Whatever Role, Vahlne Just Wants to Act

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Napping on an old couch somewhere, a cap covers the face of a 6-foot-2 blond who dreams of becoming an actor.

Simon Vahlne wakes up to this dream everyday or whenever he can catch a few winks in AU201-A, the official Green Room for the theater arts department and his unofficial Hollywood trailer.

There, he uses an old workout bench to get in shape for an upcoming play, goes online to learn about the politics of the time period in which it is set and makes a few bucks by answering calls in the adjacent office and by running errands, all while taking 15 course units.

“As long as I can act, I want to act in any way possible, theater, in films, whatever,” said Vahlne.

A Swedish international student, he takes advantage of the opportunity he has to study acting in a foreign country, the U.S., even though initially he just wanted to see the sights.

He figured that he would apply for a student visa instead and “stay for a longer period of time because, you know, you pay a hell of a lot of money for the airplane ticket and it’s an investment,” said Vahlne. In fact, Vahlne spent nearly $2,000 on his boarding pass.

Thus far, he has performed in two plays at the college: “What’s Wrong With Angry?” and more recently in the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.”

In the latter production, he translated his passion for acting into the passion his character, Billy Crocker, had for an engaged debutante he fell for after a brief fling. Crocker even risked losing his job as a Wall Street broker to board a luxury ship en route to England, where the wedding was to be held, to woo her.

The play’s director, Kevin Gray, said that the man behind Billy Crocker takes every role that comes his way very seriously and is very hard on himself as a result.

Vahlne said that in preparing for the “Anything Goes” role, “I had to work on my posture because the character that I played before in ‘What’s Wrong with Angry?’ was a 16-year-old and I was supposed to be short … when you’re 16 you kind of slouch so I had to totally get rid of that. I watched movies that were based on the same time period (the 1920s) to get the right style of it, the way they talked back then.”

Michael Abramson, who worked with Vahlne on “Anything Goes,” said he loved working with him. “He’s just so talented, but so down-to-earth,” said Abramson. “He takes direction well and is very courteous to other people when rehearsing.”

Tonight, he will showcase the fruits of his preparation on the auditorium’s main stage in Oscar Wilde’s play “An Ideal Husband” as Lord Viscount Goring, a well-to-do bachelor who prides himself on female conquests and even more on the philosophy that “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” It will be another performance to add to his expanding acting resume.

Growing up in Varberg, Sweden — which Vahlne describes as “a bit smaller than Glendale … one of those towns by the sea…where people come on their vacations” — the young actor made movies with his friends in the nearby woods based on his favorite movie, the 1981 slasher film “Evil Dead.”

“It’s a basic story: five kids go out in the woods and party and get killed,” said Vahlne. “It was the typical movie me and my friends were watching growing up and that’s the kind of movies that we made. That’s as good as it gets.”

Vahlne also played Danny Zukco in a high school production of “Grease,” his first on-stage production that sold out every night it played and gave him the confidence to pursue a career as a thespian.

Basically, his upbringing in Sweden was the same as anyone coming from a typical middle-class family in the U.S.

He has, however, observed that there are a few differences between the two cultures.

“The food culture is different in Sweden,” said Vahlne. “That’s one of the things that I perienced…when I first got here…Everything is sweet and fatty here.”

Another major difference is that “people are more social here. Here, everybody’s like having conversations with strangers pretty much a lot of the time. I don’t start talking to different people out of the blue in like lines in supermarkets.”

“If that would happen in Sweden, people would be like, ‘Wow, that’s a weird guy, why’s he talking to me?'”

“I’d like to stay, but it’s impossible to get a Green Card,” said Vahlne, who misses his family back home — his mother Ditte and 17-year-old sister Tove.