February Student Feature: Paul Popa
We love our students! Each month, we will pick one of our students to feature. Maybe next month it will be you! What made you decide to start studying acting?
I’ve always been impressed by the power of storytelling through film, in particular dramas like The Secret Garden and Titanic. I took up every opportunity I could to act throughout high school. Although I loved every moment I had on stage, I never thought I could be a professional actor until I was an undergrad at Duke. I had the privilege of playing Joseph Fenwick in a production of An Experiment with an Air Pump, directed by Jules Odendahl-James. That experience convinced me that this was something I could do for the rest of my life, and I was overjoyed. I had the opportunity to pursue what I loved as a career, if I was brave enough to try.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received about the art or craft of acting?
I really love this quote by the poet Rumi: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” Life is too short to not go after what you love. Explore it and see if it’s right for you. Chances are, it is, and it’s waiting for you.
Give an example of a breakthrough you've had.
I remember when I auditioned for graduate school the first time, I delivered a monologue from The Learned Ladies by Moliere. For whatever reason, when I sat in the chair I pulled and stared into the corner of the room, I was able to imagine my sister Paula as clear as if she was actually sitting there, and I talked to her. I probably scared the life out of the auditor, but what I learned in that moment is that acting asks you to be yourself. If you let yourself be who you are when you practice this craft, meaningful work will follow. Someone you care about is listening to you. What do you really want to say?
What is your dream role?
It’s so hard to pick just one, but I would love to play Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, Billy Bigelow in Carousel and Prince Charming in Cinderella are close runners-up. I’ve always loved musicals, and these roles are all men who are looking for something in life, maybe like me.
What do you have to say to your fellow MAS students?
Firstly, I love you all so much and can never thank you enough for all the support you’ve shown me. Trust your gut, but always be open to hearing the opinions of others. Never give up what you love. You are here for a reason, and no one should close those doors except yourself. Never stop learning, take care of yourself, and never forget what you love about acting. The world needs your voice now more than ever.