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Where Were They Before: Tom Hanks

August 1, 2011

You may know where they are now, but where were some of today’s most powerful and influential people before the power and fame? Many held an internship position that created a foundation for their future success!

th 237x300 Where Were They Before: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks - 2009

By Dan Drullinger

You have heard him as the voice of Woody, the lead character in the hit film series Toy Story. You have seen him trudge through Normandy as Captain John Miller in the heroic classic, Saving Private Ryan. His relationship with a volleyball in the movie Cast Away will go down in history as will his comparison of life to a box of chocolates in Forrest Gump.

He is a legend, and his name is Tom Hanks. And he got his start in entertainment by way of an internship with the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.

Hanks studied theater at Chabot College for two years before transferring to Cal State University – Sacramento. He felt studying theater was perfect fit for a guy that wanted to be loud and flamboyant, according to him. While in school, Hanks was introduced to the head of the Great Lakes Theater Festival, Vincent Dowling. Dowling was impressed with Hanks and convinced him to join the festival staff as an intern.

The [Great Lakes Theater Festival] internship exposed Hanks to all facets of theater production including set design, stage management and lighting.

What he did not know at the time was that he would eventually drop out of school while turning his internship into a three-year experience with the festival. This experience was unique in the fact that it was a crash course in the industry. The internship exposed Hanks to all facets of theater production including set design, stage management and lighting. He no longer felt the need for a formal education in theater, as he gained invaluable knowledge and expertise during his three year tenure with Dowling and the festival.

While preparing the spotlight for many productions during his internship, Hanks found the courage to step into that same spotlight himself while playing the role of Proteus in Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Not only did he juggle both experiences handily, he succeeded with flying colors. His villainous role won him the Cleveland Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, the first of many awards to come for his talent as an actor.

Tom Hanks will go down in history as one of the best actors to ever hit the silver screen. He has been nominated for five Oscars and won two of them as Best Actor for his lead roles in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Alongside his 64 acting roles, Hanks has also produced over 34 titles including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Where The Wild Things Are and most recently Larry Crowne, which he also wrote, directed and starred in.

His achievements on a whole are second to none, and he has an internship with the Great Lakes Theater Festival to thank for that.