When adventure calls, Zags answer in their own distinct ways. One has a jones for foot races in the desert, another debuts on stage in New York City; the third paddled across Canada, coast to coast.
Big Dreams in the Big Apple
John Brummer is engaged in his own high-stakes challenge:
working to establish himself as an actor in New York City
By Eli Francovich
It’s a staggering statistic. Of all active members of the Professional Stage Actors Union between 10 and 30 percent make a living acting. The actors’ stereotype holds true. They wait tables during the day, and do what they love at night.
John Brummer `08, is no exception, however, he’s changed the details. Instead of waiting tables in New York City, he is a personal fitness trainer. He tried the waiter thing, and didn’t like it.
“Typically they’re really rude to the wait staff,” he said. “Everybody assumes that you’re an actor and everybody assumes that you’re a failed actor.” In Brummer’s case that’s only partially true. Sure, he’s an actor, but he’s hardly failing.
Last spring, he played Prince Hal in “Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I.” Reviews were mixed, but for Brummer that’s the beauty of acting. He acts because it’s his vocation.
“I’m sure Brad Pitt has his days when he thinks, ‘How am I ever going to be a good actor,’ ” he said. “The only thing that keeps you coming back is the joy you get from doing the work.”
The joy is in the range of emotion that actors are allowed to express. When in character no emotion is off limits: Sadness, love, hate, they’re all allowed, and encouraged.
One scene from “Henry IV” stands out in Brummer’s mind. Prince Hall believes that his best friend has died in battle. Coming to terms with the death brings up private emotions. But in Brummer’s case, just beyond the circle of stage light, there is a whole audience experiencing Hal’s, and ultimately Brummer’s, pain.
“In your day-to-day life you can’t look at your boyfriend or girlfriend and say, ‘screw you,’ without consequences,” he said. “There are moments on stage, though, where you can really be honest with all your feelings, without worrying about if they will actually hurt someone.”
Brummer came to acting haphazardly. Originally studying medicine he stumbled into Gonzaga University Theatre Sports during his freshman year. The popular improve group quickly became an obsession.
“My grades were tanking because I was spending all my time in the theater,” he said. “So I made the decision at the end of my freshman year to stop acting.” It didn’t work. He just couldn’t kick it.
The next year in order to erase an ‘F’ on his transcript he signed up for an acting class that he’d failed the previous semester. The professor, the late Brian Russo, liked what he saw in Brummer.
“He approached me and asked me if I had ever thought about acting as a career,” Brummer said. “He kind of told me that I should do it.”
That summer Brummer got a letter from Gonzaga telling him that, because of grades, he couldn’t pursue a science degree anymore. From then on he was in every school play. His senior year he visited Chicago and auditioned for various graduate acting programs. Doors kept opening. He was accepted, with a full ride, to several schools. Brummer chose the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
His parents never pushed him toward acting, he said.
“You could ask any parent in the world would you rather have a kid that was a doctor or an actor. That’s a no brainer,” he said. However, any concerns his parents had were tempered by Brummer’s obvious skill. “Once they started seeing me in plays it finally became clear to them that I had a very fair shot at this.”
For now, Brummer is living in New York City, pursuing his vocation. “I believe everybody has a vocation,” he said. “It’s a really great thing when it happens, when both your passion and the means by which that passion can become a reality coexist.”
Run, run, run – An ultra-distance runner tells all
Alum Kyle McCoy loves to run, always has. He’s taking his passion
to the world’s deserts.
By Eli Francovich
It was 100 degrees and Kyle McCoy (`01) walked. The lanky 165 pound ex-Army ranger doesn’t normally walk. He’s a runner, always has been. But that day, at 10,000 feet, in a place drier than Death Valley, Kyle walked. And that was just the end of day two.
“Long story short, the altitude got to me,” he said. “Literally it was all I could do to walk the last four miles.” Kyle was just two days into a seven day pain-fest in Chile, known as the Atacama Crossing. Competitors run, walk and crawl 150 miles. It’s the equivalent, Kyle said, of running six marathons in seven days.
