John Kish is one of those actors who, the moment you see him on stage, fills you with all different kinds of emotions. He makes any production he is a part of better due to his complete immersion into the role, regardless of size. It is easy to tell his dedication to craft as he comes so prepared he just oozes charisma and confidence as he moves across the stage. So, if you're an actor, another of those emotions is jealousy. If you are both auditioning for the same role, you had better bring your A-game, because Kish certainly will and he will take that role with both hands.
But Kish hasn't always had this sort of recognition.
"So how long have I been a crazy person?" Kish says. "My whole life. A moth to a flame some say. I was always told I couldn't sing, couldn't dance, and couldn't act."
And so, in college, Kish made acting a side hobby to his horticulture degree. But after graduation, he ignored the naysayers and applied to multiple conservatories. He was accepted to all of them.
"I chose to attend New York's Circle in the Square theater school—the only school out of a Broadway theater," he recalls. "Got every drop of information I could the two years of school there and busted into the theater scene booking an agent, an off-Broadway children's show, and a spot in Town Hall's Broadway Rising Stars."
He says he learned a lot about himself that summer. And while he no longer doubted his acting abilities, his heart pulled him in a different direction. He took a break from the theater and worked four jobs.
"The winter of 2013, I applied for Dramatic Adventures ACTion Ecuador. A theatrical traveling experience. It changed my life," he says. "Because of that trip I left New York, I started my own company, and I'm as happy as a clam. Having that realization, that Broadway is not the end goal or the most meaningful precipice, was huge."
He eventually moved to Bend to be near his sister and get on his feet financially. After landing jobs at Looney Bean and Art and Wine Oh My!, he got cast in Glass Menagerie his first week in town.
As someone who is constantly moving and always thinking, plotting, and planning, there is no way Kish would be satisfied just auditioning for shows and working as an itinerant community theater performer. In the short time he has lived in Bend, Kish has launched his own theatrical company, Topsoil Theatrics, which puts on the incredibly successful Cocktail Cabaret at 10 Below. With some of the finest vocal talents in Bend like Lilli Ann Linford-Foreman, Karen Sipes, Kimmie Neff, and many more, the idea of a cabaret in an upscale restaurant is something that hasn't been attempted in Bend in quite some time.
"In Bend, I've just started doing these downtown cocktail cabarets," he explains. "[It's] a way to bring theater into Bend city life and grow the Bend nightlife while building a cohesive theatrical community that works together to a common goal, high level theatrical performance."
It's that development and growth that drives Kish and his theater company.
"Topsoil is the most rich in nutrients and organisms in the soil 'horizon.' Soil is life! So basically it's 'life theater,' completely grounded and connected to being real, genuine and responsible," Kish says. "It also incorporates my love for plants and nature and giving back."
But Kish doesn't just want to make good theater or entertain a room, he wants to help make the world a better place.
"My main goal right now is to venture back to the small village in Ecuador I worked with in 2014," he says. "Therapeutic theater is highly effective in exploring pent up emotions and issues. Suicide and alcoholism is rampant in impoverished communities. Showing children they have a choice and a voice is life-changing for them and for me."
Cocktail Cabaret Christmas
7 pm, Saturday, Dec. 19 and 6 pm, Sunday, Dec. 20
10 Below Restaurant, 10 NW Minnesota Ave.