After toiling in the world of movie-making and Hollywood, Pickerington High School North graduate Bryan Blaskie recently premiered his first musical in Manhattan.
Blaskie, a member of the class of 2005 at North, has taken a circuitous route to find his passion and his place in the entertainment world.
After several years chasing his original dream to make big-budget movies, his experiences and circumstances led him back to music and theater.
On June 22, the full-circle trip culminated with Blaskie premiering "Assistants: The Musical," a show he is producing and that he co-wrote with Manny Hagopian, at The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village.
The show seeks to reveal inner workings of Hollywood as it follows the trials and tribulations of assistants who yearn to make it as actors, actresses, talent agents and movie and television writers.
"My hope is that it's finally finished, because we've been working on it for so many years," Blaskie said June 21, the night before his premiere. "But I know that's not true.
"Every production is an opportunity for a re-write."
The play is scheduled to run through July 21.
Before taking "Assistants" off-Broadway -- professional theaters in Manhattan that seat 100 to 499 people -- Blaskie, 32, wrote numerous iterations.
He and Hagopian created the musical in 2014, and a year later it was named Best Full-Length World-Premier Musical by StageScene LA, a website covering theater. It was also featured in LA Music Blog as one of the top five musicals at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and won third place in NewMusicalInc's New Musicals category that year. NewMusicalInc is an educational community that holds workshops and programs for musicals in development.
Blaskie and Hagopian brought their show to New York after Blaskie went to the city to pursue a master's degree in musical theater writing at New York University in August 2016.
"I had written 'Assistants in LA' because it was about my experience in the film industry there, but I wanted to make it better, and that's why I went to school," Blaskie said.
As it turns out, school has shaped Blaskie's career from his earliest days.
He recalled a kindergarten teacher at Pickerington's Violet Elementary School -- Mrs. Powers -- playing "Happy Birthday" on piano and he experienced the power of performance.
Sports appealed to his brothers, but Blaskie was drawn to piano and by high school he was recruited by North vocal music director Lori Vance to accompany her school chorale classes on piano.
By his junior year at North, former school theater department director Margaret Lawson suggested Blaskie accompany her school musicals on piano.
"She actually drew me in," Blaskie said. "I didn't even know that was a consideration.
"I knew I wasn't a singer or an actor, but this was a way to do what I was good at and still hang out with my friends."
North theater director Alan DeCarlo was a classmate of Blaskie.
"We knew very early on that he would do big things," DeCarlo said. "At one point, Bryan used to throw theater parties and all the theater kids would go over to his house and we would sit around and sing musical theater while Bryan would pound away the keys of the piano.
"I still wish I had the pleasure of working with him in my professional career, but it makes all of us super proud that he is producing his own off-Broadway show. We cannot wait to see what he does next."
After high school, Blaskie studied music composition and cinema, with a minor in performance piano, under Professor Ching-Chu Hu at Denison University.
He said Hu pulled stronger compositions out of him and shifted his focus from more simple pop tunes.
"I go back to Pickerington a lot because my family is still there," Blaskie said. "But I rarely think about how strongly the school district did influence me.
"It's all these teachers I had that noticed something in me and pulled it out of me. I didn't want to be perceived as hoity-toity," he said. "For years, I didn't see the difference between originality and pretentiousness."
After graduating from Denison in 2009, Blaskie made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles. He'd dreamed about making movies most of his life, he said, and since he was 7 years old told anyone who would listen he planned to be a Hollywood filmmaker.
But when he arrived, he felt out of place and couldn't catch his big show-business break.
"I retrospect, I think it was because I didn't have the same passion as everyone else in that industry," Blaskie said. "Everybody works so hard and devotes their entire lives to that world.
"I just didn't want it bad enough. So, I fell back into theater."
Although he didn't have a piano, Blaskie's parents, Bobbie and Jerry, bought him a keyboard.
Friends and colleagues took notice of his playing abilities, and soon he was being hired to play various events around Hollywood. The experience opened his eyes to the opportunity to make a career of composing and playing music.
Amid working in theater, playing side gigs and teaching music at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Blaskie started to make a name for himself.
Soon, he was called on to serve as musical director of a production of "110 In the Shade," where he led a five-piece band. The show received critical acclaim for small-seat theaters, and Blaskie kept finding jobs as a music director for other productions.
Soon thereafter, he won an Ovation Award from the LA STAGE Alliance for his music direction in "The Boy from Oz" at Los Angeles' Celebration Theatre.
During this time, he also began collaborating with Hagopian and honing "Assistants." The show itself was born from a dream Blaskie had and the two continued to see its promise even after its success in LA.
"For this project, (Hagopian) and I wrote everything together," Blaskie said. "He came out (to New York) this year."
Blaskie said the play was devised from the experiences of himself and Hagopian working as Hollywood assistants.
"I had a lot of negative experiences," he said. "I was learning and I didn't have the same passion as everyone else, but Manny was very successful in that world.
"The show is about me figuring out why I wasn't happy in this world. It's also about Manny being happy. So you get to have both perspectives, which is good, because otherwise it would be a downer."
Hagopian said the show notes that "dreams are universal, but so is failure."
"I have witnessed and experienced all the struggles and stress people put themselves through just for the mere hope of bringing something they are passionate about to fruition," Hagopian said.
"The dream of stepping off the bus in Hollywood and hearing, 'You're a star!' is a fantasy.
"In reality, they say, 'No, try again.' And worse, 'Let's take a meeting in a month or two. My assistant will be in touch.' In 'Assistants,' we shine the spotlight on perseverance."
One day before "Assistants" was to premiere, Blaskie said he was suffering from "stress dreams" and was exhausted as he tried to ensure every detail of the show was being addressed. He said he was "nervous and excited" for the prospects of his first off-Broadway endeavor.
"Now, I have to prove that this was all worth it," Blaskie said. "Now that my show is going up, this is the time to put up or shut up."
Blaskie said he hopes the show is picked up by someone who produces it elsewhere, possibly on an even bigger stage.
"I'm being told to enjoy every minute and I'm trying to remember that," he said. "Ultimately, I hope that people like it, that they enjoy the tunes, that they're happy they spent their money on it and it was worth it to get out of the house."