Kevin O'Leary admits that all he has ever wanted to be is an actor. Well, an actor and a superhero.
Now he is both.
Mr. O'Leary, 27, is a lead in Saint Vincent Summer Theatre's production of "Lend Me a Tenor." He is also on contract with Marvel Entertainment to serve as a superhero for events all around the country.
"I love them both. It is really fun to be a superhero," he said.
Mr. O'Leary started acting as a young child in church Christmas plays and loved acting from the start. But it hasn't been an easy trek for him.
"No one in my family had ever acted before, so no one knew what to do with this," he said.
He starred in every play and musical at Hempfield Area High School, and he and his older brother, Michael, played musical instruments. But that is as much theater experience as he got.
"No one in my family knew what theater even really was," Mr. O'Leary said.
His father, Dan, is a business manager for a Christian broadcast station and his mother, Maggie, teaches English as a Second Language. His brother is a family counselor.
Because acting didn't occur to Mr. O'Leary as a career choice, other careers ran through his mind.
"I thought about being a vet, about being a psychologist -- I didn't have one thought I could do [acting] for a living," he said.
In his junior year of high school, Mr. O'Leary said, he finally realized he could earn a living as an actor. At the recommendation of his high school counselor, he applied and was accepted at Penn State University and studied theater. But it wasn't the type of program he wanted.
"It wasn't a conservatory program and they put as much emphasis on academics, so I was taking psychology instead of learning how to act. I wanted a more hands-on approach," he said.
Discouraged, Mr. O'Leary quit after two years at Penn State and went to culinary school because he believed the culinary field would have more career opportunities.
"It was a two-year program, but after a year, I decided I didn't want to do it anymore. I love to cook and do it for relaxation. If I started doing it for a living, it wouldn't be fun any more," he said.
Still wanting to be an actor, Mr. O'Leary moved to New York City with a friend.
"I was pretty miserable," he said of that time. "I couldn't find work and realized, if I was going to do this, I needed more training."
Mr. O'Leary auditioned for the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University and was accepted. He graduated in 2011 and has been acting at various venues since.
Locally, he has performed frequently at the Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont, doing children's theater and at Saint Vincent Summer Theatre.
Colleen Reilly, artistic director of Saint Vincent Summer Theatre, has worked with Mr. O'Leary for several productions.
"Kevin is a pure professional. He is a fearless and imaginative actor and has a real sense of each character," she said.
Ms. Reilly said Mr. O'Leary has a special place in her heart because he is the last actor her late father, theater founder Joe Reilly, cast before he died in 2009.
"He saw Kevin's talent right away," she said.
In addition to his acting work on stage, Mr. O'Leary has achieved his other goal of becoming a superhero by working with Marvel Entertainment.
"About once a month, I go and will dress up as Captain America or Iron Man for an event. It is so much fun, and because it is Marvel, the costumes are the real thing," he said.
After he wraps up summer theater, Mr. O'Leary is going back to New York to pursue an acting career, this time with more training under his belt.
"I'm just picking up and going. I have lots of friends up there and am really excited," he said.
The theater on the college campus in Unity wraps up its 45th season with the comedy by Ken Ludwig. The play runs through Aug. 18.
Details: www.svst.org or 724-537-8900.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org