Fri, Apr 27 2012 12:34 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
What Otay Ranch High School senior Landen Baldwin may lack in height, he more than makes up for with his larger than life personality.
Baldwin stands five feet, six inches tall. “On a good day,” he quipped.
But his stage persona is much taller as a member of South County Christian Youth Theater — and that doesn’t include lifts.
The UCLA-bound live theater aficionado gave up the opportunity to attend this year’s school prom so he could perform one last time with what he termed his “CYT family.”
Baldwin and more than 70 other South County CYT members will take a bow for the 2011-12 performing arts season when they spearhead the spring production of “Honk!”
The tuneful retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic children’s tale “The Ugly Duckling” hatches April 27-29 and May 4-6 at the Mater Dei Catholic High School theater.
Baldwin appears as the main character Ugly. It marks his 14th career production in CYT.
“My parents, especially my mother, were both involved in performing, so it was pretty impossible for me to avoid,” he said. “I was in karate and my mother suggested I try CYT. She said if I didn’t like it, I could go back to karate. I did CYT, and I loved it.”
There’s been no turning back.
Besides performing in three productions each year for CYT (fall, winter and spring), Baldwin also is a member of Otay Ranch’s television news broadcasting department.
The on-campus TV feed is delivered to classrooms via a closed circuit connection. He alternately serves as a news anchor, reporter and tape editor.
He has yet to declare a major at UCLA but feels his future lies somewhere between his two current passions — performing arts and broadcasting.
“I want to get involved in anything that gives me the same feeling I get doing theater or broadcasting,” he said. “I haven’t pinpointed it yet. I want to give someone something to watch.”
Baldwin was born in San Diego but moved to Indiana when he was 10 and attended middle school there in the Hoosier State. He returned to California prior to entering his freshman year at ORHS.
He admitted arriving back “home” reminded him of the differences between regions.
“You definitely see more of a variety of cultures in Chula Vista than in Indiana,” he said, smiling. “But it was an easy transition; I just enjoy the contrast in retrospect.”
Baldwin said performing for CYT has helped him grow in so many ways.
“It’s definitely taught me to be sociable,” he said. “When I moved here, I was really reserved which is really weird for me because I’m not a reserved person now.”
His outgoing nature has certainly been apparent in his performances during CYT’s annual summer improvathon competition.
He won the CYT Director’s Choice Award for his comedic role as LeFou in the winter 2011 production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” and also has received the highest award voted on by his theater peers, both cast and crew — CYT’s Rose Award.
The Rose Award is given to the cast member who is most Christ-like — someone who not only shines on stage but also is a role model to other cast members.
Besides CYT, Baldwin also has been involved in school productions. He was involved in the Sweetwater district Visual and Performing Arts Department’s Summer Theater Institute production of “Les Miserables” in 2011.
“The biggest thing for me is connecting with the characters I play, at least the serious characters,” he said. “The more fantastical characters are fun. I get the freedom to ask myself what would make me laugh and I try to put that into my performance.”
Baldwin has landed the leading male roles in CYT’s latest two productions — the Prince in “Cinderella” and now Ugly in “Honk!”
He feels CYT’s current production will resonate with audiences.
“It’s always been my favorite story,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do the show. Everyone can have fun with their character. In the end, it’s about a kid who doesn’t fit in. You’ve got a lot of kids who can relate to it (the subject matter).”
To date, Baldwin has appeared in children-oriented productions. He said he is looking forward to getting involved with more serious roles once he gets to UCLA.
He hopes the college experience will help unlock doors. “I want to find what really makes me tick,” he said.
All the world’s a stage, of course.
© 2009 The Star-News