Acting on aspirations: Branden Roth pursues dream of being a professional performer
WORTHINGTON -- He made his acting debut as the "Great Brandini" during the local Youth Council Talent Show, but Branden Roth, the son of Darwin and Lindia Roth of Worthington, had been entertaining friends and family for many years before that momentous event.
"I've always been up in front at church, singing," he reflected, "and I was in dance, too, when I was little."
"When he was little, he was always running around in grandpa's cowboy boots ... always entertaining everybody," injected mom Lindia. "It's part of who he is."
In his younger years, Branden participated in three of the Missoula Children's Theater programs at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, and during his high school career has been involved in all the plays and musical productions. He's currently rehearsing for and early December production of "A Christmas Carol," in which he has the prime part of Scrooge.
"It's like a rush," he said about being on stage. "You get nervous the first couple of times, but when you interact with people, you become a group with the cast, and it's like family."
Now a senior at Worthington High School, Branden is beginning to look beyond local productions and contemplating the possibility of making a living in the entertainment field. He plans to attend college and is looking at schools in New York or California that offer degrees in performing arts.
But to further investigate the possibility of a show business career, he's been accepted into the Millie Lewis Actors, Models and Talent Competition (AMTC), which is slated for January in Orlando, Fla.
The AMTC Web site, www.millielewis.com, explains the program: "The Millie Lewis Actors Models & Talent Competition is the most respected convention in North America. ... It is family-oriented, educational and invitational. For over 22 years, the AMTC has invited new models, actors, singers, dancers and comedians to compete in front of the world's leading agents. Contestants come to find out if they have what it takes to work in a major market like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Paris, Milan, or Tokyo. They come to learn."
By a fluke, Branden learned that AMTC was having auditions in Sioux Falls, S.D.
"My sister, Miranda, goes to college in Sioux Falls, and she heard about it on the radio," he explained. "It was like it was meant to be almost, because it was just like a day before the tryouts. They had 300 or 400 people show up. You had to sing, act, walk down the runway, dance."
The Millie Lewis agents travel all over the U.S., looking for prospective talent, but this was the first time they had scheduled an audition event in Sioux Falls. Out of those more than 300 hopefuls, Branden was one of only 21 people to receive an invitation to AMTC.
Before accepting the invitation, the Roths did some research and liked what they found out about Millie Lewis AMTC, particularly its family oriented philosophy, emphasis on good grades and that the agents weren't trying to sell them something.
"He auditioned for a company in Minneapolis, and they wanted money upfront for acting classes," recalled Lindia. "So, when we went to this audition, we agreed before we went over that if it was a scam, we'd go out to eat and go home."
To prepare for the convention, Branden is working with an acting coach at classes in Mitchell, S.D., and also attended a seminar in Omaha, Neb., put on by an actor-model. He wants to focus on acting and singing, but will compete in eight categories at AMTC, including modeling. To participate in some of the categories, he had to receive a special invitation from the acting coach.
Branden's preparing a monologue, a piece he found on the Internet about a guy who's getting ready to propose marriage and is mentally going through all the steps leading up to the big moment. In the end, there's one piece missing -- the girl. In the TV commercial category, he'll do a spiel for an actual comedy movie, "She's the Man."
For his vocal audition, Branden has been working on the song "Fever" and will choreograph it prior to the competition. Each performer is allowed only one minute during the initial audition -- points are deducted for exceeding that time -- but must prepare a full performance for ensuing events. He's also received tips about what to wear to the competitions and other advice from the AMTC agents and promotional materials.
In addition to those preparations and all the activities he's involved with in school -- music programs, president of senior class, National Honor Society, speech, Circle Mentoring, to name a few -- Branden also needs to raise funds to finance the Florida expedition. Since he's a minor, a parent must accompany him, and Lindia is planning to go along, paying her own way and helping him with traveling expenses. They will room with another mother and son from Sioux Falls to cut down on costs.
But the Roths also wanted Branden to work toward the opportunity, to have some ownership in the experience -- hence the fund raising.
But Branden's hopes are truly pinned to a future on the stage or in front of the camera. He's confident that AMTC will lead to prospects toward that end.
"They won't book you there," explained Lindia, referring to the AMTC informational packet, "but they can extend an offer that they will be calling you. ... The ultimate goal is exposure to agents and people in the market. They'll be looking for fresh new talent for pilots for the fall, and you might not fit with what they're looking for."
Branden was told by an agent that he was a triple threat, since he can act, sing and dance, but he's not sure that his future lies in musical theater.
"I've just always wanted to be on TV," he said, pondering his ultimate career desire. "And I've always wanted to be a good role model for younger kids. I've never really conformed to the norms, not that I'm a nonconformist, but I've done different things, not always the popular thing to do, and I know kids look up to people on TV.
"I've always done comedy. I can be funny, but lately I've been going more toward serious pieces. That's a new area for me to explore. And then there's musical theater -- it is hard to find a good actor who can sing.
"My lifetime goal has just always been to be a performer. If this doesn't work out, I'm going to go for 'American Idol.'"