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An Interview With...Dennis Dudley

STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theatre?
I got my real start in college working behind the scenes in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and continued while in the Air Force

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
I got an interest when in high school but I had so much going on to stay focused on it.  My real hook came in college where I was able to spend some serious time backstage.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
Bye Bye Birdie in High School

What was first show you ever saw?
It was so far back I really can't remember.

WHAT I DO

What is your position on a production?
Stage Manager, Set Construction 

Describe what your job entails.
The Stage Manager is an integral part of the show, attending planning sessions and rehearsals, coordinating the crew and doing everything possible to help make the show happen. To be honest with you it's a little bit of everything. We have a crew of very hard working people so there is a lot of work and coordinating to do.  A good description of my position is multitasking. In the ideal world, the SM makes sure everything related to the stage gets done but in the smaller venues, we are an active part of the crew. Many hands make light work, so in reality, I am moving flats, painting, helping hang lights, name it. It is whatever it takes to get to job done. I am also in constant communications with the director to make sure all is going as scheduled, (What's a schedule?) 

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
Yes, I am a graduate of the school of hard knocks, as any person working backstage can attest to. I say that in jest. Experience has been my greatest teacher. I have gained more through the hands-on and interaction with real world experiences than I could gain in the controlled environment of a classroom. There are so many more risks and responsibilities that are experienced, but I have learned that there are many ways to get something done with the same or better results than originally planned.


MY THEATER EXPERIENCE

What motivates you to keep doing what you're doing?
I really enjoy the hell out of it. It is good physical work but most of all I get to work with some super dedicated people. I enjoy the camaraderie, the challenges and the results of a lot of hard work. It's a great feeling when the curtain goes up, to see that I was a major part of it. 

How do you feel about pre-casting?
I don't mind some pre-casting if it is held to a strict minimum. If shows are constantly pre-cast, there is no purpose to the audition. Auditions give a theatre group the opportunity to see what talent is out there and also lets the talent that's out there see us as a serious group. There are times when a fresh face is required and can do a better job. 

What was your worst theater experience?
My worst theatre experience is when people feel they need to put others down because of their size or theatre venue. I have seen some great shows in small venues and I have seen shows in established theatres that looked like they belonged back in high school. Critics and reviewers need to look at heart and soul of the theatre group (the actors, the house staff and the quality of the performance) and not whether it is in a fancy building.

What was your best theater experience?
My greatest theatre experience is working with the Minstrel Players in Northport. There are several theatre groups much closer to home, but some of them (and I will not name them) just don't seem to have the "heart" in their productions. The Minstrel Players continue to produce quality theatre with true authenticity to the show and real conviction by everyone involved in the production.   

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
Actors may not like this but "there is no show without the crew" Love Your Crew. Actors need the spotlight, the set and the special effects. The crew makes it happen (yeah even in black box theatre). Actors read lines or cue cards, and don't trip over the furniture, the crew makes the show. Heh heh !!!!!!

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
Stay focused, be loyal to the theatre group you are working with. They really want you there for them. Do yourself and the cast a favor, Be not a diva as a director, Divas are annoying and bring dis-favor with the cast and crew. If you really have to be a diva, then you are not much of a director. JMHO!!

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
Hang in there! If ever in doubt ask yourself, why did I get into this? Most of all take the time to really learn your craft. Go to other shows and see how they do it. Hang out with other techies if necessary to get ideas. It is through constantly asking questions, observing other groups and trying new ideas that keeps the job interesting. I have been to several theatres and did pick up some very useful ideas and bringing them back to our show, thus keeping my job always new and interesting.

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
The Cast  The Crew  The Heart. I work with the Minstrel Players in Northport. They are always looking to present interesting, exciting plays, and bring in new talent. Under the direction of Ray and Deb Palen, they really continue to bring quality shows to the Island. One of the joys of working with the Minstrels, is the ability to be flexible in the acting and the overall production. They try to be as realistic as possible and it shows in the attitudes of the cast and crew as this leaves the audience with a feeling they were truly entertained. The producers, director and crew stay in constant touch with each other to keep things flowing smooth.   


FUN

Do you think Long Island Theater will continue to grow?
Long Island theatre will and needs to continually grow as a source of great entertainment. Here on LI we have some of the greatest talent and dedication to the theatrical arts coupled with a variety of different types of shows. There are so many resources for putting on shows along with a whole lot of audience here on Long Island looking for quality theatre. It's our job to see that they get that quality and want to come back for more. As theatre people we can determine the destiny of  LI theatre.

What brings you greatest joy?
The greatest joy comes after the set is built, the blocking is done, the lights are focused, sound cues are done and hell week (or tech week) is over and the curtain finally goes up!! That's when I get to see all of the effort coming together and paying off. The topper is when the audience applauds or better yet, gives a standing ovation.

What irks you?
Bad Attitude-Bad Attitude- Bad Attitude, and big egos where they shouldn't be.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
I would buy my own building complete with massive set construction areas, storage rooms, all the tools I could use. I would also have the best lighting and sound and a really really big stage where the selection of shows would be unlimited. A big budget, you name it!!!!!  I list these cuz I really enjoy the demand and the work of putting on a show, and I would like to have the best I can get.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
Hell Yeah!! Looks change with age, money always talks and you know what walks!!

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
There is a heaven, and all I want to hear is "Welcome"

THE FUTURE

What is your dream theatrical project?
This is highly related to the Lotto question