned our membership in Actor’s Equity Association, the professional stage actor’s union. I’ve been performing ever since.

Q: That sounds like a really great program for theatre studies. Did you feel any trepidation about taking that big step into an acting career?

David: It was pretty frightening to leave a steady paycheck and good benefits to spend a year living off savings while attending BRITT. But once that giant leap was made, I’ve just kept pushing forward.

Q: Describe for me some of the highlights of your career so far.

David: Getting my first Equity contract. Performing as a member of the quartet that helped celebrate Uta Hagen’s 50th year in the theatre at Town Hall. Booking the European tour of The Rocky Horror Show (ed: as Brad Majors) and recording the cast album. Performing in the American regional premiere of The Drowsy Chaperone and winning a Kevin Kline Award for the role.

Q: Kevin Klein Awards – those are the prestigious theatre awards given in the St. Louis area, correct?

David: That’s right.

Q: So, what have your favorite professional roles been?

David: Whatever role I happen to be playing at the time. But, past favorites would include Prof. Harold Hill in The Music Man, Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone, Father Flynn in Doubt and Oscar in Sweet Charity.

Q: Can you recall any low points along the way?

David: Well, sometimes it’s difficult to be away from home and loved ones working all over the country. And of course, there have been roles I wanted badly that I didn’t book.

Q: That can be a disappointing side of the business, to be sure. Can you give any advice to young actors and actresses who might have an eye on a career in theatre?

David: Like a boy scout, always be prepared. If you want the job, work for it. Remember, there are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who want the role you want. They’re all auditioning as well and they all believe they’re the best person for the role. So the more prepared you are, the better your chances. And don’t take the rejections personally. There are dozens and dozens of reasons one person can be cast over another.

Q: Very well put, David. That’s wonderful advice. So tell me, what other activities do you like outside of theatre?

David: I still like to attend other shows and I’m a big movie buff. Also, I love spending time with friends and family; cards and game nights. I also enjoy being out in nature. I love hiking, nature viewing, photography and canoeing.

Q: Yes, I have seen some of your nature photography online. It really is very impressive – you have made a lot of beautiful bird photos. Have you had formal photography training, too?

David: I have no formal training in photography. My younger brother got involved in photography around our college years and I picked up a lot of helpful tips from him. And I’ve always enjoyed photography, both as an art and a history. As a kid, I absolutely loved seeing the old family photos of my parents and their siblings as children as well as my grandparents as young people and my great grandparents and great-great grandparents, whom I never knew. The wildlife photography just kind of grew out of the fact that I love the outdoors and try to spend as much time out in nature as I can. I love the challenge of trying to capture these animals in the natural environments. I’ve never sold or published my photos. But if anyone ever makes an offer…

Q: It’s great to have hobbies – but what else do you do between jobs.

David: Audition, audition, audition!

Q: That is a big part of an actor’s life. I know you have been in The Sound of Music before – what roles and how many times?

David: This is my fourth time playing Captain Von Trapp.

David Schmittou as Captain Von Trapp (w/ Cara Statham Serber as Maria)

David Schmittou as Captain Von Trapp (w/ Cara Statham Serber as Maria)

Q: And how many shows have you done at Beef and Boards??

David: This is my sixth show at Beef and Boards. Previously I have performed in Caberet, Ten Little Indians, The Foreigner, Hello, Dolly! and earlier this season in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Q: Wow – so out of all those, which is your favorite Beef and Boards role?

David: I’m having a blast doing the Captain with this “Sound of Music” cast. But then, I always enjoy performing at Beef and Boards. They do a terrific job casting their shows.

Q: What’s your impression of Indianapolis?

David: Well, the majority of my time in Indianapolis is spent at Beef and Boards. And it’s a terrific place to work, so I always enjoy my time in Indy. After several seasons at ‘The Beef’, there are still great swaths of the city and it’s surrounding areas that I know nothing of, but each time I work here, I explore and discover someplace new. I love Eagle Creek Park. How fortunate Indianapolis is to have this amazing natural resource. Holiday Park is great too. And I love all of the grand old homes off of Meridian St. and Broad Ripple, and the Indianapolis Art Museum is first rate! I love baseball, and this summer I’m looking forward to seeing the Indianapolis Indians play. My cousin’s husband just started playing for them this year. Go Indians!

Q: Okay, last question, David – what is next for you?

David: Two days after we close The Sound of Music, I will begin rehearsals for Legally Blonde at Stages St. Louis.

Q: Wow, you’re a very busy man, David! I wish you continued success with your career. And thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.

David: You bet, Ken. Thank YOU.

If you are interested in attending Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music at Beef and Board Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis, ticket information can be found by calling 317-872-9664. The show opens May 16 and runs thru June 30. Further info about the show can be found at .

*Show picture from The Sound of Music by Julie Curry