When a stunning girl at a community pool in New Jersey in the early ’70s asked a teen-aged Jason Alexander if he could sing, his answer was a resounding “yes.”
Little did Alexander know that the chance pool encounter would lead him into a stint in community and children’s theatre. And that would become his foundation for a fruitful career in Broadway, film and eventually, a television sitcom “about nothing.”
In an eloquent talk full of humor, actor Jason Alexander P ’18 shared his wisdom with a crowd of 1,800 gathered at Bridges Auditorium Saturday night for a special event with Assistant Professor of Theatre Carolyn Ratteray as part of Pomona College’s Family Weekend.
A self-described shy and introverted child, Alexander, most commonly known for portraying the neurotic character of George Costanza in “Seinfeld,” said he found refuge in the sense of community and ensemble of theatre, a feeling that many years later would be one of the ingredients for his career success.
“Every time you go to cast something, you look for that lightning in a bottle, something that would click like that,” says Alexander. “I’m incredibly fond of Jerry, Julia and Michael,” said Alexander of his “Seinfeld” co-stars.
“But, we wouldn’t have been friends in high school and I say this with great affection to all of them. We had four very separate lives and were never social friends. But, we were the closest of work friends. The closest I’ve ever had,” added Alexander.
“As an acting relationship, we never disappointed each other.”
When asked about the impact an actor has on others, Alexander joked that “there’s no day where you ‘need’ an actor or that no one ever asks if there is an actor in the house.”
But Alexander did concede that the effect that “Seinfeld” has had on so many people is humbling. He hears from people who have experienced a loss in their family or from men and women in service stationed abroad who watch the show, thanking him for bringing them hope and laughter. The show still runs in syndication more than two decades after its last episode aired.
A magician at heart and an award-winning children’s book author for Dad, Are You the Tooth Fairy?, Alexander now dedicates most of his time as a producer, director and coach of the next generation of actors.
His advice to young actors in the crowd, “Believe you are worth the attention you are seeking but also learn from criticism.”
“Make something that agents want, and they will find you,” said Alexander, who won a Tony Award at age 29 for his role in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. “The trick now is not to get a job, is to create the job. Technology has changed the game. Develop the skills and the community so you leave college knowing how to create a product you can market through social media.”
He told students in the audience that they have choices and that should learn as much as they can from a variety of fields of study. “Your 20s are your years of exploration, set the course and head out there.”
“Being a parent is the only choice you can't undo,” said Alexander.
“There is no bad opportunity and no wasted effort. You have the best life in the world.”