Paul Silver is one of those rare young people who knows where he's going and believes in his ability to get there.
Despite the fact that he's only been in one play so far, the 16-year-old already calls himself an actor and from the glowing review that performance received, he's justified in doing so.
Silver recently played the student lead in the Desert Foothills Theater production of "Up the Down Staircase." Calling it "one of the most enjoyable theater experiences of the season," critic Sue Crouse was especially effusive in her praise of the Shelby School graduate, who just completed his sophomore year at Payson High School:
"Silver's performance gave me chills and elicited audible murmurs of admiration from the audience," Crouse wrote in the Sonoran News. "He exuded rage, frustration and hopelessness in such a realistic way that I wanted to rush up on stage and comfort him.
"As the rage turns to vulnerability and finally a plea for help, I'm sure more than a few eyes misted over. The performance of this extraordinarily talented student and his fellow cast members was a true delight."
Was he that good?
"Yeah, I think so," Silver replied, with matter-of-fact sincerity. The Tonto Village resident speaks passionately of his love for his chosen profession:
"Acting is what I do, acting is all I have ever wanted to do, and acting is all that I am going to do," he said. "To me, it's not acting; it's what life is."
In pursuit of that goal, Silver has already made considerable sacrifices, not the least of which was a daily round-trip drive to Cave Creek for rehearsals at Desert Foothills Theater right after the 16-year-old got his driver's license.
"It was a month-and-a-half of four-hour-a-day rehearsals, and then I'd drive back and do my homework," he said. "It was just me and my cell phone."
But it was a labor of love for Silver, who called his first acting experience "exhilarating."
"I didn't flat out blow any lines, although I did skip a few words," he said. "But I think I got the general point across."
He also learned a trick or two that should serve him well as he pursues his career.
"There were a few scenes in the play where there was supposed to be a lot of schoolyard background noise," he said. "So we were all told to keep saying the same word "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb."
Silver's father, Jack, said the ploy was effective.
"You knew they were saying something, but you couldn't tell what it was," he said.
Silver's parents are both teachers at the Shelby School, and both have acting backgrounds.
"My mom went to Princeton, and was an assistant stage manager for off-Broadway shows," he said.
His mother, Elizabeth, agrees that a love for the theater is a family tradition.
"The first time I met Jack, he was performing in a play, so we understand Paul's passion," she said. "But we never pushed him."
Jack, who teaches public speaking, was even caught off guard by his son's enthusiasm.
"Paul was part of the national chess championship teams at Shelby and he excelled at basketball," he said. "But this just came out of nowhere, and before we knew it, he was totally into it."
This summer, Silver is attending two Shakespeare workshops, the first a six-week program at Scottsdale Community College. As soon as that concludes, he'll head north for a three-week workshop in Sedona.
"I want to be taught how to do stage acting, because if you learn screen acting first you can't go on the stage," he said. "I want to be a really good stage actor a Shakespearean actor."
While his initial focus is on live theater, Silver wouldn't mind doing movies one day. He is a big movie fan, especially of old Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro movies like "Raging Bull," "Scarface," and "The Godfather."
"I'll watch anything with good acting, but if we get out of the acting genre, it's "Star Wars."
Although Silver's mother is working with a local group called Artbeat, whose goal is to one day build a theater in Payson, he realizes his career will take him away from the Rim country. But he plans to visit on a regular basis.
"I've made a promise to myself (to pursue acting), but I'll spend as much time here with my parents as I can," he said.
Name: Paul Silver
Family: father, mother, Ellen (18), Beka (15), Payson (27)
Personal motto: "All the world is a stage..."
Inspiration: My whole extended family.
Greatest feat: Helping to win three national chess championships for The Shelby School.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Critiquing movies
Three words that best describe me: Heart, determination, bravery
Person in history I'd most like to meet: Al Pacino or Marlon Brando
Luxury defined: Great family
Dream vacation spot: Hawaii
Why Payson? Because my family lives here.