The Bethel College Theatre Department’s production of “Shadowlands” on Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 29-Oct. 1 featured eight Bethel students and one child from the local community. But what perhaps fewer people knew was that cast member Austin Lantz, a Bethel student through the REACH program, is actually a junior in high school.
Lantz seems to be following in his older brother Wesley’s footsteps. Wesley Lantz was cast in one of the leading roles in “The Diary of Anne Frank” in the fall of 2013. At that time, he was a senior in high school. Like his brother before him, Austin Lantz was the only REACH student cast in the production. I talked with him about his experience preparing for the performances. “(Theatre) was actually one of the main reasons I took the REACH program,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of the plays here. I think they’re really well done, professional level, and there’s not a lot of places you can go around here, especially for Christian theatre.” Lantz said he had high hopes when he auditioned, but he was still surprised to learn he had been officially cast in the production, since he was a lot younger than the other cast members. “There’s a severe lack of guys,” he said, “so I was hoping I’d get cast.” Lantz said the rehearsal schedule has been tiring, but well worth it. “It’s challenging,” he said. “You get to be around different people. It’s a different level.” Prior to this production, the Lantz family has done theatre together in the community and in various travel groups. “You forget he’s your brother,” said Austin Lantz. “Honestly, you do. When you get in character, and especially because these guys are so good – all the fellow actors are really good at building up such a good energy that you forget who you are almost, sometimes, and you become this character. And that’s not my brother Wesley, that’s Christopher Riley, and we don’t get along very well.” He later said sometimes their characters come out at home as a sort of playful banter that is shared by their whole family. Wesley Lantz added, “It’s actually a lot of fun. He and I share the same sense of humor, so we make jokes with each other all the time, at rehearsals and stuff, and it makes it a little more fun. It’s a little interesting because no longer am I just a college student, I’m now partially ‘older brother,’ as much as he hates that.” Wesley Lantz said he sometimes finds it challenging to balance both of his roles – as Austin’s older brother and as a fellow student and actor. “I try to stay normal but at the same time there’s just part of me that automatically kind of becomes the older brother and the over-watcher and that sort of thing,” he said, “which doesn’t mean that I baby him – I try not to. But I probably worry about him a little too much.” Austin Lantz will follow up his performance in this production with another cast role in “Anne of Green Gables” on Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 10-12. In the meantime, he is involved in the student media program through “Bethel Prime Time,” a class he is taking this semester.