Gary Robinson Jr.: taking college by storm with various talents
Tamonda Griffiths – Editor-in-Chief
With the last showings of the play “Red Velvet” closely on the horizon, the Southern community has been abuzz about the show, more specifically, one of the lead actors, Gary Robinson Jr., a freshman who stars as young Ira Aldridge.
“In the play [Robinson playing Aldridge] says, ‘Talent is an unknown quantity,’” said Director of Red Velvet and Adjunct Professor in the Theatre Department, Benjamin Curns. “What Gary does have is his instincts are really good. And he is so comfortable on stage.”
Robinson, who had caught the acting bug in third grade, is no stranger to performing.
“My family is very talented,” said Robinson. “We used to, every Christmas – every family gathering we would always write a song and play drums or play guitar, something like that, we have performances for the adults and everything and they would laugh and things like that.”
Robinson said his drama teacher at the time encouraged him to branch out to drama and acting.
“I tried it, I loved it,” said Robinson.
Eventually, however, Robinson said he had taken hiatus from the theatre because of his focus on football, but also the discouragement he had received from his peers as he grew up.
“I started hanging out with different people,” said Robinson, “and they were like, ‘Why are you doing theatre?’ so it kind of got discouraging.”
To an 8 and 9-year old, Robinson said it was heart-shattering to not be supported by his friends.
Curns said his mother taught him to give activities such as acting, sports, playing an instrument, “an earnest try,” of at least a year before completely dismissing whether or not it was for him.
“To deny yourself your own personal information, your experience of what it is – I think does a disservice,” said Curns, “because it’s an enemy of curiosity. There’s nothing wrong with being curious about art.”
It wasn’t until his senior year of high school, Robinson said that he decided to ignore the immature discouragement of others and do what he had once been very passionate about.
“I was like, ‘You know, what let me just go all out,” because you know, it’s your senior year you’re like, ‘Let me do everything,” said Robinson. “I went and did two plays and I was like, ‘Man, I love this. I have to do it some more,’ therefore I auditioned in December and then got the part.”
Now, in college, Robinson said his teammates are very encouraging, promoting the show on their various social media platforms and coming in droves to see him perform on the play’s opening night.
On the football field, Robinson is no longer young Aldridge, but rather defensive end, No. 92.
“It’s four down linemen, which means that they have their hand on the ground and they’re closest to the offensive lineman, which are the other really big guys,” said Robinson.
“So, I’m on the edge and basically, I just play contain; make sure the quarterback, running back doesn’t go outside [the box.]”
Robinson said he’d consider himself a quiet guy who doesn’t do a lot of talking, but on the field or a stage his “killer instincts” come alive.
“You have to break all hell loose, you have to go all out,” said Robinson. “Your eyes get big; your heart starts pumping. It’s fun, exhilarating which goes hand-in-hand with acting.”
Curns said he and his fellow theatre professors work hard to encourage students to, “infuse a sense of themselves” within whatever role they may play.
My mentor used to say,” said Curns, “Whatever role you do – you know whether it’s Hamlet or Willy Loman or Ira Aldridge – at the end of the thing I should know more about Gary, about him the person based on the choices that he makes. And it’s just something I spent no time with him on.”
Robinson’s portrayal of Aldridge, Curns said demonstrated to him that Robinson not only understood Aldridge but put in the work to do Aldridge justice.
Curns said he thinks of himself and Robinson as kindred spirits in their work ethic. Whether in football, acting or hosting a radio show on WSIN 1590 AM titled, “On My Way,” Robinson said when he is in any sort of performance arena he does not show off solely for the crowd, but rather with his fellow actors and actresses, his co-hosts and his brothers in the huddle.
“The attention and everything is cool, but that’s not really what I’m doing it for,” said Robinson. “I do it for the love of acting, first and foremost. And just the love of speaking to millions of people which is one of my goals at the end of the day.”
Photo Credit: Izzy Manzo