As kids all over America head back to school, Broadway.com decided to ask our favorite Broadway stars to look back at their own years in the classroom—and share a school picture! Before Jason Gotay snagged the role of dreamy high schooler Randall in Bring It On, he was a real student at New York City’s Professional Performing Arts School. Below, Gotay looks back fondly on passing notes in Spanish class, playing the title role in Bat Boy and rocking his JanSport backpack.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
Although I credit all of my teachers with playing an important role in my life, Mr. James Deforte was the most influential and inspirational teacher I've ever worked with. He was the person who really gave me the courage to go for it, and showed me just how much I was capable of. In my junior year of high school, he cast me as the title role in Bat Boy: The Musical and worked me SO hard to reach a performance that, to this day, was one of the biggest moments of my life. I'm definitely grateful to him for pulling me out of my shell and giving me the confidence to really shine. Thanks, Deforte!
What advice would you give to your school-age self?
I would tell myself to relax and enjoy the ride! It's funny because in Bring It On, I get to sing a song called "Enjoy the Trip," in which my character, Randall, talks about an experience he had with a high school janitor who, through his love of rock music, discovered how important it was to relax and enjoy every moment. I think I would say something very similar to my school-age self. Time goes by so fast, and the most important thing to remember is to enjoy every second of the ride; the ups and downs, the pain, every accomplishment...really soak it in!
In school you would have been named “most likely to…”
I probably would have been named "most likely to talk too much...?" Haha, I was ALWAYS talking! I remember in grade school at parent-teacher conferences (do those still exist?), my teachers' number one complaint would be that I couldn't shut my mouth! I always tried to be secretive about it, but it never really worked, I guess. I'm still usually the one who gets caught talking too loud or at inappropriate times. Some things never change.
What song sums up your school experience and why?
Of course I WOULD pick a musical theater song...but the song "Heart and Music" from A New Brain was a big song for us in high school. I went to PPAS (Professional Performing Arts School) in the heart of New York City as a musical theater major. At our graduation ceremony, our class performed that song—it was the last time we would ever be on stage together, and that was a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life. Sure, there were songs on the radio that really bring me back to my high school days, but that song is about people from different walks of life that are joined together by their passion for what they do. That was the story of my high school experience. Over four years, we learned everything about who we were from one another, and the thing that brought us together was our love of the arts. A little corny, I know...but I'd be lying if I said that song didn't come to my mind first!
What’s your favorite back to school item?
I've had the same black JanSport bookbag for like seven or eight years, I think. I still use it to this day. It's the only "school item" that's survived, so I'd have to go with that. Old faithful.
What class did you dread and why?
For some reason in high school, I was cursed with awful science teachers. Earth Science and Chemistry were both nightmares. One of those teachers hardly spoke English. Nice guy, but I didn't understand a word he said. Times were tough.
What is your most embarrassing school moment?
HA. I won't share all the details of this story (my best friend would kill me), but one day, we were passing notes in Spanish class (obviously), and left the note inside one of our desks, which was to be found later by a student who brought it to the head of the Performing Arts department. We both got in serious trouble later. Definitely embarrassing. We learned our lesson, kinda....We just got better at tearing up our notes and throwing them in the trash after class from that day on.
In which extracurricular activities did you participate?
Since I went to a performing arts high school, I was always doing some sort of show. I didn't really have the time to do any other extracurricular activities...I was a full-on theater kid. But I was definitely on a bowling league for like nine years when I was much younger...don't ask.
Describe your school-age self in three words.
Dramatic, loud, self-conscious. Weird combo, but...That was me!
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