by Peter Nelson
Big life changes for this ensemblist: I am accepted to Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, Class of 2022! I have one more week of performances at Chicago the Musical on Broadway before starting a new chapter toward a medical degree.
Growing up, my interests were evenly split between science and the performing arts. I was able to devote time to both pursuits in high school and at university, but my younger self could not compute a future including both performing and medicine. When I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience in 2008, I started my application to medical schools as most students did and as I had initially planned.
During this process, I continued to perform in Utah and still felt drawn to artistic endeavors and opportunities. My focus was divided between my genuine passion for performing and my lifelong goal to be a physician. I did a production of A Chorus Line at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, through which I met my first crop of incredible and inspiring NYC ensemblists that made up much of the cast. I was drawn to their vast theater experiences, their vibrant personalities and their generous spirits. This first regional role left me conflicted with respect to my future path. I ultimately felt I would regret not following through with my dreams as an artist, and I took an uncertain step. I withdrew my medical school application and accepted an offer to perform full-time with Holland America cruise line in early 2010, to see just what would happen when I followed what pulled me.
This year of singing and dancing blossomed into onstage work that I truly loved, amazing travel and significant, lasting friendships. The experience was so positive that I could not resist the impulse to try my shot at New York City theater. I had the huge fortune of joining the Chicago Broadway company quickly after moving here, which further validated every risk I had taken to that point. This first ensemble role has been one of my most cherished gifts and has facilitated the other artistic opportunities that have comprised my performing journey.
More significantly than credits and parts, I have fallen in love with my fellow ensemblists. During these years my show coworkers have been like family: lifting me in moments of frustration or doubt, inspiring me to push my craft to new levels, comforting me in times of injury and depression, and rejoicing and dancing through victories and good times. Connections built over years on and off stage with these amazing people will continue long past my final bow and have been the happiest outcome of my work in theater.
As a young pre-med student, I could never have dreamed of what would transpire during my turn into New York theater. I am thrilled to return to my medical ambition and weave it to my experiences as a Broadway actor, with the ultimate wish to serve this community with an insider’s perspective. In my final week as ever, I hope I can fully convey my gratitude for the winding path that reveals new adventures, as well as my deep love for the people who have selflessly helped me along the way.