Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Heathwood graduate stars at Stagedoor and in Theater Geek

Natalie Portman and Bryce Dallas Howard as campers at Stagedoor in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Natalie Portman and Bryce Dallas Howard as campers at Stagedoor in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The world of Harry Katzman could be likened to “the onion effect.”

Peel back one interesting layer about the Katzman’s sudden move from England to Columbia, S.C. as an incoming high school freshman and find another one that is just as fascinating as he deals with broken families and inferiority complexes. Tear another layer away and find a comical one as Katzman copes with moving from star of the stage to toilet bowl lackey.

Then put it all in a book about young actors trying to make it in show business and the pressure– packed, yet rewarding summers spent at a prestigious performing arts camp in New York, and you’ve got yourself quite a complex onion salad.

That’s the subject of a just–released book entitled

Theater Geek by GQ magazine senior editor Mickey Rapkin, who followed three talented actors including 2009 Heathwood Hall graduate Katzman, as they navigate through their final season at Stagedoor Manor, a prestigious acting camp that has as its graduates Natalie Portman, Zach Braff, and Mandy Moore.

Harry Katzman in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the   Forum performed at Stagedoor

Harry Katzman in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum performed at Stagedoor

Katzman, who just finished his freshman year at the University of Michigan musical theater program, said he felt the book was a “a very honest portrayal of life at Stagedoor.”

“I also thought it was a very accurate account of my life, too, which is weird to say at 19 years old,” Katzman said. “Mickey knew more about my life than anyone else.”

Rapkin said he became fascinated with the reputation and storied history of upstate New York’s Stagedoor Manor, which has since 1975 turned out scores of prolific and talented actors, musicians, and directors.

“I couldn’t believe a place like this existed—a place that has such a reputation that studio executives and talent agents come out to see the plays and recruit these young actors, ” Rapkin said. “I wanted to find out how this camp came to be.”

Harry Katzman in A Midsummer Night’s       Drea m

Harry Katzman in A Midsummer Night’s Drea m

Not only did Rapkin follow the trials and tribulations of the three young actors—Katzman, Rachel Singer, and Brian Muller— he did copious research into the forces behind the success of Stagedoor, including its founders Carl and Elsie Samuelson and first acting director Jack Romano. He also interviewed many of Stagedoor’s famous alumni, who said they might not be successful had it not been for the rigorous training and exposure they received at the upstate New York camp.

Rapkin said Katzman was a natural subject for the book, given the unusual circumstances that landed him in contrasting worlds at such a young age.

“Here is a kid who spent most of his life in England and suddenly he’s in a swamp in South Carolina,” Rapkin said. “It was a good story.”

Adding another layer, Rapkin talks of the irony of Katzman performing at Stagedoor, one day playing

Thenardier in Les Miserables,

Cover of Mickey Rapkin’s book

Cover of Mickey Rapkin’s book

and the next day sitting in math class at Heathwood. He describes, with humor and empathy, Katzman’s inferiority complexes and desire to be perfect as an actor and all the chaos that comes with live theater including the impact of a sudden rainstorm during Katzman’s final outdoor theater performance.

Now working summer stock in Weston, Vermont, with a year of college under his belt, Katzman said he looks back on his years in Columbia with some fondness, although it was a difficult adjustment during what he acknowledged “is the most awkward phase of your life anyway.”

“Columbia was a very important part of my life,” he said. “I had my ups and downs here just like any kid.”

Rapkin, whose bond with Katzman has gone beyond the 1/2 years he spent researching and writing the book, said the young actor is the real deal.

“He’s got a big personality and a beautiful voice. It was fascinating watching him laying the groundwork for a real professional career.”

Theater Geek, which is published by Simon & Schuster, is available at online outlets and in local bookstores in Columbia. Rapkin is also the author of

Pitch Perfect: the Quest for

Collegiate and A Cappella

Gl or y.

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