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Love for theater prompts R.I. man to take his skills to the next level
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Actor and playwright Curtis Lewis draws inspiration from actors such as Denzel Washington and playwright, director, actor and musician Daniel Beaty.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Actor and playwright Curtis Lewis, photographed above on the stage at Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, draws inspiration from actors such as Denzel Washington and playwright, director, actor and musician Daniel Beaty.
ROCK ISLAND -- Curtis Lewis isn't chasing his dream of being a professional actor, director, producer and playwright -- he's living it.

"A dream is something close to you," said Mr. Lewis, of Rock Island. "It seems far away because of the challenges you go through in life, but it's really right there. You just have to have the motivation and perseverance to get there.

"You don't really have to chase a dream; you just have to have the diligence to get there -- the drive. I'm living life. My dream is my reality. I continue to step into my dreams."

The 23-year-old is a driven individual, having kept his dreams clear and directly in sight since adolescence.

Mr. Lewis was about 9 years old when he began writing and performing skits at his church. He honed those skills while at Rock Island High School.

By the time he graduated from RIHS in 2007, he had his mind set on an education and career in theater. He went on to Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville where he majored in theater performance and continued to sharpen his theater chops by acting in several school productions. Mr. Lewis graduated from SIU in 2011.

Following graduation, he spent three weeks last summer studying theater and culture in South America.

"It opened my eyes that you should always continue to expand and learn," he said about the unique experience.

He spent most of the remaining summer at home in Rock Island, where he worked with members of his family to establish a scholarship fund for college-bound youth in the community, and prepared for his newest endeavor, a one-year paid internship with The Black Rep theater company in St. Louis.

The Black Rep was founded in 1976 by producer and director Ron Himes. According to the group's website (theblackrep.org), it is the largest professional, African-American theater company in the U.S. and the largest African-American performing arts organization in Missouri.

Its mission, according to the website, is "to provide platforms for theater, dance and other creative expressions from the African-American perspective that heighten the social and cultural awareness of its audiences."

Mr. Lewis said he hoped his internship eventually will lead to a permanent position with The Black Rep.

The soft-spoken, modest young thespian has a tough time singing his own praises, but his theatrical accomplishments are well known in the Quad-Cities.

In 2010, Mr. Lewis brought his original play, "Beauty, Inside and Out," to the stage. He wrote, directed and starred in the production, which was performed in both Cedar Rapids and the Quad-Cities.

"That was great," he said with a large smile. "To be able to see something you created live on stage, that was a great feeling. ... That experience taught me you can do anything in life. It's really hard to explain, but it was amazing."

He received rave reviews for his portrayal of Walter Lee, one of the lead roles in the groundbreaking 1959 play, "A Raisin in the Sun," which he performed in 2009 at Playcrafters Barn Theatre in Moline.

"Mr. Lewis forcefully pours every ounce of feeling into his scenes, whether he is mute, wailing in grief or giddy with pleasure. He's a magnetic presence," Dispatch/Argus reporter Jonathan Turner wrote in his review of that performance.

Mr. Lewis carries that passion into every role he plays. It's the same passion that gets him through life, he said.

"We set limits to ourselves," he said. "Every day, I have to say to myself, 'I can do this. I can do this.' In whatever I do, I tell myself, 'I know this is going to happen and it's going to be great.' "

Mr. Lewis' dreams include being a professional actor, producer, director and playwright. He also dreams of writing movie scripts and owning his own movie studio or theater company. He draws inspiration from actors, such as Denzel Washington and playwright, director, actor and musician Daniel Beaty.

Mr. Lewis said his mother, Vanessa Roberts Mosby, is his greatest inspiration and his greatest motivator.

"What drives me is the people that support me," he said. "Being raised by my mom was great inspiration. She had hurdles in life, but she never gave up. That showed strength, and I was able to observe that.

"She instilled that in me. The motivation for me is having that strong foundation. I also was raised in the church and was taught that having God as your number one will get you through life."





Chasing the dream

Who: Curtis Lewis, an actor and playwright who dreams of taking his skills to the next level and also being a professional producer and director.

Quote: "Every day, I have to say to myself, 'I can do this. I can do this.' In whatever I do, I tell myself, 'I know this is going to happen and it's going to be great.' "


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  Today is Tuesday, Sept, 30, the 273rd day of 2014. There are 92 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: The ARGUS Boys are very anxious to attend the great Democratic mass meeting tomorrow and we shall therefore, print no paper on the day.
1889 — 125 years ago: H.J. Lowery resigned from his position as manager at the Harper House.
1914 — 100 years ago: Curtis & Simonson was the name of a new legal partnership formed by two younger members of the Rock Island County Bar. Hugh Cyrtis and Devore Simonson..
1939 — 75 years ago: Harry Grell, deputy county clerk was named county recorder to fill the vacancy caused by a resignation.
1964 — 50 years ago: A new world wide reader insurance service program offering around the clock accident protection for Argus subscribers and their families is announced today.
1989 — 25 years ago: Tomato plant and other sensitive greenery may have had a hard time surviving overnight as temperatures neared the freezing point.




(More History)