FAIRMONT - Josh Vetter's acting career has come a long way since his first foray on a local stage in 2000.
"It was [Fairmont] Children's Theatre, the summer after fourth grade," he recalled. "I played the spider in 'Sleeping Beauty.'"
Now living in California, Vetter has gone on to bigger and better acting jobs, appearing briefly on two prime time television programs. Although neither was a speaking role, he has surpassed his spider debut.
Vetter graduated from Fairmont High School in 2008. He then attended the American Music and Dramatic Academy, College and Conservatory of the Perform Arts, earning a bachelor's degree in three years.
The school and its classes were "kind of insane," Vetter said. "Everyone took acting classes. I took a semester of falls, and I got certified in swords, daggers and hand-to-hand combat so I can do stunt work too. It's really awesome."
Another course of study was called dialect reduction class. While Vetter didn't have a Texas drawl, he had a Midwestern accent. All students worked to rid themselves of their regional dialects and basically make their voices a blank canvas.
Like most fledgling actors, Vetter has another means of support until he becomes more established in the industry.
"My day job is at Universal Studios Theme Park," he said.
Employees dress up and act as celebrity characters and hang around their respective rides at the park. Vetter alternates between costuming himself as the Mummy or Marge Simpson.
During the holidays, he also portrayed a resident of Whoville, a character from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The trademark pug nose of Whovillers took an hour to put on and an hour to take off, Vetter said.
In November, Vetter landed a non-speaking single scene on "Grey's Anatomy." He played an intern and appeared in the background during a closeup of one of the lead actors. He can't recall if it was the eighth or ninth show of the season, but anyone interested in catching a glimpse of him can watch the episodes at www.abc.com
Vetter recently appeared as a valet on "Rake," a new Thursday night drama on Fox starring Greg Kinnear. He doesn't know how long he'll be on screen or whether it will be a closeup or wide shot, depending on editing. This too was a non-speaking role.
"Once you say words, they have to pay you a lot more," Vetter said. "I'll just keep chipping away. It's the dream job."
He knows he has to "pay his dues" with smaller roles and gain more experience, but it doesn't bother him.
"I'm not one of those delusional people who think you can get off the bus and be Tom Cruise," Vetter said.
Working and going to auditions occupy a lot of Vetter's time, but he and two of his fellow graduates have formed a production company called Hors d'Oeuvres. He called the endeavor a proactive effort. They are attempting to raise funds for the not-for-profit company to finance a space for rehearsal and possibly three performances of a comedy. Ticket sales from the comedy will be used to finance the subsequent production, and so on, funding itself in perpetuity.
"We want to start with a comedy," Vetter explained. "More people want to see a comedy, but our goal is to do a comedy, then Shakespeare, then a drama, and gauge people's reactions."
During the summer and fall, Los Angeles hosts theater festivals, during which producers and agents attend various performances. Vetter's group hopes to offer a performance during one of the festivals.
"We're all doing it on a volunteer basis," he said. "The expense is finding a space [for performances]. Starting it up is the tricky part."
People wanting more information can visit the website at www.indiegogo.com/projects/hors-d-oeuvres
Vetter recently was in Fairmont for a few days to visit his parents - Jeff and Renee Vetter - but was heading back to Los Angeles and its 80-degree weather for "pilot season."
"It's a big deal," he said. "This is the time of year where they cast film and test [television] pilots. It's a chance for new actors."
He explained that in a pilot only the first episode of a proposed series is filmed. If one of the networks decides to run the series, more episodes are ordered. Some of the initial shows are filmed a few years before they get network approval.
Vetter said he tries "to stay grounded" in spite of the hype and glamour of his chosen profession.
"What I do for a job is fun, but I still have Midwest tendencies," he said. "I can call watching TV and movies 'research.'"