By Elizabeth M. CollinsMarch 31, 2009
Master Sgt. Lance Milsted is many things: Soldier, teacher, husband, father and actor. And in a recent production of Walt Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," in La Plata, Md., the Defense Information School instructor took on a role enhanced by his military bearing and confidence: Gaston, Belle's egomaniacal suitor.
Milsted had a presence on stage that director Joseph Stine thought came from his military bearing. Stein pointed out that several other servicemembers from the Navy and Air Force were also participating in the cast and orchestra.
"You definitely have to have the air of confidence about you to have the presence that he has on stage," added Michael Mickey, who played Beast in the production. "It's nice to see members of the military being active outside of just serving the country. It's nice to be able to see how they live other than what we see in the papers and on TV."
Milsted agreed that life influences his roles, but said that because Gaston was so overblown, he could just have fun with the role. He said he usually prepares for the role by walking around making up new lyrics to his title song.
"For example, I would walk around and sing, 'No one hikes like Gaston, rides bikes like Gaston.' It allows me to think of funny things that Gaston would do, instead of focusing my attention on me and, really, it's caught on. The only fear is that some night during the show, we'll actually sing the wrong words," he said.
After taking to the stage in middle and high schools, Milsted was able to pursue his love of acting even after starting a career as an Army broadcaster via a theater at Fort Carson, Colo., called the "Little Theater."
He said it was a great way to add some variety to his first years in the Army.
"I think the big one is to combat boredom, especially as a younger Soldier," said Milsted, who once dreamed of joining the Soldier Show. "For me, it got me out of the barracks, it kept me associated with people I liked. We shared the same passions for music and performing and being silly or being serious or putting on something that allowed people to experience something. Which is still why I enjoy it today. For a single Soldier, it's something to do besides sit in the barracks and watch TV or play video games, not that those things are bad in and of themselves."
He said it's a great outlet, and for Soldiers at new duty stations, the best place to find out about local theaters is usually the Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation office.
Not only did his love of performing probably influence his decision to become a broadcaster, Milsted said it also helps in his current job at DINFOS. He said it's easier to teach when you're already used to getting up in front of people.
"I think, in theater, you get used to being in front of people and you definitely have to lose your inhibitions, especially if you're going to walk around in tights and a black wig," he said. "You really get comfortable with who you are. So it's helped me be able to communicate with folks on the platform and be animated in class and hopefully present the material in a way the students will remember. I enjoy teaching because I like sharing that information."