Photos and words by Gaige Davila
The PARADE sat with Will Abete as he started his shift at The Meatball Cafe, preparing to special a piña colada using fresh squeezed pineapple juice.
Abete, 25, has worked at The Meatball Cafe for two months. Before, he bartended just across Padre Boulevard at Tequila Sunset. He’s lived on the Island for a year, but would work summers at Cafe Karma while he attended university at Texas State, in San Marcos. There, he received a bachelor’s degree in Performance and Production.
Before graduating from Texas State, Abete lived in Los Angeles for a year, attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (ADMA) college his sophomore year. He finished his degree at Texas State, acting through his two years there in the university’s theater department.
Abete, unexpectedly, returned to South Padre Island after the COVID-19 pandemic shut theaters across the world, initially planning to move to London to pursue his acting career. The last show he acted in was a Texas State production of “Blue.”
“I haven’t been able to act, it’s been awful,” Abete said as he polished wine glasses behind the bar. “It was 12 years of being able to do it and then getting cut off when I’m thinking I’m about to go into the world and start doing it for myself.”
He continued, “Having been without it for so long, there’s been days where its been crippling.”
Abete has been trying to express himself creatively in the meantime, attending painting classes next door at the Art Business Incubator and, as he describes it aptly, “pouring myself into other things.”
Abete says when he worked at Tequila Sunset, a fellow bartender said his acting skills were good for the bar business. Abete half agrees.
And through those conversations, Abete has learned a lot about South Padre Island, developing an interesting theory of the barrier Island nearly 3,000 people call home: it’s a simulation, he says in jest.
“This Island has teeth,” Abete said. “This Island is meant to keep you here, and it’s weird and funky and broken and some guy created it out of his office.”
He continues, more seriously, “There are people here that are amazing, it’s such a tight-knit community. There are people here that are running from something, they’re awful and they’re scary. But this could just be the life: wake up and go to the beach every morning.”
Abete saves a third of what he makes every night he works for his return to acting, hoping to move to London soon when COVID-19 alleviates its grip on the world and more theaters start casting for shows. It’s part of his spiel when speaking with customers, he says.
“Once everything is in the clear, my dream is to go to London, even if It seems difficult, it seems very far, it seems very lonely,” Abete said.
Until then, Abete says he is working on “all aspects” of himself, mentally and physically.
“That’s something I said I would do when I came to this Island originally,” Abete said. “I had a therapist in San Marcos who was like, ‘work on your career now, focus on yourself later.’ I don’t think that makes sense anymore.”
You can meet Abete at The Meatball Café at 2412 Padre Boulevard, open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. all week.