LAND O'LAKES — Ben Potter was about 9 years old and living in Ware, Mass., when he first got bitten by the acting bug. All it took was a stint with an improvisational theater group and he was hooked.
Since then, the Sunlake High senior has acted in a variety of theatrical performances, often landing leading roles in school productions at Sunlake High. His list of credits there include performances in Arsenic and Old Lace, Sorry Wrong Number, The Wizard of Oz, Check Please, Twelve Angry Jurors and his all-time favorite, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.
Of course he played Charlie Brown.
And in Twelve Angry Jurors he had the part Henry Fonda played in Twelve Angry Men.
It has been a pretty good run for Ben, 17, who also serves as president of the school's Thespian Troupe. That's where he and other young actors have been given the opportunity to blossom under the direction of the club's sponsors, Cara Nolan and Shelley Roswell.
"I can't give enough credit to our sponsors," Ben said. "They built this (club) from the beginning. I was here at the very first meeting four years ago and I can tell you, they really do their part to make sure it's all-inclusive. We're all friends — it's like a family."
A family that gets to strut its stuff on stage in front of an audience and before judges at local and state competitions.
It was at the District 14 One-Act thespian competition on Dec. 4 that Ben performed especially well and came home with a $500 scholarship. Nolan said Ben was chosen based on his acting skills as well as an assessment of his future ability to succeed in college or in a professional acting program.
Participants were also judged on an academic package they submitted that included ACT/SAT scores, their grade point average, recommendations and a written statement about their future plans. Ben was also named the outstanding actor in Sunlake's presentation of Check Please and was placed in the District All Star cast.
That $500 will help some with college expenses. Ben hopes to attend the University of South Florida after graduation and plans to major in chemistry and education with a minor in theater.
"I don't want to leave high school — I love it here," said Ben, whose next role will be as one of the T-Birds in Sunlake's February production of Grease. "I'd like to be a chemistry teacher and I'd like work with a school drama club, too. Maybe even start one from the beginning like they did here."