His first big break

When he enrolled in an acting camp over the summer, little did Nicholas Apostolina know it would lead to a role in the theater company’s season kick-off production.

The Burbank 9-year-old participated in the Summer with Shakespeare program produced by A Noise Within, a classical theater company in Glendale.

“We had some great teachers,” he said. “They taught us a lot of stuff that I didn’t know before. We learned basic tools of improv, a lot of stage combat and how to use our voices and exercise your voice.”

He especially liked doing tongue-twisters, like saying toy boat five times fast.

“When you mess up, it sounds like you have a New York accent, so it’s very interesting and funny,” he said.

His favorite part of the experience was the final performance when they put together everything they learned in camp, he said. And it was while he was on stage in the final performance that Nicholas impressed co-artistic director Geoff Elliott.

Nicholas was invited back for an audition and a one-on-one interview with Elliott who cast Nicholas in the role of Mamillius in Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” which opens tonight.

He had an innate charm, sparkle,” Elliott said. “He was very playful and had an authentic sense to him.”

In the Shakespeare play, Nicholas portrays a prince whose father accuses his mother of adultery and puts her in jail.

Nicholas is handling the role well, Elliott said.

“He’s terrific,” he said. “He takes direction very well and he has dedicated and understanding parents and that’s a huge element, because the hours are long and he has to be here pretty late.”

His parents, Stephen and Karen Apostolina, bring him to rehearsals and previews and they stay until the end, Elliott said, so it’s quite a commitment from the parents.

Nicholas has already appeared in the preview performances.

“It was very exciting because the previews usually just have a few people [in the audience], but the first preview was a full house,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it either.”

In comparing audiences, the second night’s group was very different from the first, he said.

“There is this one scene where a man is eaten by a bear, and the first audience stared blankly and didn’t show emotion, but the next night’s audience started laughing,” he said. “I was wondering why they were laughing.”

Nicholas said he’s looking forward to opening night, and feels more confident because he performed in the show’s previews, he said.

“The scariest is the opening night show,” he said. “You know lots of family members come on opening night. You want it to be perfect. Your head’s throbbing. You have butterflies. It makes you very nervous.”

While this is his first play with a professional company, Nicholas has done some acting before in a short Shakespearean film featuring all children actors and performed in his school’s talent show the last three years, Stephen Apostolina said.

His son has really enjoyed the experience, his father said.

“He’s having a blast,” he said. “The company is really talented and dedicated to the classics. Karen and I — one of us — are there all the time, and they treat him as a peer.”

The role isn’t a paid one, but Nicholas said he doesn’t mind.

“Because it’s experience you can’t come across at a theater like this,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Nicholas isn’t sure if he’s going make acting his career. He would prefer to become a scientist and find a way to patch the ozone layer, he said.

But would he consider a role with another A Noise Within production?

“If they need me for something and I can fit it in, of course I’ll do another play,” he said.

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