Colum as Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid
Right from the start, something about Colum Goebelbecker (COL ‘21) catches your eye. It may very well be his distinct name. Perhaps it has to do with the way he carries himself. He walks to and from class, his headphones jammed in his ears, completely enveloped in his music. While most of us play music as a backdrop in the intermissions between class, music drives the main act of Colum’s day. He does not simply enjoy it; he studies it, embodies it, and learns to portray it. Starring as lead Ren McCormack in Mask & Bauble’s Footloose (opening April 11), Colum Goebelbecker is both everything and nothing I would expect from a young actor.
Let me begin with the everything. Merely a freshman and already making his mark in Georgetown’s art scene, he is precisely what you would call a triple threat. He dances both hip hop and tap, sings a cappella with the Phantoms and beatboxes for fun, and effortlessly juggles these skills when he acts on stage. Colum’s life in theater started in the 6th grade, after watching his older sister Roisin as Cinderella in an amateur production. Since then, Colum has played a colorful scope of characters, ranging from Prince Harry in Once Upon a Mattress and Lon Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis to his most recent role as a gnome in the Donn B. Murphy One-Acts Festival.
As a true Chicagoan fond of music and dance, Colum shares uncanny similarities with Ren that further highlight the promising pairing. To play a character so similar to himself must be a breeze, I assume, but Colum pinpoints the importance of distancing yourself from the role. “With acting, it’s very easy to fall into the same pattern of portraying characters. During my first couple years, I knew how to project, react emphatically, correct my diction, and sing, but I wasn’t really acting,” he explains. “With Footloose, these superficial similarities actually make it harder for me to connect with Ren’s character and not just fall into the trope of me acting as a general role.” From sessions of ‘hot seat’ devoted to character work to refining his singing, Colum practices over twenty hours a week.
However natural it may seem now for Colum to perform, his affinity for theater was not always so clear. “The youngest of five children, I was the child who was the sports kid,” he recalls. Colum peels back this layer of his past self: “Even as a freshman in high school, I still considered myself a sports person. I’d only been doing theater for two years and most of my friends were athletes.” It was after he got cast as Lon Smith that Colum realised theater was something he wanted to pursue. “I would be the kid who would want to go in the center of the dance circle and make a fool of himself,” he tells me, and we both cringe, thinking back to middle school dances. I soon learn that his bold nerve and good-humored nature are what make him so outstanding. Colum has spent every summer for the last three years at an orphanage in Honduras that provides children with housing, education, and vocational work, and even in such a setting he has found opportunity to dance. “One of the ways I could interact with the kids was through dancing,” he says. “We weren’t there to feel comfortable; we were there to make the kids laugh.”
It is this kind of attitude that has allowed him to overcome his initial fear of stage fright, yet another unexpected layer. It is hard not to smile as Colum recalls a “third-grade-Colum crying on-stage,” one who then told everyone that he simply had an allergic reaction to the stage lights. I see the collected guy sitting across from me in Spanish class or waving to every other person on his way to Leo’s, and I cannot connect the dots. But college-freshman-Colum’s poise was hard-earned. After playing donkey in Shrek or doing ballet in a morphsuit, one apparently grows a thicker skin. “You have to really put yourself out there to represent an animal played by Eddie Murphy,” he says, laughing.
The Colum Goebelbecker that we see at first glance is a stellar performer, but his journey here is why I tell his story. Colum’s sporty past or fear of performance defy our expectations for an actor, but these oddities are, in truth, his strengths. Even as I watch him respond to my questions, it is as though he is on stage. He speaks with a marked animation, his hands making just the right amount of movement, and his eyebrows raising at the right points of inflection. A true performer, I think, doesn’t stop performing when he’s off stage. We look forward to his portrayal of Ren McCormack in Footloose, but we hold a greater anticipation of the best role Colum knows how to be: himself.
Footloose will show at Poulton Hall on April 11, 14, 18, and 21. Tickets are selling at $8 for Georgetown students. For more information, check out Mask and Bauble’s website.
PC: Colum Goebelbecker