Fifty shades of Graydon Long: Former Perrysburg student returns to area with musical tourWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When the musical “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” comes to the stage of the Stranahan Theater on Oct. 5, the performance of the raunchy and irreverent show will be an unusual — but exciting — homecoming for one of its stars.
Graydon Long, the young actor who plays hunky lead Hugh Hansons in the parody of E.L. James’ blockbuster bondage romance series, is a Northwest Ohio native who attended Perrysburg High School (PHS) growing up. Only a few months into his first national tour as an actor, he gets to return to his old stomping grounds.
“It’s really kind of a dream come true,” Long said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “I’ve seen all sorts of shows at the Stranahan growing up, going through high school and doing theater. And I was actually really, really excited because it’s the same stage I graduated on. So I will be performing there — it’s a dream come true for me.”
Beyond the joy of being in front of his hometown friends and family, though, is the deeper dream of being a successful performer — something that has been a passion of Long’s almost as far back as he can remember.
“I just love being a part of things that entertain people, or at least, you know, make them feel something in any regard,” he said. “I have always wanted to be an actor, since I was a kid. It’s just something I’ve been drawn to, kind of a need I have. And my parents have always supported me. I love music, and I get to dance and sing in the show as well, so that’s also appealing to me.”
Growing up in the Perrysburg school system gave Graydon plenty of opportunity to learn his craft — the PHS Theatre Department puts on shows that rival most colleges in terms of production value. After graduation, Long attended the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, which he credited with really seasoning him as a performer.
“We just learned how to be a better actor, and just more well-rounded. When I was in high school, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just do as much as I can, and just have a good time.’ And that was amazing, and I learned a lot there. But when I got to school, I actually started getting training in acting, singing and dancing, and because of that I was able to hone the skills I have, and sort of explore new ones as well.”
One of the perks of an education at the conservatory came in the form of the Senior Showcase — a chance for students to demonstrate their abilities before agents and casting directors in Chicago and New York. Long relocated to the Big Apple after several agents expressed interest, earning a part on an episode of the CW series “The Carrie Diaries” in the process.
“Spank,” though, is a relatively new development in Long’s career — indeed, the show is relatively new, as well, having been written just last year. “At the time, it was a nonunion production. But they started auditioning again this year for replacements of the roles, and that’s when I went — at the beginning of July, this year. And that’s when they cast me, and I was in Montreal, rehearsing with the director the next week,” Long said.
“I had never read the book [series], and upon seeing the show for the first time, I thought it was hilarious. Because not only are there jokes about the books — which you might not necessarily understand if you hadn’t read them — but there’s a lot of pop culture references. There’s just a lot of witty writing throughout the show that just provides a lot of laughs.”
It has been almost a trial by fire for Long during his first national tour — mere weeks after being cast, Long performed his first shows in August. He credits his co-workers for his ability to adapt quickly to the day-to-day realities of life on the road.
“I was very nervous before going on, just because it was such a quick rehearsal process. But everyone in the cast was so supportive that once we started performing, I really got the hang of things. And tour life is fun so far — I’ve gotten to see some places I’ve never really been able to see.”
As far as whatever the future holds — well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Long said.
“[If] a bigger opportunity were to arise, I might take advantage of that. But for now, this is the best job I’ve really gotten so far,” he said. “I’ve only been out of college for a year. And this is certainly something that I’m really happy to be a part of.”
Tags: Big Apple, Chicago, College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, CW, E.L. James, Graydon Long, Hugh Hanson, New York, Perrysburg, Perrysburg High School, PHS Theatre Department, Senior Showcase, Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, Stranahan Theater, The Carrie Diaries