Juggling between performer and professor

Trent Blanton, third from right, and the rest of the Actors’ Playhouse cast allowed the story of Jean Valjean to live on by performing Les Miserables cross-country.

By Laura Staples

At first glance, Trent Blanton is your typical theater professor: quirky, funny and booming with personality. Take another look, however, and Blanton’s story is much more complex.

Although he currently lives in Lawrenceville, Blanton has been to every major city in North America. Blanton is a professional actor disguised in flannel shirts and jeans.

For about seven years, Blanton toured with the Broadway National Tour in its production of Les Miserables. His main role was Grantaire, the witty, drunken student, but he also filled in as an understudy for Javert. He says his role as a professional actor is something that lends itself to his teaching career.

“When you’re teaching students in the classroom it helps if you’ve paid your rent as an actor,” he said.

However, Blanton remains modest about his experience.

He started out in acting school at Georgia College and then finished graduate courses at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Following his education, Blanton worked day and night, finding auditions and giving them everything he had. His hard work and dedication to acting is what landed him a role in the production of Les Miserables, he said.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Blanton said. “A lot of [an actor’s] success is based around luck of being at the right place at the right time, but that can’t happen without true hard work and passion.”

Blanton does not just talk a big game; he truly knows what it means to work hard.

Meade Andrews, Blanton’s professor from FAU and now a theater professor at Rider, says Blanton is a natural when it comes to not only acting, but directing.

“He has an incredible talent for working with actors and singers and bringing out the best in them,” Andrews said. “He instinctively knows how to create unique staging to suit each production, and he has an impeccable sense of timing in his directing work.”

Students who have had Blanton rant and rave about him. When asked which field he preferred, professional acting or teaching, Blanton answered without hesitation, saying teaching is just as rewarding, if not more, than acting.

“It really is the same, acting and teaching,” Blanton said. “I still get [as] excited artistically in the classroom as I do on the stage.”

Blanton can explain to his students both the good and the bad parts of theater, unlike those without experience. His professional perspective, he said, helps cultivate his students to be the best they can be in their desired field.

“I know what an audition room smells like and I can share that experience with my students,” he said. “I love using this knowledge to help each student find their natural talent.”

Ivan Fuller, associate dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, says Blanton is especially valued in the department because of the real-world experience he brings to the classroom.

“Trent is the most passionate, energetic professor I know,” Fuller said. “His dedication and energy translates to the classroom.”

Andrews said the students love Blanton not only for his knowledge and training in acting, but also for his kindness, compassion and ability to have fun in the classroom.

Due to his busy lifestyle, Blanton is not currently performing in any outside productions, but said he would love to get back on stage in the near future. For now, though, Rider’s theater community is happy to have Blanton around.

“We are all so fortunate to have him in the theater program,” Andrews said.

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