TRUMBULL COUNTY Niles native follows heart to pursue career in the arts

Teaching is like performing in many ways, the Niles native says.
NILES -- Tom Shaker has come home from Italy to visit family and friends and share his experiences from a controversial movie set.
Shaker, a Niles native, is one of eight children of former Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Mitchell Francis Shaker and the late Mary Katherine Christopher Shaker. He played Eyepatch in "The Passion of the Christ."
Home in Italy
It was difficult not go into the family law practice as expected, Shaker said, but his family has been supportive of his chosen path and proud of his achievements.
He borrows from Shakespeare -- "To thine own self be true" -- when anyone asks his advice about becoming an actor. A person must "follow his heart and never use anyone to get what they want," he said. "The world doesn't owe you a living. Just do what you have to do."
His move to Italy, Shaker said, is the classic tale of going on a two-week vacation and never coming back. He fell in love with Rome and the people. He wakes every morning to a view of the Colosseum outside his window.
Making it fun
When not pursuing acting and musical endeavors, Shaker teaches English at Link Campus, a branch of the University of Malta.
But Shaker is by no means an ordinary English teacher. He calls himself an "edu-tainer." He likes to make teaching fun, and he said that teaching is like performing in many ways.
Throughout high school and his four years at Kent State University, Shaker excelled in the arts. He started law school at the University of Akron, but later dropped out. He eventually received a master's degree in directing at the University of Michigan.
Today, Shaker has a long list of credits. He said he has worked with such actors and directors as Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Barbra Streisand, Ron Howard and Mel Gibson.
He will offer his take on his world of acting, music and education during a free event at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren.
Looked the part
Shaker said his "Passion" experience was one of his more memorable ones. The film had the best set, and the crew was easy to work with.
His Italian and Lebanese heritage gave him the look needed for his part as the character Eyepatch in the film.
Shaker said he had previously worked with Gibson on the film "Ransom" and found him to be an easygoing family man.
Shaker just finished a role in the upcoming HBO miniseries called "Rome." He has a part in the first episode. The series is set in ancient Rome and Shaker laughingly said that it is like "'Sex in the City' in togas."
Loves jazz
Other projects in the works include his own "Kissa Grandpa," which is the story of his Italian grandfather's immigration to Conneaut. He is looking for backers to produce the project. Shaker fondly relates his grandfather's history to his own as he now lives in Italy, as his grandfather once did.
As a musician, Shaker has composed many musicals and loves the world of jazz. In Europe, Shaker has started his singing career with his group Tom and the Jazz Cats.
He said anyone can log on and e-mail him from his Web site at

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