MARIETTA — North Cobb Christian School graduate Chris Sferra said acting in “The Sound of Music” helped him get through his father’s death when he was 15 years old.
“The character I played — Captain Von Trapp — he lost his wife and was broken about singing and the arts because it reminded him of his wife just like the arts reminded me of my dad,” Sferra said. “But he realized the beauty in the art was kind of the whole reason he fell in love with human nature in the first place.”
Sferra, 19, said the role was eye opening for him and was the biggest growth he’s ever experienced in a show.
Out of the three components to musical theater — acting, singing and dancing — Sferra said acting is his favorite and dancing is his least favorite.
“I’m mainly an actor who sings,” Sferra said. “One day, I want to learn how to dance to the ability where I could dance on the stage — that’s one of the reasons I want to go to college; I want to learn that.”
Sferra said he chose Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, because he fell in love with the campus and the faculty.
“The opportunities are just amazing,” Sferra said.
He said aside from the people, the reason he loves theater is because it’s taught him about human nature.
“You might have not experienced what’s happening in the show personally, but you can learn from it and grow as a person,” Sferra said.
Sferra was one of two students awarded the Broadway Dreams Performance Scholarship at the Georgia High School Musical Theater Awards last month. The scholarship provides free tuition to the Broadway Dreams Foundation’s intensive musical theater summer camp program in Atlanta.
Sferra said the scholarship is providing him with opportunities he otherwise would not have had.
“I start the intensive (this) week,” Sferra said. “Casting directors, Broadway actors and agents come down and they basically help us and open doors for us so that we can get better opportunities to hopefully maybe work one day on Broadway.”
In addition to school plays, Sferra also does a summer show at the Grand Theatre in Cartersville.
Sferra’s first role — of about 10 total — was as Maurice in North Cobb Christian’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” when he was 14.
“It was my first big, big production and it was a big deal because I was in eighth grade and I auditioned thinking it was just good experience,” Sferra said. “But they ended up giving me a shot and I just fell in love with it.”
He expanded into other forms of theater — dramas, one-act plays — when he was a sophomore and once he hit his junior year, he decided he wanted to pursue acting as a career.
Matthew Hendrix, the school’s arts director for 13 years, said he’s known Sferra for seven years and said he is extraordinarily gifted.
“He has a supreme work ethic. He’s one of those kids you can tell, ‘do this,’ and you can turn your back and walk away and you’ll know he’ll get it done,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said Sferra has a natural empathy and leadership that translates well to the stage. He said, for instance, Sferra was part of the ensemble for this year’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
“As a senior boy, you expect a leading role, but he was cast as part of the ensemble, as one of the brothers. He almost stole the stole from Joseph (the play’s lead),” Hendrix said. “I had people come up to me and say, ‘I enjoyed the show, but the kid who played Reuben — he was really good.’”
Sferra doesn’t spend all of his time on the stage, however. He is also the student vice president and a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club.
“Being a performer, I love people and all those clubs (are) service clubs,” Sferra said. “They gave me an opportunity to serve those who are less fortunate than me but also to serve my school — to give back for all they provided me and all the opportunities they’ve given me.”
John-Michael Ritchey, a first-year British Literature teacher and former student at North Cobb Christian, said Sferra is the kind of student who always sees the bigger picture.
“He’s not consumed with just making a certain grade or getting through a particular assignment,” Ritchey said. “He actually cares about the material and brings a ton of enthusiasm with him to every class. … Plus, he’s just really funny.”
Ritchey said Sferra is successful inside and outside the classroom because he “cares about what matters most.”
“He takes his faith really seriously, which leads him to take people really seriously, too,” Ritchey said. “That combination infuses everything he does with a whole lot of enthusiasm and meaning. He loves making people laugh, telling great stories and being the kind of guy who people can count on.”
Sferra said being a part of student government was his favorite extracurricular activity — aside from theater, of course — because it allowed him to help his school.
“I could basically help students feel they could take every advantage they have at North Cobb Christian,” Sferra said. “I think some people, they just don’t realize how great this school is and the opportunities that it provides for us.”
He said when he was in eighth grade, he never thought about being an actor and now he’s going to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting.
“It’s no doubt because of this school and the teachers and my director — the belief they had in me,” Sferra said.
He said North Cobb Christian’s relatively small size — compared to musical theater juggernauts Milton and West Forsyth high schools — allowed him to flourish and grow in the theater.
“I’ve been asked if I could do it again, would I have been a part of Milton or West Forsyth? And the answer is no, because I have no doubt that if I had been in a program like that, I wouldn’t have found my passion and my love for theater,” Sferra said.
THE CHRIS SFERRA FILE
♦ AGE: 19
♦ SCHOOL: North Cobb Christian School
♦ GRADUATION DATE: May 22
♦ FAMILY: Sister, Nicole, 33; brother, Jeff, 30; mother, Dacia
♦ COLLEGE: Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas
♦ MAJOR: Acting
♦ EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Theater, National Honor Society, Beta Club, mock trial and student government
♦ INSPIRATIONS: Mother, Jesus
♦ GPA: 3.9