"Are we having any luck with this?" a familiar voice broke the spell.
"We're gulping," answered film director Ron Hamad, clearly moved as he
wrapped up a 90-minute recording session with Ramon Estevez.
Better known by his film name Martin Sheen, Estevez loaned his voice -- what Hamad described as "a deep, quiet inner voice" -- to a nearly five-minute image film about the University of Dayton that will be shown to donors at presidential roundtable discussions in the spring. Estevez, a Dayton native who never lost touch with his hometown after he became a celebrity, didn't rush into the Indigo Ranch studio in Malibu and race through the script, even though he started the session by asking, "Want to record one in case we get lucky?"
Instead, he patiently offered to record dozens of versions in an effort to capture the cadence of a piece designed to inspire alumni to answer "the call to lead" and support UD's aspirations for the 21st century. "I want to feel like you're talking to me and I'm spellbound by you," Hamad told the actor, who connected with the words in a way that showed both the range of his acting ability and an understanding of the Marianist educational tradition, which calls people to use their education to make a difference in the lives of others. As he slowly delivered the words, the script's poetry leapt to life:
Enveloped by the richness of his voice, the listeners grew quiet,
caught in the spell of a masterful delivery. Two thousand miles away,
he mistook the silence for discomfort. At one point, he said
apologetically, "I do tend to get complacent and fall in love with my
voice. The problem with me is that I get locked into something and
fall in love with it and can't let go."
Not a startling confession from a man who is passionate about the causes he believes in. He calls himself a "Christian activist" and has never been afraid to either sleep outside to demonstrate solidarity with the homeless or get himself arrested for blocking the entrance of a company that conducts research into nuclear weapons. He agreed to provide the voiceover for UD's film in exchange for a small donation to the San Carlos Foundation, which provides health and educational assistance to refugees and others in the Third World, particularly Central America. Professionals -- doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and teachers -- earn a $6,000 annual stipend to live in primitive conditions among the people they're working with and train them to take over their jobs when they leave. Estevez, who's on the board of directors, helped start the foundation in 1983.
One of 10 children from a Catholic immigrant family who grew up on Brown Street in the shadows of UD, Estevez said his father wanted him to continue his education at UD after graduation from Chaminade High School. "I think it's a matter of record there that I had the lowest score on record on my (college) entrance exams," he said with a laugh at the end of the taping. "I wanted to go to New York."
Although he conceded he was "intrigued" by the lyrical nature of the script, why did he bother to take the time to furnish his easily recognizable voice to UD's film?
"I confess to a fondness for Dayton. It's my hometown. I was educated by the Marianists at Chaminade, and when I was growing up, UD was the only university in town."
Contributed by Tammy