Stephen Ingram may have taken piano lessons since he was 5 years old, but he was never really “into music” until high school. Even still, the fourth-year Music student contemplated switching to Science in his second year at university, perhaps a nod to his parents, both doctors.
“I had a bit of an early life crisis. I thought I’m not going to make any money doing music, so I took a bunch of science courses in second year and was going to switch majors,” Ingram said. “I tried it for about a year. But music was what I wanted to do. I couldn’t fight it. I have a brain for science, but I don’t love it like I love music.”
He got his first taste of musical theatre in high school, appearing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. He followed that performance with roles in Theatre Western and Musical Theatre Productions such as Rent, Spring Awakening and Into The Woods, among others. He even ventured a bit off campus to be part of the King’s University Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
And now, Ingram hits the stage yet again in The History Boys, the debut production of London’s new Calithumpian Theatre Company. Performances run through Oct. 15 in the McManus Studio Theatre at the Grand Theatre.
The Tony-winning production is about eight young British lads preparing to write their entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge universities under the guidance of three teachers with contrasting styles. It’s a premise, Ingram said, that should connect with his fellow undergrads.
“It looks at how the boys should be taught in a variety of different ways. Apart from all the 80s culture, it’s a really a current show about the education system, even today, with all the issues it touches,” said the Hamilton, Ont., native.
Funny thing, Ingram added, he had not planned on joining the production. In fact, he didn’t even audition. “I would have loved to, but I didn’t hear about the auditions,” he said.
In May, he was performing in Manuel at the Paul Davenport Theatre when The History Boys production team happened upon him.
“In that show, I played the piano, sang and acted. Somebody on their production team saw it and needed a piano player for the character Scripp in The History Boys. I don’t think it’s all that easy to find pianists who also like to act,” he said. “They approached me after the show and asked me to meet the director. I did and things worked out.”
Perhaps somewhat cast against type, this Composition major finds himself on the stage often, as opposed to stereotypically hunkered atop a piano for hours.
“It’s definitely two very different sides of my personality,” Ingram continued. “When you think of a composer it’s opposite to the person who’s up there on stage. It’s still a bit of an adventure; I’m still learning how to balance them.
“During the day, I go to school. At night, I go to rehearsal. They are different, but I can’t pick just one. I love writing music, which is why I’m here, but I love performing, as well. I try and do both as best I can. While I do love composing, because I am in school it feels like it is still work. The theatre aspect is fun.”
Ingram graduates in April and plans to take a year off, perhaps even audition for a handful of productions in the London and Toronto areas. He hopes to follow that up with his masters in film/video game scoring.
“If nothing big comes of it (auditions) I can say I tried it – the whole show business thing – and pick up my masters,” he said. But don’t expect the performing bug to disappear.
“As much as I might try to hide it at times, there is always that showman in me that wants to be on the stage. Being a composer, oftentimes you don’t play your own works, which is opposite from being a performer,” Ingram continued. “I’m very happy to be performing, but I’m also happy to be sitting on the sidelines watching people play my work. It’s a different feeling but an equal level of satisfaction. I’m just as proud.
“Composition is great too because you get to feel proud of the people who are performing it. You aren’t necessarily on the stage, but they are on the stage for you and you put your trust in them.”
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The History Boys, the debut production of London’s new Calithumpian Theatre Company, runs through Oct. 15 in the McManus Studio Theatre at the Grand Theatre. Tickets are $25 (students $20) at grandtheatre.com.