Famous actor has impact on students during LCCC visit

photo of David Zayas reading with an LCCC student on stageIt’s not every day a Tony Award-nominated actor visits a community college theatre program. But Laramie County Community College students in May had the opportunity to meet and work with accomplished man of the stage and screen David Zayas as he made a trip to the Cheyenne campus.

David Zayas is perhaps best known for his role as Angel Batista on the award-winning Showtime series “Dexter” and Enrique Morales in the groundbreaking HBO prison drama “Oz.” The 60-year-old actor, born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, began his acting career with LAByrinth Theater Company in 1992. Before that, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1981-1985 and in the New York Police Department from 1986-2000.

His selected TV work includes “Shut Eye” on Hulu, “Gotham” on Fox, “Bloodline” on Netflix, “Blue Bloods” on CBS and “Pose” on F/X. David Zayas’ film appearances include “Michael Clayton,” “The Expendables,” “Ride,” “Tallulah,” “Annie,” “Body Cam” and “R#J.” David Zayas has also appeared in several theater productions, including “In Arabia We’d All Be Kings” and “Jesus Hopped the Train.” On Broadway, he appeared in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Anna in the Tropics” by Nilo Cruz and directed by Emily Mann. Most recently, he starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Cost of Living,” for which David Zayas was nominated in May for a Tony Award 

David Zayas was already well-known for LCCC Theatre instructor Jason Pasqua and his students. The excitement among students was palpable, he said.

“They were absolutely over the moon,” Pasqua said of his students. “They never stopped smiling.”

In the first week of May, David Zayas was joined by Matt McLachlan, a playwright from New York, and David Zayas’ son D.J. Zayas, who works as a director in New York. Pasqua’s friendship with McLachlan led to seeing “Cost of Living” while on a family trip to New York in the fall of 2022.

While Pasqua said he was already familiar with David Zayas’ work, his performance in the play was outstanding.

“Having seen (David Zayas) in ‘Cost of Living’ was really extraordinary,” Pasqua said. “That show is so honest, so bold and so risky. Each of the four actors in it has to be so vulnerable and brave. They were really listening to each other, being very present and in the moment.  It's no wonder he was nominated for a Tony.”

After the show, Pasqua had the opportunity to meet David Zayas. Eventually, one thing led to another, and the three men scheduled a visit to LCCC.

While David Zayas was scheduled to spend the whole week at LCCC, the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday, meaning he had to return to New York on Wednesday for press and promotion. Nonetheless, David Zayas was a guest in two acting classes and one night of rehearsal for “With a Little Help From My Friends: A Student Showcase,” written and directed by LCCC students. and D.J. Zayas remained on campus throughout the week.

To have three people working in the arts visit campus can be a profound experience for students, Pasqua said. Whether it was giving students direct advice about the value of hard work, how to take feedback or how to read a script for what’s really going on behind the words, the students had an experience they wouldn’t soon forget.

Additionally, Pasqua said David Zayas’ own path to acting could be a valuable lesson for students of the arts. To convey that careers in the arts exist, and to be able to explain how arriving there can take unique paths, was important for students, he said.

“We artists have to put up with lots of people, when we say we're majoring in theatre or music or art, cocking their heads and saying, ‘Really? How are you going to make a living doing that?’” Pasqua said. “This is how.  David was former USAF and former NYPD. He went to acting school at night. There's no one path. If you're kind, patient and driven, you can make it happen.”