Aaron Sax made his theatre debut at the age of six, delivering exactly one line as Tweety Bird in a summer camp production of The Looney Tunes.
He was either a very convincing bird, or a very cute kid, because as he grew with the years, so did his parts in camp and children’s theatre troupe plays.
Now 23, Sax is gearing up for his most exciting lead role yet. He will be starring as Mark Cohen in the modern musical Rent at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Sax has already performed in major and supporting roles at the theatre in musicals, including Spring Awakening and Forever Plaid, but he is extra enthusiastic about his upcoming part, which he starts tonight.
“Mark is one of my dream roles,” said Sax of the show’s narrator, a young struggling documentary filmmaker. He added that he naturally gravitates toward roles that interact with the audience, or, in theatre-speak, “break the fourth wall.”
Mark Cohen leads the audience through the bohemian life of artists in New York, following a storyline that is based on Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera La Bohème.
“In a role like that, the audience has to like you or else the show’s in trouble,” said Sax of the challenges that come along with playing a lead character who interacts both with the audience and with the other characters. “I’m learning what it’s like to carry a show,” he added.
As a graduate of Sheridan College’s renowned music theatre program, Sax has spent plenty of time preparing for exciting roles like this one. “It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do,” he said of the rigorous program, explaining that when he applied to it in his last year of high school, he had not expected to get in. To his surprise, he was given an immediate and very rare recommendation for direct acceptance at his audition.
Despite the difficulty of the music theatre program, which, with classes and rehearsals, often had Sax at school for 13-hour days, he credits it with giving him the training he needed to become a professional actor.
Sax also said that it was at Sheridan, where he was the only Jewish student in his year, that he became more aware and appreciative of his culture. Now, he said, he frequently chooses Jewish characters for audition material, as he often feels more connected to them. One of his favourite characters is Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye.
Sax’s love of performance has led him not only into traditional musical theatre but also into children’s theatre. “Children’s theatre is pretty awesome because your audience is engaged all the time,” he said.
He has been working with well-known children’s entertainers Judy and David since October on their GoldiRocks and JiggiJump shows. Sax has also performed in the children’s productions Angelina Ballerina and Pinkalicious with the Vital Theatre Company.
It comes as no surprise that Sax has both an affinity and talent for children’s theatre. This summer will be his second summer running the theatre program for campers at Camp Wahanowin, where he first debuted on stage as Tweety almost 20 years ago.
Whether Sax is performing for children or adults, he feels passionately about theatre, and tends to prefer musical theatre to drama. “I enjoy singing and I enjoy acting through the songs,” he said.
Sax said he is looking forward to all the varied theatre opportunities that are coming his way, and he is eager to try new and different roles. For him, each experience in theatre is worthwhile. “Everything you do, you meet different people and make different connections and further yourself in a different way.”
Rent runs at the Lower Ossington Theatre from May 24 to June 16. For tickets, visit lowerossingtontheatre.com.