When Mark Hancock enrolls at McCulloch Intermediate School next month, he’ll be able to write a blockbuster “how I spent my vacation” essay. The fifth-grader can honestly say he scaled walls and played with weapons this summer.
Of course, Mark is not engaging in such activities in real life. He’s doing them on stage as part of the Dallas Theater Center’s production of Les Misérables, in which he plays Gavroche.
“He’s kind of like the eyes and ears of everything,” Mark says of his character, “and even though he’s just a regular 10-year-old, he can go to the barricade, get shot, wield a club, and roam the streets.”
Mark is following in the footsteps of his father, Dave Perry-Miller associate Lance Hancock, who pounded the boards as a student at Highland Park High School and SMU. He even secured a few paid acting gigs with the Dallas Children’s Theater and the Pocket Sandwich Theatre.
“I would have loved, at one point in my life, to do nothing but musical theater,” Lance says, “but I don’t know if I ever thought seriously about going for that.”
Nowadays, Lance and his wife, Belinda, are seriously thinking that Mark may decide to go for that. The role of Gavroche is his third with the Dallas Theater Center; he also played Tiny Tim in consecutive productions of A Christmas Carol.
Of course, Mark’s parents can’t help but be a little biased about his talents. But they’re not the only ones who see a bright future ahead of him. Jacqueline Porter, director of the Dallas Conservatory, says Mark “unquestionably” will be a professional actor if he so chooses.
“He’s already a true ‘triple threat’ — he sings, dances and act equally well — with a very natural and appealing stage presence, not unlike his idol, Gene Kelly,” Porter says.
The Hancocks say Mark showed an interest in musicals when he was still in a highchair. He would be captivated by Judy Garland singing in The Wizard of Oz, staring at her at in a way that suggested he was studying her performance. Later, while watching the 2004 film adaptation of Phantom of the Opera, he memorized the songs performed by Gerard Butler in the title role.
“It became kind of who he was, working through musical scores and living them out in all his playtime,” Lance says. “If we had him on a soccer field or something, because we introduced him to everything, we could tell he wasn’t there. We could tell he was ‘on stage,’ performing.”
So the Hancocks signed Mark up for summer camps at the Dallas Theater Center, which led to his first audition for Tiny Tim. They also enrolled him in the Dallas Conservatory, an affiliate of Park Cities Dance, where he takes classes year-round.
“It’s like he’s in two different schools,” Belinda says. “There’s traditional school during the day, and then there’s the conservatory after school in the evenings and on weekends.”
All of that hard work is already paying off. In a review of Les Misérables that appeared in last week’s edition of Katy Trail Weekly, critic Shari Goldstein Stern wrote that Mark took over two scenes “with acting prowess beyond his years.”
Mark is resting up this week, because he shares the role of Gavroche with Spencer Sloan. But he’ll back on stage next Tuesday, and after that, who knows?
“These days, to work on Broadway, one literally needs to do it all,” Porter says. “Mark’s training at the Dallas Conservatory includes ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, and acrobatics, as well as singing, stage acting, and TV/film acting — all taught by working professionals. It will be as natural as can be for him to follow his training all the way to New York and L.A. one day.”
This is one of a series of articles spotlighting the interesting aspects of Dave Perry-Miller associates’ lives. The previous installment was about Brian Smith serving as the President’s Liaison to Argentina for the National Association of Realtors.