It takes guts for a starting linebacker on a high school football team to drop football because the coach won’t give him the flexibility to participate in rehearsals for the high school production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”

David Girolmo, an audience favorite at the Maine State Music Theatre, faced that exact dilemma when he was a student at Gates Chili High School in Rochester, New York.

David had decided on his life’s course while performing in “Bye Bye Birdie” in the seventh grade. “Right then, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do.”

An independent sort, David opted to go to work for Eastman Kodak after graduating from high school, rather than go straight to college as did most of his classmates. After two years working on quality control at Eastman Kodak, he was ready to go to college. Unfortunately, he was rejected by his top choice, the State University of New York at Geneseo (SUNY Geneseo). Undeterred, David met with the Director of Admissions at SUNY Geneseo who reversed the decision, a wise move as it turned out.

A double major in English and Theater, David took part in 17 theatrical productions at SUNY Geneseo, doing everything from acting to producing to directing. Moreover, he worked in summer stock every summer, first on-campus and later at the Cortland Repertory Theater.

One might assume that a promising actor with David’s background would move directly to New York City after graduation to audition for plays. One would be only half right in David’s case. He did move to NYC (“with $60, a sleeping bag and a 10-inch television”) and crashed with a friend, but he didn’t audition for anything. “I wanted to get some real world experience, so I got a job as an assistant production manager at Sweaterknits, Inc.” He performed that job for three years, and then a headhunter convinced him to switch to Jantzen, which produces knitwear as well as swimwear.

After working for three years at Jantzen, serendipity intervened. While walking near Times Square, David saw a long line in front of the Nederlander Theater on 41st and Broadway. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s why you came here,’ and began preparing an exit strategy.” He called the vice president for production at Jantzen who convinced David to work for six more months, which he did, before pursuing his lifelong dream.

He quickly landed a part in a national touring production of “Teddy Roosevelt,” intended for children. (He played Teddy Roosevelt’s father.) After the tour was over, he took some off-Broadway roles, and then, serendipity again, he was persuaded to perform in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. He loved Chicago and decided to live there rather than return to NYC.

For the last 30 years, David has compiled an extraordinary record as an actor. He’s performed for over a dozen theater companies in 46 states; worked with several top directors and producers, including Hal Prince, Marc Robin and our own Curt Dale Clark (Maine State Music Theatre); and done work in television and film.

David first came to MSMT in 2010 to perform in “Annie.” He’s also performed here in “Sunset Boulevard,” “Les Misérables,” “Gypsy,” “Mary Poppins,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “Chamberlain,” “Footloose,” “Music Man,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Sister Act,” “Treasure Island” and “Hello Dolly.”

Since 2010, David has missed only two summers at MSMT, because he was acting in War Paint, first in Chicago and later on Broadway. “The first summer was fine because I was in my home town, but the second summer was tough. I missed Maine; I found myself looking north and east.”

In my view, David Girolmo has been so successful because, in addition to being a fine actor and singer, he’s a consummate professional, working well with directors, choreographers and fellow actors. He loves what he’s doing, and audiences sense that love, his commitment. He’s truly a master of the stage.

When I asked David what he likes best about acting, he immediately said: “The rehearsals. It’s miraculous what we do in just two weeks, working together towards a common goal.”

Sadly, the coronavirus has closed theaters around the country for the last seven months, putting actors out of work and depriving theater lovers of their favorite form of entertainment. David Girolmo, ever the optimist, notes that he and his wife Heidi, a fellow actor, have really enjoyed spending time together at home, noting, “We really like each other. We’ve had a blast!”

I asked David in a follow-up email why theater is important. His response: “First, telling stories is the oldest form of communication. From the time humans first began communicating by acting out hunting efforts or religious ritual our societies have expanded, and our collective understanding of the world has depended on ‘theater.’ Theater tells the story of who we are. Everyone engages in some form of theatrical storytelling. Live performance continues to be the most immediate, most profound, most cathartic expression of the human condition, be it comedy or drama. It’s also beautifully transient. A play/musical production and the audience/performer dynamic only happens once — then it’s gone forever.”

Wow! I think you’ll agree that that high school linebacker made the right choice, lo these many years ago.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]

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