World Champion juggler takes one of two spots in UCLA Theater Arts program

Dan Nelson

Nick Smith has literally been doing a lot of juggling during his time at the City College.

The theater arts major and world champion juggler pulled off an accomplishment this spring by locking down one of two openings in the UCLA Theater Arts program.

The professional juggler and actor previously had auditioned for the program in high school but wasn’t accepted. After two years at City College, the 19-year-old re-auditioned and received his acceptance letter on April 21.

“I’m not sure how I pulled it off and I wasn’t getting my hopes up at all,” Smith said. “When I saw this congratulations banner (in an e-mail)… I just started going insane.”

Smith stumbled upon juggling at the age of 11, when his only sibling, Chris Smith, saw “Juggling for the Complete Klutz” in a bookstore. The handbook contained tips on how to juggle along with three beanbags for practice. His older brother begged their father to get it for him.

“My dad said, ‘you’ll never use that in your life, when are you ever going to use this’,” Smith said. “And finally my brother convinced him to buy it.”

His brother, who graduated from UCLA in 2007 as a theater major, was known in the marching band as the “UCLA Juggler.” Smith’s brother progressively got better with practice and created a juggling team “The Tahoe Jugglers.”

They competed at the World Championships for Performing Arts in Los Angeles. Smith, who was 14 at the time, performed in the “variety” genre with his brother and won.

With a first-place trophy in tow, the competition gave them talent-agent exposure.

After Smith was rejected from UCLA in high school, he came to the City College to take classes in the theater arts department.

“Nick is a very versatile actor,” said Rick Mokler, production chairman of the department. “Although his forte is comedy, he is also right at home with serious drama.”

Smith and Mokler have collaborated on various theatrical works. In November, Smith played Albert Einstein in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”

Smith will also be acting in “Hidden in This Picture,” an upcoming City College play written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Sarah Solano, and put on by the Advanced Acting class.

When he’s not acting or juggling, Smith plays the piano, guitar and drums. He incorporates his talents in his satirical band, “Flaming Hot Danger,” created with City College peer and Channels photographer, Brendan Rice.

After his two year theater program at UCLA he will go on pursue his acting career, Smith said.

“I have the City College to thank for such a great theater program,” Smith said. “I definitely think I’ve matured over the past two years, a lot.”