As he stumbled into camp he started throwing up. Dehydrated and demoralized he crawled into the medical tent where he would stay for the next six hours fighting nausea and exhaustion. However, he didn’t stop. In a way, he said, he couldn’t stop.
“There were probably 400 people that were receiving my updates and had given money to the USO,” he said, “I was kind of like; ‘I can’t let these people down.’ It’s good, that kind of accountability is good.”
Kyle has always been a runner. While in high school he ran. At Gonzaga he ran. In Afghanistan, he ran. “I can remember running around little outposts surrounded by barbed wire, carrying a handgun,” McCoy said. In 2005 McCoy finished his fourth tour in Afghanistan as a ranger. He got an MBA from Cornwell University and kept running. However, at that point, he said, he’d never run more than 10 miles.
That changed. In 2007 ran the New York Marathon. In 2008 he did several more marathons and completed his first 50 K (31 miles). Shortly after that came a 50 miler. Then one day he read about the Marathon Des Sables. The six-day ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert is considered the toughest footrace in the world. McCoy was interested. He applied and two years later, in 2010, was accepted. He started training by running at least one marathon every week. His focus paid off and he finished 45th overall and was the second American across the finish line, he said.
As physically punishing as the sport is, McCoy finds it rewarding. Camaraderie develops between competitors. And it’s a simple sport, in terms of gear, monetary compensation and recognition. Most competitors raise money for an organization or cause. McCoy supported USO Northwest. At Atacama, he surpassed his $15,000 goal, reaching $23,000.
“There isn’t that much money involved,” he said. “You’re doing it just to see if you can do it, not for glory or any of that. I would definitely say it’s one of the most unique cultures that I’ve been involved in.”
It has to be. Training for these races isn’t easy. His job with Goldman Sachs in Seattle demands such long hours that he trains by racing. During peak training periods, he runs at least one marathon every weekend, often two back to back.
“That’s really the key for those races, running back to back,” he said. It’s not an easy sport to get into, but for McCoy it’s worth the effort. “It’s about having goals on the horizon,” he said. “I’m less grumpy and more cheery when I have goals on the horizon.”
Alum Winchell Delano canoed west-to-east across Canada
with three friends. That’s some significant upstream paddling.
By Eli Francovich
Somewhere along Canada’s longest river, the Mackenzie, Winchell Delano (`07) sat in a canoe waiting out a thunderstorm. A canoe, on a river, during a thunderstorm isn’t where you want to be, Delano knew this, but couldn’t do anything about it.
“On the Mackenzie, there will be, at times, miles and miles of reeds with no shoreline,” Delano said. “We were literally blown off the water into the reeds and just sat there while everything was going on.”
The history major was roughly half way through a 130-day, 2,600 mile odyssey. The trip, which had been in the works for more than a year took him and three close friends across Canada west to east, by canoe.
They were the first to ever attempt the crossing. The route featured some of the harshest and most volatile weather conditions in North America, Delano said.
Some days they would paddle for 10 to 12 hours and only cover 10 miles. Other times they had to backtrack completely, wasting hours and hours of work, he said.
They started in Skagway, Alaska, a small town north of Juneau. Almost from the beginning, he said, their naivety was evident. Even though it was the beginning of May the first pass that they had to portage over (where you carry your boats) was covered in 20 feet of snow. From there he said, they got on the Yukon River, meaning they were paddling upstream. They would average 10 or 15 miles a day, and that was working for 12 to 14 hours.
Although only four went on this trip generally there is a group of about 12 that do trips, Delano said.
This particular incarnation, he said, clicked because all four work in wilderness therapy. Delano, who works in Utah, said their shared experiences helped the group dynamic. Wilderness therapy focuses on bringing at-risk kids into nature, providing structure and boundaries.
“We didn’t have anybody that was in charge,” he said. “It was mostly about safety, what everybody was comfortable with.”
Delano said that when he’s not on month long expeditions he tries to focus on a life of service
“I believe that those with more are obliged to serve those with less,” he said. “As a moderately well-adjusted adult, I want to help struggling teenagers reach their own adulthood without serious repercussions following them their entire lives.”