There’s an old Norwegian legend that tells the tale of Peer Gynt, an adventurous man of shameless pride who is hell bent on finding his true self. Throughout his journey through life however, he mistreats others and boasts about accomplishments, that in reality, have never been reached.
Tyler Cronin steps out of the warm confines of International Hall and into crisp autumn embrace. It’s early. But his mind is groggy-free and sharp as he crosses the dorm’s parking lot, turning left onto Hickory Street to begin one of many created 6:30 a.m. routes around downtown. Usually his mind can wander on an easy, three to four mile run like this one. He can ponder if he’s fast enough to ever run away from danger while carrying his pet rabbits to safety. He can look for a shop window of antiques to gaze at for a bit (his mother has always called him an old soul in that regard).
But not this time.
This time, Cronin is replaying the life of Gynt over and over in his mind. The Danish man’s arrogant, conceited dialogue echoing with his every stride, with every puff of breath he exhales as vapor into October’s chilled morning air.
It’s the fall of 2017. Cronin is to take on the persona of Gynt next week, in the American play “Gnit,” an adaptation of the Norwegian production and fable. Once he gets back to campus, he’ll have to go to class. In between sessions, he’ll work the post office. After class, there’s practice. Then, after that, there’s rehearsal.
At the end of the day, Cronin is just another student at Springfield College. Everyone gets one life. But Cronin has lived so many within his own. A student. An athlete. An employee. And dozens of roles on the side.
“You have to remember where you are sometimes,” Cronin said.
***TYLER THE PERFORMER***
Theater marks only the beginning of a long list of responsibility for Cronin. The exercise science major is on the cross country team. He’s also one of Inty’s resident assistant. And a student worker. And a part of the alternative spring break e-board.
“I’m lucky I can do what I do,” said Cronin. “I just find it all so rewarding … I don’t think I realize it sometimes, that most people don’t do this. I really don’t bring any of it up too much. I’d never tell anyone ‘yeah, I’ve got six things to do.’ I’m grateful I can do everything I can.”
Cronin is the oldest of Joesph and Christine Cronin’s three children. He has two sisters, Morgan and Rylee. Tyler’s family calls him the trend-setter, a bit of a trailblazer when it comes to both running and theatrical activities.
“He’s our oldest so for him to go to college, we’re glad that he’s in there,” said Christine. “We can see how much he’s grown and how much he’s doing on his own now. It means a lot. [And] he’s always thinking of everyone else. He’s always thinking about his sisters, he’s just very good hearted.”
Cronin is also the first in his family to go to college. His dad is a plumber, while his mom raised Tyler and his sisters. Cronin understands that it takes a certain amount of will, hard-work, and resilience. He knows he gets it from his parents.
“We’re a blue collar family. My dad has always just worked and worked and worked. Sometimes he doesn’t understand why I do all these things. [But] he reminds me to learn everything that I can,” reflected Cronin. “My mom understands that learning is totally important but she also understands that this development is a part of the experience of going to college. She said she didn’t expect me to be the person I am now. [They’re both] totally supportive of everything I do.”
Cronin began performing in theater early in his middle school years for a young, newly budding program. Cronin was enrolled in a small school system and a part of a class that would eventually graduate 86 kids at charter school. Despite this however, he was still a bit shy when it came to the prospect of being under the lights. He remained backstage until his junior year of high school when he took to the stage for the first time.
“He always wanted to [perform drama], he was just unsure, shy, timid, but once he did he really enjoyed it, and loved it,” Christine said. “He’s dedicated, he puts his heart into anything he sets his mind to, whether its drama or cross country.”
Martin Shell, professor of theater/arts, and director of Springfield College’s play productions recalls Cronin coming to him as a freshman. He had aspiration to tryout for a spot on the cast of the year’s first play, called “Stage Kiss.” Cronin was quick to ask about the timing of rehearsal and production. It was only his first semester, but he had already begun booking himself for numerous extracurriculars, determined to keep his promise of attendances. Shell said he saw a certain sincerity and thoughtfulness in the young man right away.
Cronin quickly found a balance and an effective management for his activities. This is largely due to the fact that he simply can’t stand being caught in a lull of action.
“I just knew I wanted to stay busy because I can’t stand being idle,” Cronin explained. “I figured if doing cross country was like running a meet, then a show is no different. Going to rehearsal is like going to practice – I just happen to go to practice twice. And it’s totally worth it, especially when my [cross country team] shows up for shows.”
Shell respects and admires Cronin’s ambitions. He believes the senior has always carried himself in a way where he’s been one in harmony with his tight schedule rather than attempting to beat it.
“The commitment to the things he’s doing is coming from a deep place,” said Shell. “It’s not the kind of ‘I’m going to gut it out’ kind of commitment, he gives and takes with every situation, every challenge he faces.”
The theater life naturally runs long hours. Afternoon quickly become evening. Cronin relishes every minute of it. He finds it as an opportunity to be one with his character.
“At that point [by the end of the night] there’s a lot of character development,” explained Cronin. “You start to understand why a character might make an action that he doesn’t say in the script. Then when you get on stage it feels like you’re in the world.”
When the production of “Gnit” was announced, Shell was excited to challenge Cronin with a role completely out of his character.
“I couldn’t wait to put [Tyler] in the part, it was a ton of fun,” he said. “He kind of had to learn how to be an asshole. In theater, actors can hit on certain marks of action, but can they sustain that? Tyler can do that. He can be comfortable with discomfort and I think he could do that as an athlete [as well]. It’s similar to what athletes have to face, sustaining their will and drive towards a challenge and keeping at something in the flow of it – that’s something I see in Tyler. A strong ability to sustain effort.”
***TYLER THE ATHLETE***
Cronin took up cross country when he was in the seventh grade. Though he will tell anyone, he felt that he didn’t begin his cross country career until he started running collegiately at Springfield.
“I was not … too good – in high school,” he explained. “I don’t know, something clicked when I got here. I fell in love [with cross country] and I knew I needed to make it a big part of my life.”
Cronin found himself feeling a way with the sport he hadn’t before. He of course liked running going into college, as one must have a general comfort with when competing in cross country. But he was finally enjoying the sport as competition, as an identity.
“He such a student of the sport he’s really bought in to what it takes to get better in the sport and doing all the little things,” said cross country head coach Anna Steinman. “He does a great job with balancing everything [as well]. I think it’s just about time management. He gets up early, he goes to bed when he has to and gives 100 percent to everything he has to do. This is the best Tyler we’ve seen out there running and it’s really exciting.”
Cronin credits his teammates, who also show up in the audience for his shows.
“My favorite part about cross country is probably my teammates,” he said. “Because I could just do this by myself, I could just go for runs. But you don’t have people behind you, what’s the point? Running for me, it’s kind of spiritual. It’s my stress relief, I’m so excited when I get up to run in the morning.”
Cronin thinks about his old friend Peer Gynt sometimes. The man who showed no compassion. The man who lost out on every opportunity. He may be the exact opposite of Cronin, but Tyler can’t help but feel bad for him.
“Getting into that world, getting into that character, it’s like I’ve lived different lives,” said Cronin. “At the end of [Gnit], Peer Gynt died alone and sad, and I felt for the guy. Because I was him. He was such a jerk but he didn’t know what he was doing. You understand how [different personalities] think more.”
Gynt lived one life of stubbornness. Cronin has lived dozens while listening to his father’s words. He has indeed learned everything and everything he can. He wouldn’t want his busy life any other way.
“It can be stressful, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I think, ‘is this really worth it?’ But it’s for the big days, the opening nights, or any race days I’m like, ‘Yeah. This is what I want to do.’”