As a young actor, Adam Cooper has done a lot of interesting — sometimes weird — things.
He can walk in six-inch heels. He can do a mean Scottish accent. He can swing his hips. And he’s been painted green on several occasions.
Although he’s a 17-year-old senior at Hoquiam High School, Adam has appeared in about 25 plays — too many to remember the exact number.
“I try to remember them all but it’s really difficult,” Adam said. “I always miss one or two.”
Ogre meets transvestite
This past summer, Adam played his two all time favorite roles — two roles that could not be more different. In the 7th Street Kids production of “Shrek The Musical,” Adam played the smelly green ogre himself. And in the Driftwood Players production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” he played the eccentric transvestite, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
The costumes alone differed greatly. As Shrek, Adam wore far more clothing than was comfortable, including a fat suit stuffed with a pillow, a false nose, huge ogre-hand gloves, a cowl fitted with funnel-like ears, fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows and layers of green paint.
“And the thing about that wonderful costume is that it was so hot that my hairline actually receded a little bit,” Adam said. “I’ve compared pictures. I’m not getting old or anything or inheriting my father’s genes, it was the costume.”
But as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Adam wore less clothing than was comfortable — at least in the beginning.
“Frank, he was a real confidence booster,” Adam said. “Because you’re in practically nothing.”
“But I was actually wearing more than it looks like,” he added. “The corset is like a shirt with no sleeves, and fishnets keep you warmer than you’d think. They cover a nice amount of surface area.”
Adam’s friends and castmates all pitched in to make sure he was comfortable with the role, teaching him how to walk in six-inch heels and swivel his hips. He claims the shoes were “very comfortable,” as they were lined with padding. The trick, he said, is to keep your toe nails short.
His parents, Ron and Toni Cooper, didn’t see him in full costume until the last night of dress rehearsals.
“We sat there with our mouths wide open and our eyes wide open,” Ron said. “It was interesting.”
For a little while, the characters of Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Shrek melded together — with some people calling him “Shrekenfurter.” At one point, Adam was trying to master the Rocky Horror character’s stiletto walk while also working on the ogre’s accent.
“It was a little bit of a gender-bender,” Ron said.
The roles also gave him a new perspective for future parts: characters aren’t always what they appear. Adam said Dr. Frank-N-Furter was surprisingly deep. And Shrek, he has layers like an onion — as both the movie and the musical famously point out.
“So now I just think of all my characters as onions,” Adam said.
The coffee table stage
Adam got his start the same way many aspiring actors do: performing for his parents in his living room. His first stage was a sturdy, tile-topped coffee table, where he put on productions from “The Wizard of Oz” to “The Nutcracker Suite.” His mom said he was especially good at melting while playing the role of the Wicked Witch of the West.
“I had this big blanket, and he would pool it around himself so he looked just like the melted witch,” Toni said. “He was just a little guy, so it worked pretty well.”
Growing up in a home with two considerably older siblings — sister Kelsey and brother Brandon are seven and 12 years older than Adam, respectively — Adam had to pull out all the stops to get some attention, his mom said. She credits the age gap for his theatricality and creativity.
Adam transitioned to a more traditional stage at the age of 11 when he and his father started working with Stage West Community Theater, located in their home town of Ocean Shores. Adam signed up as an actor, Ron signed up to drive him around — but is now the theater company’s president.
“At first I didn’t plan to be so involved,” Ron said. “But then I started building sets, and I slowly got roped into more and more things. And now I guess I’m part of the theater community.”
High school drama
Adam appeared in his first Hoquiam High School production, “All Shook Up,” as a freshman. He didn’t get a leading role, singing in the chorus and playing a few minor parts. He then played several characters in the high school’s production of “The Wedding Singer,” which Adam described as “basically the Adam Sandler movie set to music.”
But by his third high school play, Adam had moved on to larger roles, such as the over-protective father in “Bye Bye Birdie.” He received an honorable mention from Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre 2013 High School Musical Awards.
“They do awards for high school shows every year, and it’s so cool,” Adam said. “And I can’t wait to go back there this year. If your play or your character is nominated, they want you to be in costume. It’s so funny to see these high schoolers in their costumes out of character and talking amongst themselves.”
“Being an honorable mention for a supporting lead was so cool,” Adam added.
He’ll continue his career as a high school actor this year in a production of “Zombie Prom.” He will play the lead role, newspaper reporter Eddie Flagrante. He’ll also be the play’s student director.
And while many of his friends are in the high school’s drama program, he said he has no problem fitting in with other students. He’s active in this year’s Food Ball competition, working on this year’s Food Ball Extravaganza Variety show. The show will take place Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Aberdeen High School auditorium.
“We don’t really have cliques at Hoquiam, it doesn’t really work like that,” Adam said. “But a lot of my friends are from the theater, they’re all artistic kids.”
“But he’s also friends with kids from Aberdeen and other schools because of the drama,” Ron said. “It just brings all the kids together.”
“All the musical theater geeks come together,” Adam added.
His main post-graduation plan, which is subject to change, is to attend Grays Harbor College’s drama program, headed by Brad Duffy. Then, he’ll make the choice of attending a four-year college or finding another way to pursue a theater career.
He’s already worked on a couple of plays at the college’s Bishop Center, including “Legally Blonde.”
“I just want to be in more of those productions, too, they’re all such great shows,” Adam said.
Eventually, Adam wants to end up on Broadway — which he said is “every teenage theater geek’s dream.” He’s also interested in directing movies, as he said it’s a great way to get others to see his vision.
“Whenever I have project in class that requires a movie to be made, I’m right on top of that,” Adam said. “I directed one in my psychology class, we had to make a commercial. And I got a really good grade on it. So, that’s a plus.”
But that wasn’t necessarily his first directing success. As a 16-year-old, he directed “Anne of Green Gables” at Stage West Community Theater. There were about 20 people in the cast, and Adam was the youngest director the theater had ever had.
He also assistant-directed the Driftwood Players’ production of “The complete works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” with Steven Puvogel directing.
“He’s a really good mentor to have because he’s been in there so long and he really knows how everything works,” Adam said of Puvogel. “He’s really good at telling people how things go. He’s a really good model for directing.”