From cowardly lion to singing ogre

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High school alum won’t give up on acting dream

Devan Pruitt kick started his acting career by guzzling hydrochloric acid.
Egged on by friends, the high school sophomore pretended to knock back a graduated cylinder full of hydrochloric acid during an AP Chemistry lab.
Pruitt, now a college sophomore at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, said he doesn’t remember exactly what the lab was about, maybe about testing pH levels.  
But he remembers the consequences of his prank — getting kicked out of AP Chemistry.
A blessing in disguise, Pruitt said.
Without hydrochloric acid, he never would have auditioned for Advanced Choir to avoid taking a credit recovery course after being kicked out of chemistry class.
Without Advanced Choir, Pruitt never would have perfected his quavering voice as the cowardly lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Without the cowardly lion, there would be no Shrek.
Two weekends ago, Pruitt willingly smeared himself with green makeup and sweated under hot stage lights as a 6 foot, 6 inch singing ogre.
His Shrek ensemble reminds Pruitt of the heavy cowardly lion costume he wore during Anderson County High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” in 2010. Except during the “Wizard of Oz” performances, Pruitt said he battled mono and pneumonia. Dorothy kept Pruitt’s inhaler in her basket alongside Toto for Pruitt to use backstage.  
“I’m green, that’s for sure,” Pruitt said of his costume as Shrek in the recent Lexington Children’s Theatre production of “Shrek the Musical.”
Wearing makeup took a few years to get used to, Pruitt said.
So did abandoning a childhood dream of football glory.
Pruitt wanted to play in the NFL when he grew up. He loved football as a fan and especially as an athlete.
After moving to Anderson County from Allen County in the eighth grade, Pruitt said he redshirted for the eighth grade team and then saw some playing time as an offensive tackle and defensive end on the junior varsity team in high school.  
Then he blew out his knee during the last game of the JV football season against Mercer County.
Then he tore his labrum in his shoulder while bench pressing.
Sophomore year of high school, Pruitt said he couldn’t even play at all due to his knee and shoulder injuries.
A year passed before Pruitt could attend a football game. Football hurt too much.
“I was in depression for a long time,” Pruitt said. “I couldn’t watch football because I missed it so much.”
But after exchanging AP Chemistry for Advanced Choir, Pruitt grew to enjoy theater. He had the opportunity to attend an intensive musical theater program at Governor’s School for the Arts in 2011, which settled it.
Pruitt wanted to be an actor. Someday even an actor like Australian Hugh Jackman (Pruitt already has an excellent Australian accent down).
Dancing like Hugh Jackman may have to wait.
“I’ve never had dancing classes, that’s definitely where my weakness lies,” Pruitt said of why he went strictly the drama route for his bachelor of fine arts degree in music and dramatic performance.
Pruitt said his parents, Noah and Marsha Pruitt, support him in his decision to pursue such a competitive career field with more dreamers than there are jobs.
“Not as much as I thought I would,” Pruitt said when asked if he gets negative feedback for his career aspirations. “Mostly the response I get is, ‘Oh wow! Good luck with that I hope it works out for you,’ but not sarcastic.”
Pruitt said he has faith in his college, where professors conduct “boards” at the end of each semester to determine whether a student can remain in the program or not.  
“We will be working actors when we get out,” Pruitt said, adding that the university boasts of a strong alumni network of professional actors. “We will be getting paid to act if we do what we’re supposed to.”
If he doesn’t become a professional actor, Pruitt said he may look at teaching. It’s a “back-up” plan conversation he’s had with instructors at the conservatory.
That doesn’t mean he is going to abandon acting easily, however.
It’s maybe not the smartest decision, but it’s the happiest one, he said.  
“I believe you should pursue whatever your dream is,” Pruitt said. “The economy may be hard and it may not seem like the best financial decision for your future, ultimately at the end of the day, you want to be doing whatever makes you happy. If you’re truly happy doing that, that’s really all that matters to me.”
One of Pruitt’s college classmates, he said, is a 30-year-old Army veteran with a degree in nursing.
She, like the 19-year-old Pruitt, dreams of doing what she loves. What makes her happy.