Home again, 2 Friendswood High grads busy teaching and performing

April 5, 2018 GMT

Two 2013 graduates of Friendswood High School, now back to their old stomping grounds with college degrees in theater, are performing again on Houston-area stages while also sharing their skills with young thespians at FHS.

Conner Borne portrays George in a stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” through April 22 at College of the Mainland Community Theatre, 1200 N. Amburn Road in Texas City, while Tommy Stuart, who played George opposite Borne, as Curley, in a 2012 production of “Of Mice and Men” at Friendswood High, is making his Alley Theatre debut in Lawrence Wright’s “Cleo,” through April 29.

“This has been such a great year,” said Kathy Powdrell, their former director at FHS. “Having Tommy back to do vocal coaching for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ this past fall and winter was wonderful. Conner has been substituting for Theatre Arts I and for my class occasionally. He has been great with our students.”

“Tommy and I are good friends,” said Borne, 23, who graduated from Sam Houston State University last year with a bachelor of fine arts in acting and directing. Substitute-teaching in Friendswood ISD allows him to work during the day while pursuing a career in theater on nights and weekends, said the son of Chris and Gina Borne.

When Conner Borne returned home from college, Powdrell pointed him to COM to earn a certification in stage combat. At his final class, Borne was invited to audition for “Of Mice and Men,” which was directed by guest director Chris Pool of Texas City.

“I love being the bad guy, the antagonist. So, I was surprised to be cast as George,” said Borne, referring to a migrant farm worker who is the main character in the 1937 novella on which the play is based. George Milton is the “protector” of Lennie, a fellow worker who is mentally challenged.

“My interpretation is that George is like a reluctant big brother to Lennie,” said Borne. “In the time of the 1930s, George is a very frustrated man who is just trying to live a peaceful life without trouble, but his whole life is nothing but trouble.”

The play’s “themes of companionship and survival have resonated with me for a long time,” said Pool. “Steinbeck’s original novella was purposefully written in such a way that it translated almost directly to the stage. The era that it represents is a forgotten period of hardship and hard work. ”

For ticket information, call 409-933-8345 or visit www.com.edu/community-theatre

Harvey alters plans

The title of the play comes from a line of Robert Burns’ poetry, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry,” which also describes the months since Stuart auditioned for the Alley’s world-premiere production of “Cleo.”

After graduating in 2017 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater from the University of Oklahoma, Stuart performed professionally in “Don Quixote” with Shakespeare Dallas.

Flush with that paycheck, the son of Roy and Linda Stuart returned home to Friendswood last August and was quickly cast in the ensemble of “Cleo.”

“Then the rain started coming,” said Stuart, 23, recalling how Hurricane Harvey flooded the Alley, and “Cleo” was postponed until now.

“I got really lucky when Kathy Powdrell hired me at help on ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ” said Stuart.

“Cleo” is set during the filming of the 1963 epic “Cleopatra,” and tells the story of how Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began a scandalous affair. The play was written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” and directed by actor/director Bob Balaban.

“I’m a supernumerary,” said Stuart. “I play a waiter, and a stagehand on the film set, things like that.”

After “Cleo,” Stuart will consider a move to Los Angeles, where his brother, Paul Stuart, 30, is an actor.

For Alley ticket information, call 713-220-5700, www.alleytheatre.org.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net