Dancers Over 40 ARTS Legacy
What inspired you to become a dancer/ actor/mime?
As an actor/ dancer/mime, the need to manage & discipline my then stooped 6 foot 2''ness led to training with the Wisconsin Mime Theatre at the Valley Studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin (situated precisely between Frank Lloyd Wright's design studio Taliesin East and the future home of Randall Duk Kim's American Players Theatre). Communal living plus a year round daily regimen of mime, ballet, modern, clown, mask, acting classes & other disciplines led by Reid Gilbert & company members, was complimented by summer sessions in period dance, corporeal mime, commedia & improv with internationally respected teachers William Burdick, Carlo Mazzone Clemente, & Tom Leabhart among many others. Summer sessions culminated in day long public performances on an outdoor stage attended by 100s of Studio supporters who after dark moved into studio spaces to continue watching or watched through studio windows if they didn't fit inside. At the Valley Studio, the communal living aspect of the training was the most telling as there was no escape from the woodsy compound or the demands of the daily schedule. We ate, slept, and practiced the training on a daily basis.
What dance experiences most influenced your career?
Greg Graham (Jerry Mitchell’s Assistant) directed/ choreographed HAIRSPRAY
Becky Garrett (standby for Marilyn Cooper) choreographed WOMAN of the YEAR (Larry) with Elke Sommer
Sean Morrisey directed/choreographed GRAND HOTEL (Doctor Colonel)
Millie Garvey directed/choreographed ANYTHING GOES (Elisha Whitney)
Ross Lehman directed/choreographed ONCE UPON a MATTRESS (Jester) with Catherine Joosten and THE APPLE TREE (Snake) with Peggy Roeder
Peter Palmer directed OKLAHOMA (Pa Carnes)
Seth Reines directed THE MUSIC MAN (Mayor Shinn) with Bill Hayes & Alene Robertson
What was your most memorable dance experience?
My first dance experience on film was my most memorable with Tony Stevens in John Hughes' SHE's HAVING a BABY with Kevin Bacon (I have zero degrees of separation with the Bacon also appearing with him in PICTURE PERFECT where we sandwiched Jennifer Aniston in the Nielson Tennis Stadium sequence) Tony Stevens choreographed a Busby Berkeley inspired fantasy number for the film with a motley crew of about 20 of Kevin Bacon's "neighbors" who chase each other & form precision maneuvers with lawn mowers. We were paid an hourly rate for rehearsals at Chicago's then derelict Navy Pier (the only indoor facility large enough for Tony's choreographic needs) where we had to dodge large holes in the flooring as Lake Michigan splashed up through the gaps. Hand stands, lifts, chases, sprinkler sequences, anything you could do on, to, or with a lawn mower, Tony included. Monsoon season arrived as soon as we moved on location in Skokie Village, and we spent many days in a catering tent listening to Tony tell stories of his Broadway days, before we finally got to go through our paces when the sun finally broke through. Most of the choreography is on the cutting room floor, but the two minutes or so that remain are fabulously creative and entertaining.
Do you have a funny, incredible or frightening dance experience?
Previous to starting my performance career, I was a certified license bearing Secondary Education English/Theatre Arts teacher. My students called me Mr. Drama. My first teaching job was at a grades 6 through 12 "college preparatory school in the beautiful Lake Country" & my duties included teaching English, Theatre Arts, & co-teaching a required Movement class for 6th, 7th & 8th graders with Dance Teacher Joan Gonwa (currently University of Iowa dance program). Since I also directed the school plays, for a production of THE MUSIC MAN, Joan & I decided to use "all" the Middle Schoolers, "all" 60 of them, to "be in" the show & rehearse them during their Movement class time. The 7th graders for the library sequence "Marian", the 8th graders for "Shipoopi" & the 6th graders for "Wells Fargo Wagon". High schoolers, about 40 of them, made up the rest of the dance ensemble & filled the major roles. Only 2 middle schoolers were pulled from the production with their parents claiming distance to school as a hardship, & we had our 58 strong to work with. The parents were unusually supportive & almost sublimely happy with the results. The only casualty of the proceedings was a 7th grader with a particularly wild disposition who although supervised by back stage parents somehow managed to climb up on the roof of the school during a performance and break both his arms in his 7 foot fall from the eaves. It's always something or someone.
What experience or legacy would you like to pass on to the next generation?
Work with as many different styles and people as you can. Never end your quest for learning new things both as a dancer, an actor. and a human.