Craig David Stastny walked along Broadway's bright lights, soaked in the sights and took in seven plays in seven days during a trip to New York City two years ago, a visit that was payment for a summer's work at a small Wisconsin theater company.
Stastny, a 2006 Park High School graduate and Minnesota State University-Mankato senior musical theater major who plays a leading role in the university's upcoming production of "One Flea Spare" this week, saw those lights, the big stages, the actors and knew right where he would end up.
Broadway "felt right," the 21-year-old said last week. "It felt like, 'this is where I should be.'"
Stastny began his young acting career out of curiosity. A ninth-grade theater class at what was then known as Cottage Grove Junior High led to an audition for the school musical. He soon took up dancing, too, and three years of musicals and one-act plays followed at Park under the tutelage of Steve Estenson and Denise Atkinson.
Now a senior at Minnesota State, Stastny has taken on roles large and small during his first three years. He has performed in the choruses of "Bye Bye Birdie" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie," played the title character in "Rumpelstiltskin" and appeared in his favorite show, "Miss Saigon" playing his "dream role" of Engineer.
"I dived right in, I auditioned for the (Bachelor of Fine Arts theater program) and got in," Stastny said of his Minnesota State experience. "The first day of school here there's an audition for three shows."
In "One Flea Spare," a play written by American playwright Naomi Wallace, Stastny plays Bunce, one of four characters quarantined in a 17th-century English home during an outbreak of the Black Plague. When the production debuts Wednesday at Minnesota State's Andreas Theatre, it will be just two-and-a-half weeks since auditions were held and rehearsals began.
"Things move at lightning speed here, and the cast is really, really great," Stastny said.
Soon, Stastny said he'll begin auditioning for summer or year-round theater companies, looking to land his first post-college acting job. The Cottage Grove native said he might return home to the Twin Cities for a year.
But his eyes are still firmly on the prize -- New York City -- because there's no other career Stastny said he could envision himself doing.
"It's the passion of portraying art for others," he said. "It's the fact that it takes one artist to write the show, another to direct it. But us, on stage, it's our art to portray that."
For more information on the Minnesota State Mankato Department of Theatre and Dance's performance of "One Flea Spare," go to www.swcbulletin.com for a link to the department's Web site.