SPIRIT OF STANLY 2024: Lassiter talks touring, new project

William James Lassiter has always had a creative side, whether it be dance, theatre or music.

But his talents were put on a grander stage last year. He wrapped up an eight-month tour performing in “The Book of Mormon.”

“The show follows two Mormon missionaries on their mission to a country and culture they are unfamiliar with,” Lassiter said.

The play was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park.”

He was with the official touring company of the Broadway production from August 2022 to April 2023.

The first three weeks were rehearsals, followed by two weeks of tech, Lassiter said, which involved setting the show lighting, sound, costumes and set.

“We were the first production of ‘The Book of Mormon’ back on the road since Covid shut everything down,” Lassiter said.

“Living on the road is multifaceted, especially in its pros and cons,” he added. “A lot of people thrive in an ever changing environment, which is absolutely my experience. I loved constantly moving from city to city, always a new bar, a new restaurant, etc. However, that desire for change also branches into my artistic outlets.”

Though he enjoyed life on the road, Lassiter also found it hindered his other goals.

“I love producing music, and have also been auditioning a lot more for film and television recently. And being on the road doing eight shows a week, and living out of a hotel room (with a roommate) doesn’t lend itself to much artistic growth and experiment in other forms,” he said.

“Essentially, I didn’t feel like I had the space to create, and move forward in my other goals on tour.”

While he did not perform when the tour stopped in Charlotte, he was able to appear at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham and the Tanger Center in Greensboro.

Lassiter said he has learned much from his touring experience.

“I learned a whole lot about character acting, and the level of not only confidence, but projection and commitment it requires,” he said.

“I was cast as ensemble, but I was also a lead understudy for Elder Cunningham, who is very much a comedic side kick, and a big character role,” he added. “My experience with acting in the past has never been with character roles, it just wasn’t normally the bill I fit. So as I moved through auditions initially being looked at for strictly Elder Cunningham, it really made me think maybe I had this style of acting in me. Then once I was cast as an understudy, I was incredibly nervous. After a few months I finally debuted as Cunningham at the Pantages theatre in Los Angeles. I was horrified, but when I came out for bows, having made it through with only a few hiccups, I felt validated in this new space.”

Lassiter points to his origins of acting locally and credits that exposure to fostering his love of acting.

“I started dancing at the age of 3 at Albemarle Academy of Dance where we didn’t just have dance classes, but also acting and voice,” he said. “So every now and again we would have an opportunity to audition for a show being put on locally. I believe my first full fledged theatre show was ‘101 Dalmatians’ where I played Horace. I believe I was 9 or 10. From there, around age 13, I began doing more and more community theatre with Talent Company and Uwharrie Players which solidified my love and respect for musical theatre.”

Although he left the tour, he wants to continue acting.

“Honing that particular craft is something I find very fulfilling, and I very much enjoy the feeling I get doing it, even when it’s a last minute audition on tape,” Lassiter said. “The idea of playing pretend for a living is a crazy concept, and something I was very much drawn to.

“Acting and performing will always be a part of my life as long as I can help it.”

As for his next project, Lassiter is producing a 10-song album, something he has been working on since 2019.

“It’s quite expensive and time consuming, but very fulfilling when a project comes out how you imagined it, and sometimes in ways you didn’t imagine,” he said.

B.J. Drye is editor and general manager of The Stanly News & Press.

This article originally appeared in the Spirit of Stanly magazine.