From starting off as a sword fighter to becoming an actor for Universal Studios, Drew Mierzejewski, a BYU-Hawaii alumnus from Okinawa, shared how BYUH helped him prepare for his future and how faith helped him to overcome the uncertainty of pursuing a career.
When Mierzejewski got a job offer as an actor for a Jurassic Park raptor expert at Universal Studios in Florida, he said, “There is a mentality about acting, that when you get the job you get a rush of joy because you get to go and play. However, it’s not that at all. Instead, I see it as work and a job. I might play a Jedi, a knight or a raptor expert, but it's still a job that deserves a level of respect and preparation.”
Applying for a job at Universal Studios was not an easy experience, shared Mierzejewski. He said he had gone through different emotions along the way. “Getting a job at a major theme park as an actor is about as hard as getting any role for any major entertainment venue.
“It feels insurmountable when you go for it, surprising when you get it, and terrifying when you realize you actually did it. It‘s similar to other acting gigs because the application process is through audition. You just show up without knowing in advance what they will ask and what they need from you.
“After you go through substituent auditions, via call backs and costume fittings, you will either win out or move on to the next gig. If you do make it, you will go through a period of rehearsals that culminate in an approval performance. The director of the show watches you do your job and then they decide if you are ready to work.”
According to Mierzejewski, setting small goals and committing to them helps him progress as an actor and gradually fulfill his ultimate dream, which is to do theater. “Setting Goals as an actor is a bit different than those in other career paths. I am sure you can set big goals like, ‘By the time I'm 35 I will be on Broadway,’ but I have found it’s the little goals that bring more lasting results.”
As a child, Mierzejewski said he always dreamed of being a knight, a pirate, or a Jedi. During his time while attending graduate school, he signed up for an annual class on stage combat, which prepared him for the skills he needed for his role as a sword fighter performing in the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin.
He continued, “The little goals are, ‘I want to do this next role as truthfully and respectfully as I can,’ or ‘In the next six months I am going to audition twice as much as I am doing now.’ Everything has to be done in steps and you almost have to not focus on the big goals. If you do, you'll drive yourself crazy trying to achieve them.”
He said he graduated in English with a minor in creative writing and theater. When asked why he chose his minors, he said, “I followed my bliss. I was always good at writing and storytelling growing up, but the real joy in my life was when I was being creative.
“There were lots of opportunities for an English major, but the real nitty gritty of creating something came from theatre and writing. I swore to myself I was going to follow what allowed me to feel the most fulfilled. Those two minors were what I felt were the best.”
Mierzejewski said, “I believe everything we do starts with a foundation. Our lives are made up of hundreds of foundations. Some we build and never work on again and others we stop building halfway and start something new. I see my time at BYUH as a time to build foundations.
“There is no single skill I learned that gave me an edge or made me standout. Instead, they are consistent and measure the use of fundamental everyday skills, like critical thinking, concise and accurate writing, and overall respect for others that makes someone successful outside of their academic life.”
Though being an actor can be full of uncertainty, Mierzejewski said he was able to overcome mental challenges with hard work and faith. “Because I don't know when or where my next acting job will come, I need to make sure my skills are ready to go at any time. Therefore, I practice and rehearse to keep myself positive and my acting skills honed.
“I know I also need to have faith that what I am doing is the right thing for me. There are a million career paths I could have taken, but this is the one where I found the most fulfillment. If it turns out not a right thing for me, I will do the smart thing and turn to the Lord.”
Randal Allred, an English professor who was also a former bishop of Mierzejewski, said Mierzejewski was often recognized as a brilliant student with great ideas and comments in classes. He even called him a “golden soul” and “renaissance man.”
Allred recalled a memory when Mierzejewski adapted a stage play from a novel called “The Princess Bride.” “He wrote the script, and he directed it, and I was one of the characters in it. His enthusiasm was infectious. He really put on a great show.”
Speaking from his own experience, he gave three suggestions for seniors and students who are preparing to graduate. “First, no one owes you anything. You have no right to success from where you are standing. School is practice and now that practice is done, you have to go out and use the skills you learned to make a path for yourself. Second, follow your bliss. Life is not about what you accumulate, it‘s about what you experience. So go out there, and work toward what is going to give you the best experiences you can think of.
“Finally, it’s going to be okay. Things will work out one way or the other, and then you take the experience, learn from it and move forward. Your life is just starting and no matter what tragedy has befallen you or what trouble you see coming, the Lord is with you. Because of His Atonement, everything can and will be used toward your benefit.”
Mierzejewski said he also met his wife, Alyson, at the Bristol Renaissance Faire and said he was impressed by how well she was able to help other people. “She makes the experience about the [audience] and how they feel rather than trying to get from point A to point B her way. We both try to bring that level of inclusion to others when we do our creative projects.
“She is also an actress for Universal Studios and she is the author of “On the Isle of Sound and Wonder.”
Besides their day jobs, the couple is working towards a radio drama Podcast called “Warda,” which was created by both of them. According to welcometowarda.com, “[Warda] is both a fully formed fictional world and an operational setting for roleplaying games to take place in.”
For more information on Alyson Mierzejewski's book and on Warda, visit http://www.amazon.com/Isle-Sound-Wonder-Alyson-Grauer-ebook/dp/B00O5AGM12 or http://welcometowarda.com.