Anyone who has had the dubious pleasure of knowing me for more than three seconds realizes that I am an avid supporter of Florida State University. Por quois, you ask? Or, if you aren't up on your French, why for? It's a hard question to answer. I went to FSU for just over a year, from 1979 to 1980. It had an incredible impact on my life. I had already spent a couple of years at the University of Florida and one quarter at Florida Atlantic University. And though they are impressive educational facilities (yes, even UF), I didn't feel I belonged. FSU changed all that.
When I entered FSU, it was with a major focus in Theatre, primarily acting. I had already been doing professional and semi-professional stage work since I was thirteen, but it was unrefined and, let's face it, amateurish. What I was really lacking was a broad view of Theatre. And one of the things that FSU prides itself on, in every school and department, is diversity. And, more than that, they encourage their students to experience that diversity. More than once, I was challenged in areas that I had never really considered in my life. From set design and construction to costuming, play analysis, movement, lighting, and on and on. Yes, I know, other Universities also encourage this. But, as with most things in life, there are intangible things that make things"fit". FSU was a fit for me.
While at the FSU School of Theatre, I managed to work on several shows, not all of them as an actor. My first acting appearance was Circus of the Rainbow which was a graduate play. As an actor, I also did Icarus Falling, The Adventures of Thom Thumb and The Journey of the Fifth Horse. For that last one, I got the most praise and look at it as a turning point in my life. For one thing, it was the last stage appearance I ever made! But I also worked on many other shows. Kiss Me Kate in set construction; A Flea In Her Ear on the lighting board (the first year for our new computer board); Dickens Hall as House Manager; and The Rain Maker as Assistant Stage Manager.
Now, how does all this lead up to my present career as a Writer/Producer in Television? Admittedly, it's very subtle. I can say that my improv classes with Hahni Metawi opened me up to characterization. Stuart Baker's Play Analysis class showed me that words and actions have many meanings. Clyde Grisby's movement class gave me an insight into action. His voice class taught me that words on the page have to fit into an Actor's throat or they are useless. And Richard Fallon, that master of all creative and inspirational, taught me that you can be an individual thinker and still be disciplined. Or, to put it into better terms, you can remain a child and still keep mature responsibilities.
And, later on, I got to know Gil Lazier as a friend. A professor when I was in school, later to become the Dean of the School of Theatre. Gil took Dean Fallon's dream and continued it with his own style and dedication. Gil has taught me many things, but not as an instructor (I never was in one of his classes as a student). By example, Gil showed me that passion makes the difference between a career you tolerate and one you love. And Gil cleans up well, as shown in the photo below.
Most of all, at the School, I was encouraged to explore! And that is a rare thing to be allowed. No question was too foolish to be asked, no effort was too futile, time is never wasted on curiosity. FSU was my safety net while I did this. It was not only tolerated, it was expected.
When I first left FSU, I didn't give it much thought, to be honest. I was in a hurry to head out to Los Angeles and get things started. Dean Fallon had given me a list of five names to contact when I got there. On that list were two people who I can still call my dearest friends. Neither one of them knew me before I called them, and both of them had more than enough reason to shine me on. But neither did. Their devotion for FSU and the students was, and is, obvious. They went out of their way to meet with me and answer my questions, just as they continue to do with FSU students today. Those two people are Henry Polic II and Chip Chalmers.
Now, sometime around 1991, I decided to attend a get together of FSU alumni at a little bar in the Mariott near Los Angeles International Airport. I can't remember why, except that they were going to be there for a football game. Now, understand, I had little interest in football. In fact, in my entire college career, I had only been to one FSU/UF football game and I was in the UF band when I did it! It just wasn't my thing. Now, as I remember, we were ranked #1 in the country. Yes, not big news now, but back then it was. And we were playing #3 Michigan AT Michigan. So I was sitting there with another Alum and it was the first play of the game, Michigan had the ball. I turned to someone and said "If we intercept it and run it back for a touchdown, then I'll believe we're number one". Imagine my surprise as Terrell Buckley stepped in front of the pass, picked it off, and ran it back. Can you say "hooked?" I think since that day, I have only missed seeing or hearing three FSU football games. How dedicated am I to FSU Football? Well, when I was in the process of developing SHEENA, I had to be at a meeting in Disney World at the precise time that we were playing for the National Championship (1999). The meeting was to take place at a restaurant at Disney with Disney executives as well as SONY executives. The meeting started about a half hour before the game. So, just a minute before kick off, in the middle of these discussions, I pulled out a small TV set and put an earphone in my ear. I said to the execs "Keep talking, but I'm not missing the national championship". Imagine my surprise when one of the SONY execs moved around the table to sit next to me and said "I am SO glad you brought that TV". So for the rest of the meeting, the two of us shared a dual earphone and watched the game... as the meeting went on.
Need more proof? One of the characters in my TV series SHEENA, Matt Cutter, was a rabid FSU fan. His character had a scholarship on the football team as quarterback. His first scrimmage in a Miami game twisted his knee and his career was over. But he surrounded himself with everything FSU.
John Allen Nelson as Matt Cutter and Gena Lee Nolin as Sheena. Click on the above image to enlarge and notice the shirt... and the footballs... and, yes, they are real. The footballs, I mean.
So, I became a Golden Chief. Seemed like the natural thing to do. And imagine my delight when I got my very own parking spot right in front of the west entrance to Doak Campbell Stadium! Okay, you have to understand, I have a thing about parking spots. And this was the best spot I had ever gotten. I mean, just steps away to the entrance. They have since repaved the spot and I was moved another ten yards away. Oh, well. It was still a great spot.
Click to enlarge... As I said, I really liked this spot.
A shot of me above the FSU stadium. Of course, as photography is my hobby, my ultimate goal is to be down on the sidelines DURING a game. Sadly, not a wish to be satisfied anytime soon.
I still support my school and my team and I try to get to as many games as I can. That is not easily done as I live in Los Angeles. And, of course, the first year the National Championship is played in Pasadena, we aren't in it! Which is just as well, I guess. Every bowl game I have gone to has ended in our defeat.
And, of course, whenever I am in Tallahassee, I try to spend as much time at my old haunt, the Fine Arts Building for the School of Theatre.
Yep. My FSU I.D. card. Click to enlarge.
Steven L. Sears
Florida State School of Theatre
B.A. 1980, Cum Laude