British acting school has 1 percent acceptance rate - and Clear Springs grad made it
Stephen Louis spoke in a British accent when he made his acting debut four years ago at Clear Springs High School.
Last month, on the day before he turned 21, Louis left Texas to live among the Brits as a musical theater student in the world-renowned Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, an institution that dates to 1906 at the University of London.
“It’s the alma mater of Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Carrie Fisher, Andrew Garfield and Riz Ahmed, among others,” said Louis, whose parents are Allison Louis and Dr. Diane Robinson of League City.
“I don’t think my parents could be more thrilled, but it’s also hard and kind of scary for all of us,” said the aspiring actor.
Performances noticed in high school
As a sophomore at Clear Springs, Louis “couldn’t name more than five musicals” when he was cast as brittle, British director Christopher Belling in “Curtains.” His performance won best featured performer at the 2013 Tommy Tune Awards, in the annual Theatre Under the Stars program that honors excellence in Houston-area high school musicals.
“It was a complete surprise,” said Louis, who returned the next year to win best supporting actor as Officer Lockstock in “Urinetown.”
In 2015, Louis starred as Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” at his high school, and was nominated for a Tommy Tune Award as best leading actor. At that year’s Tony Awards-style ceremony at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Houston, Louis didn’t win his category, but he was announced as the recipient of a $3,000 scholarship from TUTS.
He planned to use the scholarship in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in theater performance at the University of Evansville in Indiana. However, after a year on the dean’s List at that school, Louis came home to regroup, opting to apply for enrollment at an acting conservatory.
“I applied for 14 different programs at 10 different schools,” he said.
A big audition
The pinnacle of those programs was the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, which called him in for an audition last February in Manhattan.
“I knew then I had already jumped through one hoop,” he said.
Performing with an accompanist for “a person holding a camera,” Louis sang “Something’s Coming” from “West Side Story” plus “And the Rain Keeps Falling Down” from the song cycle “Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.”
Then Louis returned to League City, where he worked as a shift leader at a movie theater while also taking weekly acting and voice lessons in Houston.
In early June, Louis received his formal acceptance to the London academy.
“My worries were put to bed,” he said. “My gap year was well-worth it. I wasn’t sure for a long time, but it all worked out.”
Louis said his flat-mate in London will be Gabbi Martinet, whom he met “by complete coincidence” when she also auditioned for the school in New York.
“I was introduced to a young woman and her mother,” he said, only to discover that Martinet is an aspiring actress who graduated this year from The Woodlands High School.
“We bonded, and for weeks afterwards, we would talk and share our anxieties,” Louis said.
The school has only a 1 percent acceptance rate, but both Louis and Martinet won admission.
“It is helpful to both sets of parents that we are going off to London together,” Louis said.
More information on the school is available at www.cssd.ac.uk.
Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com