I have loved to act for about as long as I can remember, beginning with the poorly-executed magic shows that I put on for a captive audience of family members at age 8 or 9. Later, the combination of junior high friends and a VHS video camera led to roles in numerous short films. Those films no longer exist, due to the rather short lifespan of the average VHS tape. The world is probably better for it, to be honest.

Teenage awkwardness hindered my acting ambitions for a while, but I was fortunate to be cast as the lead villain in the school play my senior year of high school. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled due to some disciplinary issues at the prom involving some of our performers, none of whom were me. No, seriously, it wasn’t me.

College theater gave me a chance to learn about everything that goes on backstage, as well as a few opportunities to be on stage. I did tech and stage managing for shows like “Deathtrap,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” and “The Foreigner.”

I took a job with a Houston law firm after college, and moved to Austin, Texas in 1999 to go to law school. While this might signal the end of some people’s acting dreams, for me it was a beginning.

Law school allowed me to get back into acting. Students at the University of Texas School of Law write and perform an annual musical, Assault & Flattery. I was an actor in two shows, “The Law of the Jungle” and “The Usual Subjects.” I was also assistant director on “The Usual Subjects.” During my third year, I wrote “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Courtroom.” We performed five sold-out shows in the spring of 2002.

After graduating from UT Law School and passing the bar exam in 2002, I started a law practice with two classmates. We worked together for several years on a wide range of cases, including civil litigation, criminal defense, and family law. In 2005, I went solo, in the sense that I parted ways with my law partners and struck out on my own with a general law practice focusing on family litigation.

Trying cases in court is a form of acting. A lawyer must present their client’s case in a way that captures the judge’s or jury’s attention and convinces them that this is the correct way to view the facts and the evidence. In total, I spent about nine years as a lawyer, handling numerous trials, mediations, settlement conferences, and other matters. Cases involving divorce, child custody, child support, and so on can take their toll, though, and eventually it became clear that it was time for me to make a change. Luckily, I made several discoveries that helped me find a new path.

I began taking improv classes in 2009, and I immediately noticed a similarity between improv and courtroom work. Both require an ability to adapt to the unexpected, such as a fellow performer’s offer or a judge’s question. The key difference is that improv allows for more creativity and humor. Also, unlike a courtroom, no one in an improv performance has the power to put me in jail if I make a mistake.

I also discovered that I can make a living as a writer, which is my other great love besides acting. I embarked on a new career as a freelance writer in 2011, and this has allowed me to pursue acting as more than just a fun hobby. Through the improv community, I was able to get back into theatrical performances, and I have produced several shows. My fellow improvisers also helped me find good acting teachers, which helped me get my start in film.

And now, here I am, living the dream.

© David C. Wells 2014