Chris Lopez paves a way
Updated: Apr 10
Last year, Chicago actor Chris M. Lopez performed for his biggest audiences to date, as he interpreted the Star-Spangled Banner in front of 60,803 Bears Fans at Soldier Field, with millions more watching on TV. The Bears lost that game on December 5, 33 to 22, but Lopez knows it was a great ending to an exciting year.
This month, Troy Kostur became the first male deaf actor nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the excellent film CODA, nominated for Best Picture. Kotsur and Lopez were acted together in the Deaf West Theater Summer Workshop in 2000, and they have stayed in touch.
I asked Chris if this nomination would open up more opportunities for deaf actors in the future, and he said, "the future is now!"
Lopez started acting at Centerlight Theater in the summer of 1993. He got information about the audition, with a photo on it of Bernard Bragg, co-founder of the National Theater of the Deaf.." I auditioned and got the role, and Bragg inspired me," Lopez said.
Centerlight for many years was a crucible for deal performers, which sold-out performances, including many musicals. Marlee Matlin, who earned the only Oscar for a deaf performer for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986), is the most famous alumni.
Chris has worked in Chicago theaters for more than ten years, including Stage Left, Bailiwick Repertory, American Theater Company, and others. The Stage Left production of POLICE DEAF NEAR FAR by David Rush was an essential part of his success. He focuses on getting film and TV work in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Director Cecilie Keenan said of Chris, "He is a joy and a constant study of the communicative bridge between deaf and the hearing." Drew Martin, who directed Lopez at Stage Left, said, "Chris is a truly lovely actor, always striving and giving more. Audiences loved how warm and real he was onstage, and he was a joy to work with offstage.'
Chris hopes that, like Kostur, he will get recognition for great screen performances. One of his favorite quotes is from Robert De Niro: "I always tell actors when they go in for an audition: Don't be afraid to do what your instances tell you. You may not get the part, but people will take notice."
What is Lopez's advice to his fellow actors? Persist, don't give up. Keep going!