You can literally count on one hand — with a finger or two left over — the number of actors of color who characteristically grace the Theatre in the Round Players stage in any given season. This despite the irony that Ernie Hudson starred there in The Great White Hope before going on to TV and film stardom, most notably in Ghostbusters. Among those few, Lynda Dahl (www.lyndajdahl.com), does it a second time, returning in Ray Bradbury’s adaptation of his sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451.
Dahl, an accomplished veteran, looks at it philosophically and takes this casting in the course of her career basically as luck of the draw. Sitting at a conference table in the MSR newsroom, she reflects, “My last show at [Theater in the Round] was with this director, Linda Paulsen.” In 2002, as Dahl recalls, they’d done Norman Krasna’s Dear Ruth together and bumped into each other a few weeks before auditions for Fahrenheit 451.
“I told her I was going to audition,” says Dahl. “If I correctly recall, the notice said they were encouraging actors of color to come in. I did. And it went really well.
“I read the book, but I didn’t see the movie. Linda’s been really good in terms of who the characters are. She’s very specific in terms of what she’s looking for.”
Dahl hardly confines herself, but she quite naturally responds to notices for minority actors. “There’s so much variety of theater in the Twin Cities. It’s great. [It has] worked out for me. Things have been accessible. I feel like I can continue to get more roles and develop further, work in more theaters.”
Theatre in the Round’s press release for Fahrenheit 451 states, “Guy Montag works as a fireman. But in this world, the government has banned books and firemen start fires — burning books and the houses where they’re found. To Guy it’s just a job, and he goes home every night to his wife Mildred who, like everyone else, lives in front of the TV. Then he meets Clarisse, a peculiar young woman whose curiosity leads him to questions of his own — and onto a dangerous path.”
Suffice to say, between the content and Bradbury’s name in general, Dahl should find herself exposed to a healthy audience in her return to this venue. She’s also acted or danced at Whitney Performance Center, Bloomington Civic Center, Excel Energy Center, MN Fringe Festival and Steppingstone Theatre. When Dahl isn’t working, she’s working on being ready for the next job.
“I’m always either studying or auditioning.” Or, of course, acting. She’s studied mainly with John Woehrle and at the Guthrie Theatre, spending virtually all of her time throwing herself into it thanks to a supportive husband Scott who readily foots the financial freight while she pursues her lifelong passion.
“I’ve always wanted to be [an actor] since I was a kid.” It was not, however, encouraged at home. “My mother didn’t consider it practical, but I’ve always taken dance lessons.” In 2010, she left the world of nine-to-five behind and started teaching yoga, which she still does. Watching fellow dancers land acting work prompted her to go for it.
Actors can seldom be choosers and generally have to be glad for what parts they get. She, though, came across a role into which she could sink her teeth as Elena in Harrison David Rivers’ And She Would Stand Like This, (20% Theatre Company, Q-Stage). She recalls, “[It] was a strong role, different [in some ways] from me. Aggressive and very much over the top. Vengeful.” Not qualities you expect in a medical professional on a hospital ward filled with dying patients, compassion being more the order of the day.
“It’s a metaphor for an AIDS clinic. She enjoys having power over others, in this case the loved ones of people who are sick. Later…in the course of coming to terms with her son being a drag queen, she changes. Elena has an arc.”
Another production she enjoyed was Mackenzie Dykstra’s A House Has Many Dreams (Francis D. Productions/Illusion Theater), “a Fringe play I was in this past summer about intergenerational interracial relationships.” While discussing roles, she adds, “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention John Woehrle’s play Trust. He wrote it with some of his students in mind and I was one.
“It’s about the Catholic abuse scandal, the story of one specific victim. In it I play Sister Kenny at a fictional Minnesota college.” Woehrle presently is working on financing to stage the play, which should prove to be a controversial, attention-grabbing saga.
Between Fahrenheit 451 and whatever’s next on the boards, Dahl says she’ll look forward to more study, particularly working with Rich Remedio on the Miesner Technique, while, of course, continuing to hit the bricks.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 runs at Theatre in the Round, January 8 – 31, weekends (Fri., Sat, 8 pm, Sun. 2 pm). Audience discussion follows the Sunday, January 24 matinee. Tickets are $22. Box office: 612-333-3010 or www.TheatreintheRound.org.
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