By Valerie Shelton, Editor
Hard work goes a long way. Even the best actor with raw natural talent needs to have that ingredient to “make it” in the industry. Clovis native Lance Frantzich, a 2008 graduate of Clovis East High School, knows this all to well as an aspiring actor in Los Angeles.
After years of doing bit parts here and there in high school and college and taking on odd jobs in Los Angeles, Frantzich is finally hitting his stride as a member of the prestigious Actors’ Gang, operated by actor Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River).
“Having talent and ability isn’t enough,” Frantzich says. “For instance, if you’re sensitive to criticism, you’re not going to last there long. I’d say that is the thing that undermines most people. You hear that saying ‘Don’t take anything personally’ and it sounds like a platitude and it is a platitude until it becomes truth through the active practice of it. Doing it makes it true. You can be up there bearing your soul, dancing, singing, improvising and trying to be soulful within The Style [The Actors’ Gang method] and someone, Tim or the main teacher Cynthia, will be there challenging you for more honesty, more depth, more substance. It isn’t for the faint hearted.
“For me, I have to constantly be aware that these people are helping me. They want me to do better. They aren’t there to make you feel good or stroke your ego; they are there to make you a better, more substantive actor and that’s it. When you do good honest work, when you push yourself, then you feel good. The approach demands taking chances and really pushing the envelope. They have a motto that is sort of their credo: ‘Fail big.’ That is what it takes. Do it big. Good or bad, do it big.”
Although Frantzich has celebrated a surge of recent success within the Actors’ Gang and Rogue Shakespeare—he landed leading roles in two of artistic director Ryan J.W. Smith’s Shakespearean plays debuting this summer—he stays humble and true to his roots.
Frantzich is the first to admit that his acting abilities in high school were subpar. While he had constant encouragement from his mom, Cheryl Frantzich, and support from his family, he said no teacher came out and said “You have talent, kid, go for it!”
“I’m pretty sure I was an average actor in school,” Frantzich said. “If there was talent there, it was latent. I didn’t really unlock it until I had made other significant changes in my life that ended up bringing me to a more authentic self, close to who I really am, like practicing veganism, getting into the older rock and roll, and growing my hair. I’ve achieved what seems to me a deeper understanding of social things and, probably more than anything, just being more aware of what’s good in life and being grateful for it, like the people in my life and the love in my life. All of those things brought me closer to my nature and my confidence increased and everything starting seeming possible. It sounds trite, but it’s true: Having confidence and belief in one’s self leads to more opportunity and, if we do it right, greater success.”
Cheryl Frantzich said her son’s confidence started to blossom at Reyburn Intermediate and Clovis East High School. Although he never got a lead part in the Reagan Educational Center’s theater productions, she said his choir teacher, Dan Bishop, in particular motivated him. She also credits performing arts teacher Heather Karsevar for teaching Lance how to dance. Both of them, she said, instilled that hardworking attitude in Lance, which motivated him to continue pursuing his acting dreams in college and beyond.
“Lance has been so diligent, working two to three jobs at times in Los Angeles while not giving up on his dream,” Cheryl said. “I’ve always been supportive of his love for performing and singing and dance. He left home at 18, double majored at Chapman in Theater and Psychology and he never looked back. I’m excited to see him perform at this next level. I go to all his performances.”
While attending Chapman University, Frantzich performed in several theater productions and appeared in some student films. He also appeared in his friend Chris Colfer’s (Glee) movie “Struck by Lightning” where he was in the background in several scenes, including one where he threw paper at Colfer’s character and called him a derogatory name. Colfer and Frantzich were classmates at Clovis East.
After graduating college, Frantzich said he moved to Los Angeles to make something happen, but he quickly found out how expensive it was to live in the big city and took on two to three jobs, working 60 to 80 hours just to make ends meet. Wherever he worked, he worked hard and not begrudgingly. At Jamba Juice, he even became Assistant Manager. After a couple years, he decided to try his hand at being a high-wage earning server at a fancy restaurant.
“I was just in survival mode,” Frantzich said. “I didn’t want to come back to Clovis with my tail between my legs as someone who tried and failed.”
It was during his time working at the high class restaurant that he was “discovered” by his current boss Michael Garcia, a consultant at Bright Bulb Solutions, where Frantzich now works as a Senior Data Analyst and has a flexible schedule so he can rehearse and perform.
