HARLINGEN – After finishing his Fine Arts degree at UNT in 1999, Sergio Antonio Garcia headed north for New York City.
“I went up there to try to make it on Broadway. I figured the easiest way was to go to school there and get the training in the city, and make that transition to Broadway.”
Raised in Harlingen, he was “too busy in high school to get in trouble,” playing in the band, singing in the school choir and performing in the one community theater in town. His entire family was involved in the arts in some way.
His older sister Diana was a dancer, big brother Tizoc sang and played the French Horn and younger brother Jaime played the Trumpet. His mother, Irene, sings, and his father, Ignacio, plays the trumpet, and still does at the age of 76.
Sergio played Alto Sax in the band and choir, and at the age of 23, took up ballet so he’d be ready to dance once he got to Broadway.
But, he says, “life happens,” and it brought him back to Dallas in 2000, after having lived in many different places in the New York City area including a “small shoebox of room dorm room” on the upper west side, then Brooklyn, then Jersey City.
“I used to go in and out of the World Trade center all the time. I came back shortly before 9/11.” That tragedy “was really mind blowing,” remembers Sergio. “I couldn’t get a hold of any of my friends for days. It was a really crazy time.”
Back safely in Dallas, he began doing a variety of jobs, he landed his first professional gig at Theater Three in the quadrangle — a Kander and Ebb musical review “As The World Goes Around,” directed by Bruce Coleman.
This brought him into the city as a working professional. He’s worked at Water Tower Theater, ICT in Irving, Garland, Uptown Players to name a few and says, “I kind of was all over the place, working the network — which was vaster here in Dallas than I thought.”
Through it all he asked himself, how can I be happy? Can I make this acting life a profession?
It’s difficult to make it as a full-time actor. There are a few positions available where it can be done, such as at the Dallas Theater Center, but it’s not unusual for actors to have a different day job and then go to an acting gig at night.
Realizing he could use some management experience — and needing a steady income to pay the bills and eat — Sergio took a job at the Whole Foods in Allen.
With no background in the industry he had to be a quick learner, because he was left in charge of the store soon after he started there, as the head manager went off on a month’s vacation. Sergio’s acting background came in handy: he told himself, “I’ll just act like a know what I’m doing …”
Two years there prepared him for his latest challenge, running the Bishop Arts Theater on Tyler street now during the busy summer months. In just his second week on the job, Theater founder Teresa Wash took a trip to California, leaving Sergio in charge.
“It brought me back to that Whole Foods job, realizing that now, thanks to that experience, I can do this,” he said.
In fact, having been raised by parents who were always promoting education and constantly encouraging Sergio to do what he loves, he’s doing exactly that – managing the summer drama camp programs, and busy creating a fall calendar of events for the theater and its many patrons.
Ideas range from “Senior Follies,” teaching senior citizens to dance, then ultimately producing a show with them as the talent next January, to developing a “Reality Bites” series of short plays based on special family recipes and family dynamics with performances on stage, followed by taste testing of the delicious food created in the lobby after the show.
“Food is such a part of all our culture and it’s a great way to experience one another’s culture,” he said.
Fortunately, Sergio has experience in both teaching and creating new programs.
After college, he worked as a teaching artist at CATS (Creative Arts Theater School) in Arlington for two years. He likes giving kids the same opportunity he had as a teenager to be involved in community theater, and hopes to raise scholarships for local Oak Cliff area students to attend both the Bishop Arts Theater’s summer camps and fall After School programs.
His goal is to develop an Arts Outreach program for low income, minority kids.
“I honestly believe a well-rounded person knows about not just math and science and literature, but also the arts. It makes for a more well-rounded, productive member of society,” he said.
And now that he’s managing a theater, another dream has become reality: he’ll be performing on stage this fall, in Jesus Christ Superstar. Rehearsals begin in August with the show running in September.
Sergio plays an apostle — but he’s not sure which one yet.
Sergio caught the “Theater bug” in high school, performing in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and his parents were supportive but insisted he also get a college education.
“It has served me well,” he said.
He’ll do the same for the Theater students at the Bishop Arts Theater, encouraging them to follow their acting dreams, but to complete their education, too.
From Harlingen to Dallas to New York City back to Dallas, Sergio is following his dreams — and hopes to help young actors do the same.