NAUGATUCK — A borough native has followed his dreams to New York City.
Stephen Dexter, 29, knew from a very young age that he wanted to be an actor.
“It started back in kindergarten. I was doing a pageant production of Ghostbusters,” Dexter said. “I had forgotten my lines at one point and started improvising and making jokes. The audience was howling. It was that moment, with the control and joy I was bringing them, that I knew I wanted to keep doing this.”
Dexter said from that moment on he was always acting, even in the classroom.
“I would finish my work early and distract other kids, never in an aggressive way, but behind the teacher’s back,” Dexter said.
Dexter finally found an outlet for his acting in the Naugatuck Teen Theater and the theater program at Naugatuck High School.
“I was also interested in baseball and marine biology, but acting was always underneath the surface. It never went away,” Dexter said.
His acting wasn’t limited to the stage, however.
“Whenever I would get assigned anything in English class, if the choice was you can write a paper or scene, I always went with the creative one,” Dexter said. “It fulfilled something in me and also kept me out of trouble.”
Dexter continued, “Towards the end of high school I realized this was what I meant to do.”
Dexter graduated from Naugatuck High School in 2002 and like many high school seniors had a choice to make about where to go to college.
“I was looking for a school that was close but would allow me to participate in theater without being a theater major,” Dexter said. “I didn’t want to major in theater because I didn’t want that to be all that I knew.”
He ultimately ended up at Central Connecticut State University as an English major. Partway through his college career he switched to being a communications major with a focus on film editing.
However, he still managed to audition and act in plays at Central.
“I didn’t have any formal acting training. I was just going with what I observed from actors,” Dexter said.
After graduating in 2007, Dexter was considering moving to New York City or Los Angeles to follow his dream. Ultimately, Dexter chose the Big Apple because of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. The studio, which was founded by the actress Stella Adler, offers both summer sessions and a three-year degree program.
Dexter started at the school by getting a spot in the summer program.
“It exceeded my expectations. It made me want to continue to learn,” Dexter said.
After completing the summer session, Dexter auditioned and got into the three-year program at the studio.
It was while enrolled at the studio that Dexter found himself receiving small parts on popular television shows such as Damages, Royal Pains and The Good Wife.
“By the time I got out I had a pretty good resume that wasn’t just school credits,” Dexter said.
Since graduating, Dexter has worked in one-act plays for the New York Fringe Festival and read for three books — “The Reluctant Entrepreneur” by Michael Masterson, “Farside Cannon” by Roger MacBride Allen, and “Party” by Tom Levine — for Audible, an audiobook production company.
He is currently doing a table reading for an upcoming horror film called Axe Girlfriends and has also starred in a play called Hikobae. The play is based on a true story about the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami, and what it took to rebuild in the aftermath. He performed with this play in both America and Japan.
“Hikobae was when I learned what a really well told story could do. When a lot of love is invested it can move people,” Dexter said. “You hope every part you work on could equal that. You have to find that in yourself, even if you can just move that one person or, in a comedy, if you can make somebody who had a bad day laugh.”