Dean Biasucci appears onstage at Manhattan's Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in jeans, white running shoes and a blue Stanley Kowalski T-shirt, his body still, quiet, molded in shadows cast by a shaft of light falling from far overhead.
"You're a football player," his drama coach says, "and you're kicking the last-second field goal that wins the game."
Biasucci lowers his head and stares at a point on the floor. He tightens his lips and clenches his teeth. He arches his back, rises on the balls of his feet and slowly addresses the make-believe ball. He swivels his right leg, lifts his eyes and gazes at another point offstage. A weak smile flashes across his face.
"Dean!" snaps the coach. "You call that believable?"
"Sure," says Biasucci.
"Come on! What kicker would react that way?"
When not studying Method acting, Biasucci, 28, gets his kicks by methodically booting the ball through the uprights for the Indianapolis Colts. "I don't allow myself to get too emotionally involved with the outcome of a kick," he says. "I've trained myself to internalize. The problem is that in the theater, you're supposed to open up and express yourself."
The last notable Dean to follow Strasberg's teachings was a rebel without a cause. More Marlon Brando than James Dean, Biasucci is a six-year veteran of the NFL, second in Colt history to Lou Michaels in field goals made and first in accuracy (.736). "I'm not really a kicker, though," Biasucci says coyly. "I've been acting like one for a long time and I've gotten away with it. I can be anything I want to be."
And what he wants to be is an actor. He toured last spring with the Indiana Repertory Theatre in Julius Caesar, playing Marc Antony—Brando played the role in Hollywood's movie version. While twitting Biasucci for his flat inflection, The Indianapolis Star praised his "Friends, Romans, countrymen" funeral oration.
In the Marilyn Monroe Little Theatre at the Strasberg school, you can almost see Biasucci pulling himself up, getting exhortative. His pale complexion, jutting cheekbones and toothy smile give him an eminently theatrical face, and there's more than a little dash about him, whether he's burying Caesar or attempting a 52-yarder.
He got off on the right foot at Western Carolina University, where as a sophomore in 1981 he starred on the football team and in a campus production of Dracula. He played on special teams and in plays by Simon Gray, Arthur Kopit and Luigi Pirandello. In Six Characters in Search of an Author he portrayed a disillusioned, scornful boy named Boy. To get into character, he stalked the stage like a lion. "Not like the one from The Wizard of Oz," he says. "More like the ones you see in National Geographic magazine."
No NFL team stalked him. Despite setting an NCAA Division I-AA record with five field goals in a half, Biasucci went unchosen in the 1984 draft. The Kansas City Chiefs signed him, then cut him before the 1984 season began. He hired on with the Colts as Raul Allegre's understudy. He spent the next year on the dole, but in '86 he got a callback from Indianapolis. By '87 he was an All-Pro. Today his $450,000 salary is among the top three for NFL kickers, which may be why he flinches on opening night whenever someone tells him to break a leg.
For all his conditioning, Biasucci sometimes has preperformance jitters both on-field and onstage. "In football, I'm so focused on the ball that I don't worry about the crowd," he says. In the theater, he's more aware of the audience. "I have to wait for them to laugh."
Of course, the fans are more subdued in the theater than in the stadium. "They don't scream or drink beer or throw snowballs at you," Biasucci says. "They might fall asleep, but they won't boo. And when was the last time you saw the Wave in a theater?"