Class Act: Gerritt VanderMeer Talks Career and “Godspell”

Gerritt Vandermeer - Florida Gulf Coast University - TheatreZone - GodspellBalancing careers as an actor and a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, Gerritt VanderMeer tackles dual roles as John the Baptist and Judas in the quintessential ’60s-era musical Godspell, October 2-5, performed locally through a partnership between FGCU and Naples’ TheatreZone. As an engineering student in college, he took acting classes as a release from the pressures of studying. After recognizing he was spending most of his time doing theater when he should have been doing homework, he decided to focus on his true passion and see where it took him. After playing a variety of roles on stage, and in film and television, including Men in Black 3 and The Good Wife, VanderMeer is in his third year of teaching at FGCU. What is the most rewarding part of your careers?

VanderMeer: You get to work with interesting and talented people all the time! As a professor, it’s refreshing because every year there’s a new group of freshmen, and every year there are seniors whom you’ve known for a long time and they’re going off into the world. Acting is the same. Every job is temporary, so you’re always working with new and fascinating people.


What is the best thing about working with TheatreZone?

The people. They’re wonderful and generous, and extremely talented. Many who take part in it have had successful careers in New York and elsewhere, so they bring all that experience. It’s been a godsend because I came to Southwest Florida and didn’t know anyone. TheatreZone was a place where I could feel like I was part of something right away.


Tony Award-winning musical - Godspell - Broadway musical - TheatreZone - Florida Gulf Coast UniversityWhat is it like working with your own students in a professional performance?

That’s the best. It’s scary, of course, because you stand up there and you’re supposed to know what you’re doing, and when you’re acting in a show right alongside your students, they can see right away whether you do or you don’t. It’s good for them to see professors make mistakes, fail, and be insecure, because everybody is, and it’s good for them to realize that. They teach us as well; they constantly remind us that acting is supposed to be fun. If it’s not entertaining, then what’s the point?


What is it like having to shift your character in Godspell from John the Baptist to Judas?

Traditionally, the same actor plays the parts of John the Baptist and Judas. A mistake that’s easy to make when you first hear the story of Judas is that he is the villain, when in fact he’s just a guy who made a terrible decision. We all share that quality; we all make terrible decisions, ones that are sometimes made out of fear or greed. But each one of us is also the best of human beings, making decisions for all the right reasons, out of love and charity, every day. We’re capable of both. The beauty of theater is that just by the simple act of casting the same person to play both roles, that point is made.


If you could land your dream role, what would it be?

I don’t have a dream role. My next job is always my favorite job. In a freelance career, you often have no idea what you’re going to be doing next, but maybe I’ll get very lucky and one of my FGCU students will become a fabulously successful screenwriter or playwright.


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