WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -Micah Andrews knows how to put on a show.
The Wake Forest running back made a dramatic return to the field this season, coming back to big-time college football after recovering from a serious knee injury. At the same time, the fifth-year senior is preparing for a different kind of spotlight: The theater major directs his first play this spring, a one-act production of ``An Evening With Dead Essex.''
``Being in front of a bunch of people, being able to perform as well, it's all just a big show, a big performance, whether you're running the football or you're acting,'' Andrews said. ``It's all a big show of entertainment, showing up every night and putting up the same intensity towards doing something that has a lot to do with hard work. Things like that, they all pour into each other.''
Drama seems an unlikely passion for the soft-spoken running back, who has rushed for 346 yards and two touchdowns this season as a change-of-pace bruiser. Off the field and away from the stage, he's a quiet, introspective figure who measures his words carefully.
But when the curtain rises, a different Micah Andrews emerges - one who's just as comfortable hamming it up during a comedic sketch as he is portraying a death-row inmate confined to a wheelchair.
``He has kind of an internal burn that draws you in,'' said Sharon Andrews, an associate professor of theater at Wake Forest. ``He's one of those actors that sort of draws an audience to him.''
Andrews came to Wake Forest as a communications major in the summer of 2003, and was introduced to the stage a year later when he joined fullback De'Angelo Bryant, eventual ACC football player of the year Chris Barclay and basketball player Trent Strickland in writing and performing ``Our Reality,'' co-directed by Sharon Andrews and based on the players' experiences as college athletes.
``There's a possibility we might could see the next Will Smith, Denzel Washington,'' Bryant said.
Andrews played characters ranging from a fraternity member, a sorority girl and a grounds crew worker during the comedy sketch - ``It was like 'Saturday Night Live,''' Sharon Andrews said - and enjoyed the experience so much that he switched majors.
``You can be whomever the role calls for you to be - a loud person, a boisterous person,'' he said. ``That's the fun part of acting. ... You can be anybody that you want to be and you can add things to your personality that you wish you had, and come across as that on stage.
``I'd like to be the kind of guy that you can't pin as an actor,'' he added. ``Anybody that you need him to be, he can be. So many times, you get actors who stick to one role and can't cross over, but I'd like to be the guy that can be a lot of things.''
Because he joined the theater department so late, and because football consumes so much of his time in the fall, Andrews' directing project was pushed back to this spring. The show will begin a two-day run in March.
He's currently researching playwright Adrienne Kennedy, who wrote ``Dead Essex,'' a script centered on the production of a play about Mark Essex, a sniper who in 1973 killed 10 and wounded 13 others in New Orleans. He's still developing his directorial style, which he said could be more hands-on because of the influence his intense, in-your-face football coaches had on him.
``He's had to tap-dance kind of fast to really catch up to all the things a director has to deal with, but I think that, potentially, it could be a really good show,'' Sharon Andrews said.
Andrews is undecided on his future following graduation. He could pursue a career in pro football like his father, William Andrews, who was a fullback at Auburn and reached four Pro Bowls with the Atlanta Falcons. But acting remains a serious option, too.
``I really like film, but I don't think I should be encased in one thing,'' Andrews said. ``You have to be able to act on stage to act on film, so I'll start one way or another and work my way up.
``It's something that I've been getting better and better at,'' he added. ``Hopefully, you'll see me on a higher platform.''
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