Eric Woodall Feels Like He’s Come Full-Circle

Benson native enjoying latest role in theater 

Eric Woodall chose his path in life early when he had his parents drive him back and forth from Benson to Raleigh. It was at age 9 he knew he wanted theater to be his bread and butter — and all these many years later it’s been that and a whole lot more.

“My parents, grandparents and whole family committed to driving me to Raleigh each way to play practice, so I could be in plays,” he said. “At that time there wasn’t anything or very little in our area.”

Mr. Woodall got plenty to spark his artistic talents while working in Raleigh. The foundation was lain for so much more than just being the kid in the play. His relationships and experiences were all a pretense to something much more fulfilling and exciting.

“I was fortunate enough to be in some of their shows even when I was in high school,” he said. “The bug really bit because I was granted the opportunity to sing and dance on the stage alongside Broadway stars that were brought in for the shows. I soaked it all up and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a part of this business in any way possible.”

What he didn’t know was how the early relationship with North Carolina Theatre would eventually lead him back to his roots in theater. Mr. Woodall took the early foundation established in Raleigh and let them take their course.

He wound up at Carnegie Melon in Pittsburgh, then carried him to Los Angeles and finally to New York. His career spanned the gamut of theater propelling him into acting, directing, producing, becoming a casting director all before the chance to fill his current post as producing artistic director for NC Theatre caught his attention. It was a position which offered him the chance to take all of the lessons he’d learn in a career spanning more than two decades and use them at another level.

“I had sort of hit the ceiling in casting unless I moved to opening my own company, which I wasn’t interested in doing that,” he said. “So I started looking around at artistic director positions.”

Benson native Eric Woodall left Johnston County in search of a career in theater. He has long since accomplished the dream. Now he has returned to the area as artistic director for the North Carolina Theater. His first production, ‘Momma Mia,’ just completed a run at the Duke Performing Arts Center in Raleigh. Contributed photo

What Mr. Woodall saw when he found out at the opening at NC Theatre, was a chance to go full circle. Something he did without hesitation.

“I leaped at the opportunity,” he said. “It felt like this amazing full circle moment to be able to be a part of bringing back to the community ­— especially the young people here — what had been given to me.”

The opportunity was a chance to not only give back, but to take giving to a new level, one where he could make a true impact on those who were willing to accept it.

“I want to inspire and invoke and interest in theater that was introduced and supplied to me,” he said. “So it’s been pretty incredible.”

His career beyond the borders of North Carolina have seen him on television and on stage. He began acting in the soap opera “Loving” and took roles in TV shows such as “Murder She Wrote.”

Then his first love drew him  to New York. Live theater was his deepest connection and instead of continuing in Los Angeles where stage theater was secondary to movies and TV, Mr. Woodall decided it was time to return to New York.

“I was doing more theater out there and I realized this is crazy, I should go back to New York where there was theater,” he said. “That’s always been my first love.”

If acting was the first stage of his career and being artistic director is the latest, then becoming a casting director was the transition portal, a portal he used to become just as, if not more, successful.

“I was given opportunities and in situations as a casting director that this little Benson boy never dreamed he would be in,” Mr. Woodall said. “ I found myself with some of the most well known, not just stars as far as actors, but directors and producers and people of note. I was a part of creating a lot of their new material from the ground up. So to be a part of those experiences were amazing but also scary.”

Mr. Woodall said the anxiety that came along with the opportunities he was afforded were many, but there were more moments where he was able to develop his stature in a way he could make the most of any situation.

“There was a lot of responsibility and you develop a thick skin,” he said. “You take those opportunities and hopefully make you a better artist, a better business person and a better person in general.”

Mr. Woodall goes back to his roots, both familial and professional, for instilling in him a sense of work ethic and drive and responsibility, all of which have played a key role in both his personal and professional career.

He credits his family in Benson as laying the groundwork and his career paths for paving the way.

He worked summers in his paternal grandfather’s store, Woodall’s Department Store, and learned from his maternal grandfather, Noel Auman, owner of Benson Veneer Company by example, much as he did with other family members.

“Through both of my granddads and my families I learned this strong work ethic and discipline,” he said. “And I learned the importance of being responsible and being of service.”

The first production under his artistic guidance, “Mamma Mia,” just completed it’s run and how the NC Theater is preparing to bring “Murder For Two” to the Duke Energy Center for The Performing Arts from April 26 to May 5.

It will give those who haven’t already been exposed to his work, a chance to see just how well the little Benson boy is doing.

-Dunn Daily Record