Good Life

Penn State grad returns to the stage in ‘Once’

The life of a fledgling actor is filled with compromise, constant rejection and a tenuous supply of meal tickets. For Liam Fennecken, a 2013 Penn State graduate and one of the stars of “Once,” there is, however, one major upside.

“I get to run around the stage and make a fool of myself and get paid for it,” Fennecken said.

And on Tuesday at Eisenhower Auditorium, he’ll be able to do it in familiar territory, when State College becomes the latest stop on the “Once” tour.

For Fennecken, it’s like coming home, a place that has continued to serve as inspiration whenever the trials and tribulations of the professional thespian start to get him down.

“I just like to think about how optimistic I was when I was at Penn State,” Fennecken said.

Fennecken arrived at Penn State with a completely different lifestyle in mind, one where monkeying around might involve actual monkeys. The plan was for his animal science major to eventually lead to a job at a zoo.

I get to run around the stage and make a fool of myself and get paid for it.

Liam Fennecken

It wasn’t until he came into contact with a musical theater student in his fraternity that he began to re-evaluate his options, sinking deeper and deeper into the weird and wonderful world of the stage.

It’s a condition that Fennecken believes is not all that uncommon among actors.

“For most of us it’s just kind of a pull,” Fennecken said.

While he was at Penn State, that pull landed him in productions such as “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Love’s Labor Lost.” Fennecken also had the opportunity to put his pipes on display with The Hyannis Sound, an a cappella group in Cape Cod.

After graduating in 2013, one of his first professional roles landed him in the cast of the “American Idiot” tour and he has been a near constant presence on the road ever since.

For most of us it’s just kind of a pull.

Liam Fennecken

In “Once,” Fennecken plays Svec, a character that he describes as awkwardly intense and the wild card of the show. He’s been with the production for a little more than year now but has yet to fall into a rut.

Each new audience has provided Fennecken with an opportunity to try and do something new with the part, a twist or variation on the familiar that can help stave off the boredom that comes from hitting the same marks night after night.

“You can really find a way to keep it fresh for yourself,” Fennecken said.

After spending most of the last year in unfamiliar territory, he’s looking forward to returning to State College, where if time permitting, he hopes to take walk on campus or grab dinner with his folks at a local restaurant.

“I’ve been kind of looking forward to this one for a while,” Fennecken said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready


What: “Once”

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park