CLINTON, Ark. — An Arkansas native with aspirations of a career on Broadway is preparing to take the stage in Clinton. He's giving back to the community as he overcomes an obstacle of his own.
Gavin Drew's passion for performance began taking shape at age six with an audition for "Wizard of Oz" at his local children's theater.
"I was cast as the Mayor of Munchkinland and I have continually been working in the theater since," Drew said.
Several years later, he saw his first Broadway show.
"And that's when it hit -- this could be a career path," he said.
Drew would spend years training, rehearsing, and performing in pursuit of that dream. During show choir practice his junior year of high school, he was presented with an obstacle.
"I noticed I couldn't hear the band quite as well, and I went to an ENT, got checked out and eventually diagnosed with Meniere's disease," he said.
Meniere's affects the inner ear -- causing severe vertigo, constant ringing, and hearing loss.
"Usually, Meniere's appears in older people and takes a really long time for the hearing loss to progress," Drew said. "I started wearing a hearing aid in high school in this [right] ear and then in my sophomore year at Oklahoma City University things started to progress more."
"By my junior year, I woke up and like... couldn't hear my alarm and couldn't hear the TV," he said.
He had lost all of the hearing in his right ear and 95% in his left.
"At the very beginning, I had a lot of people say that I couldn't do this anymore, that it doesn't make a lot of sense to be in music for all that's going on with me," Drew said.
But he's proving those people wrong, one performance at a time.
"Professional theater is definitely my route," he said.
Drew took some time off from school to have cochlear implant surgery, but continues to take the stage.
On Friday and Saturday night, Drew and five fellow performers from Oklahoma City University will perform "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at the Clinton High School auditorium.
All money from ticket sales go toward Clinton Area Rotary student scholarships.
"To be able to do something to help this community and serve this community is really special because I feel like we don't always get to do our strongest suit for our community," Drew said.
Drew will play Snoopy, and his friend Gavin Guthrie will play Charlie Brown.
Guthrie says, even with this latest obstacle, his co-star can take on any role and never miss a beat.
"It's incredible and it's brave and it's something a lot of people only dream of doing," Guthrie said. "Yet he's here doing it with this new hurdle to jump over."
In light of that hurdle, Drew has learned a lesson he now wants to share with others.
"Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do," Drew said. "Push the boundary because you can do anything."
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"
Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 3 at 7 p.m.
Clinton High School Auditorium
Tickets: $10 in advance online or $15 at the door.