“He said he was watching me work, cleaning tables, wiping down the coffee carafes and keeping myself busy instead of just standing there doing nothing when nobody was in the restaurant,” Frantzich said. “He said people who care that much are rare and he was looking for caring people to work for him.”
It was Garcia that told Frantzich not to give up.
“Michael is one of these guys who knows everything and does everything well,” Frantzich said. “He said he had watched a bunch of my short films on YouTube and said they were all terrible except one. He’s also the most honest person I’ve ever met. He said the one that was good was the one that was most hard to play and that he thought I had talent and should go into acting again. A few months after I took the job [at Bright Bulb Solutions] we were talking about prisons and prison reform and he showed me a video about the Actors’ Gang Prison Project. It showed the acting company—and Tim Robbins—teaching acting skills to incarcerated prisoners…I was struck both as an aspiring actor and as a psychology student. I could see that deep things were happening. It looked like rehabilitations. It looked healthy. It looked humane. And it looked like fun!
“That day, without telling anyone, I signed up to audition for the first round of classes…They required me to attend a two-hour audition to determine if I was the right fit. It was difficult and different from anything I’ve done acting-wise ever. I made the audition and received a letter later inviting me to the first round.”
Frantzich studied the Actors’ Gang method, The Style, for about a year and then was accepted as an Associate Company Member. He was the only male and one of six who progressed that far from a group of 50 actors and actresses who started training at the same time. In December, he had his first opportunity to perform on stage with the Actors Gang. Frantzich also helps teach classes in the Actors’ Gang Kids Ensemble.
Garcia said he is continually impressed by Frantzich’s work ethic and the success he now has with the Actors’ Gang. Above all, Garcia says he is most impressed with how Frantzich is as a person.
“What is poignant is Lance himself,” Garcia said. “He is an incredibly nice person, a deep thinker, a truth seeker, a creative artist, a young man with an interesting story and finally, a very talented actor.”
Jeanette Horn, a fellow member of the Actors’ Gang, said Frantzich has been a fantastic addition to the company.
“He’s amazing on stage and great fun to work with,” Horn said. “He is a wonderful, expressive, physical actor.”
Horn and Frantzich worked together to teach a holiday show titled “The State Family Holiday Party” to kids in the Actors’ Gang afterschool program, where company members teach fourth and fifth graders acting techniques. Horn said Frantzich is particularly good at working with the kids.
“He is big with heightened emotions and feelings and is very expressive and that models what we are looking for from the kids,” Horn said. “We want them to be bigger than themselves and act with big emotion and movement.”
In addition to his work with the Actors’ Gang, Frantzich also recently auditioned to be part of Rogue Shakespeare. Currently, he is performing in ‘Sweet Love Adieu’ and he will have a lead role in ‘MacDeth’ which opens June 2. Both plays were written and are directed by Ryan J.W. Smith.
“Lance auditioned for Rogue Shakespeare a couple of months ago and since then has been involved in the work shopping of two new comedies, ‘MacDeth!’ and ‘Sweet Love Adieu’ that I wrote over Christmas,” Smith said. “Lance has been particularly involved in ‘MacDeth!’ which as the name suggests is a farcical play-gone-wrong version of MacBeth, written entirely in rhyming couplets. Based on his natural ability and his obvious commitment and respect for the work and our company, I had Lance learn a key and difficult role in ‘MacDeth!’
“Lance is certainly a wonderful addition to our company and everyone in his hometown should be highly supportive of him. He has lots of talent, and more importantly, he has a humble and respectful attitude, which will help him to succeed and endure in this exceptionally tough industry.”
Although Frantzich has now appeared in a handful of plays in Hollywood, he remains humble about his future as an actor.
“I don’t have any expectations going forward except to keep practicing acting and trying to get better,” Frantzich said. “I don’t have a need to be famous. If I just grew up within the Actors’ Gang and was doing plays there when I’m 50, I’d feel blessed and fortunate.”
Go to ClovisRoundup.com/in-depth-lance-frantzich/, to read an in-depth Q&A between Frantzich and editor Valerie Shelton.
For more information on the Actors’ Gang, visit http://www.theactorsgang.com. For more information on Rogue Shakespeare, including dates and times for ‘Sweet Love Adieu’ and ‘MacDeth’ visit www.rogueshakespeare.com.