Rochester Senior Finds Success on the Stage

International Theatre Program – “I came into school thinking I was going to be pre-med,” Andrew Polec, KEY ’12, said when asked about his interest in pursuing an MFA in acting.  After his short-lived science kick, he became interested in business. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that he fully realized his passions for English, theatre, and music. Since then, Polec has finished two clusters in biology and psychology, doubled majored in music and English with a concentration in theatre, and completed an honors thesis on families in American drama. He also sang for four years in the dreamy, all-male a cappella group, the Midnight Ramblers. But these days he’s known on campus for his roles in nine UR International Theatre Program (URITP) productions, and as the lead singer in the popular band, Khat House. No longer looking forward to a career in medicine, Polec is finishing up a fifth year as a KEY Scholar, and performing in the final play of his undergraduate career, Adding Machine: A Musical, at Todd Theatre.

Polec has been busy this year. In October, he starred in URITP’s production of An Absolute Turkey just as his Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year was getting underway.  His project: starting a student-run record label at the University of Rochester, signing a band, recording an album, and releasing the record.  Polec and his colleagues were successful in all of these aims.  The label is called “yoUR Record Label,” and they signed Polec’s own band, Khat House.  They released their EP, “Welcome to Khat House,” at a sold-out concert on April 14. They also performed on April 27 as part of Dandelion Day’s performance line-up. They have sold a lot of albums, Polec said, and they hope to sell many more. “The life lessons that I’ve learned while being with that band have been nothing short of tremendous,” Polec said, reflecting on his time with Khat House.

The future of the band is currently up in the air as this coming fall Polec will pursue an MFA in acting at Brown University. Unsure of the extent to which the program will prepare him for dealing with the business of being an actor, Polec expressed his gratitude for all he has learned at UR about the arts industry. “Learning the process of how to get gigs, how to fund recording and album and all the nit-picky stuff in between has showed me that business managers are really important.  And agents.  No matter who you are as an artist, you better know the business, or you better have a friend who knows that business cold.”

Having had a good deal of experience learning the nitty-gritty about show business as a Key Scholar, Polec is eager to start learning the artist trade this fall. The undisputed star of URITP, he’ll be entering into a group of peers that will undoubtedly be made up of 15 other college theatre program stars. “It’s good to be with a bunch of talented people, because then you can see how you are able to improve and grow,” he said.

“Andrew is a born performer and he’s also a wonderful singer.  I’ve watched him grow over the years as his range has expanded,” said Nigel Maister, artistic director of URITP, who has been working with Polec since his freshman year. “I think that an MFA program will be able to hone—on a technical level—his skills as a general performer and deepen his understanding of the process and needs of acting and character development.”

Polec’s undergraduate acting career has come full circle in the past few months.  He performed in URITP’s first musical production, Hello Again, his freshman year and he ends his tenure here starring in its second. He leads a focused ensemble of remarkably mature and talented performers in what is a visually alarming, intellectually challenging, and genuinely entertaining production.  Maister said of Polec’s performance as Mr. Zero in Adding Machine, “[He] shows a more controlled and dramatically focused side of his abilities.”

Polec said that the role has “been a great final note to go out on” as he looks forward to working towards his dream of performing on Broadway.  The future of this soon-to-be-UR-graduate, it would seem, promises to “add up” to quite a lot.

Article written by Leah Barish ’12, a public relations intern with the International Theatre Program and a member of theater troupe, The Opposite of People.

In The Photos: Jacob Goritski ’14 (back) and Andrew Polec appear in Adding Machine: The Musical. Photos courtesy of J. Adam Fenster, University Photographer.