Hi, my name is Jonathan Dahl and I’m an actor. (Actually, that looks pretty impressive once it is written down.) I have wanted to be on stage since I was a child and now, thankfully, I am getting the opportunity to have a career in this side of ‘showbiz’. I have written the first part of my story for Bent already http://mag.bent.com/2013/12/an-actors-life-for-me-by-jonathan-dahl/ but I’d love it if you’d care to join me for the second part of my story, and getting that first taste of real acting on a real stage.
As I mentioned last time, I was able to wangle myself some walk-on work as an extra in ITV’s Emmerdale as they were using my school for some of the scenes. I have to say that spotting myself on screen, no matter how fleetingly, was (and still is) quite a turn on. Delightful though that feeling was, I wanted more so I looked for a way in to the legitimate theatre.
I began attending local drama classes at Leeds Civic Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bradford Playhouse.
Firstly was the West Yorkshire Playhouse; I had seen an advert for a new project being launched for youngsters to get involved, which was aptly named WYP Out. This was a big production that was created by Michael Birch; and from this I landed a part in a show by Michael’s wife, and also a director, Jude Kelly titled, ‘It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dog’.
I remember my first line of this very well “The reason I am morose Amanda, is that I stopped believing in God this morning and it may take me a little time to get over it”. Judging from that you have probably guessed my role was the Vicar; In all honesty my time in that show I was feeling a tad morose, though not for my non-Christian beliefs. I just felt the show itself was rather lame, and once again (as in the school nativity) I wasn’t happy with the character I had been cast to play.
During my following theatre piece, again directed by Jude Kelly, was a production of William Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘King Lear’, this was also my first paid acting role. This, in my mind at least, meant I was now a legitimate actor as I was working with professional actors on a huge stage performing to a massive audience.
My moment had finally arrived, and, even though I was only part of the acting chorus I didn’t care about that, I was on that stage with big names such as the lovely Michael Cashman and ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ star Warren Mitchell.
Warren was involved in a scene where Lear goes insane. He strips down and parades around the stage stark bollock naked. I had thoughts going through my mind at this point; if only the much younger actor who portrayed Lear’s son had gotten his kit off – it would have been much more appealing.
Other theatre shows followed and I was involved in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, Ben Elton’s ‘Silly Cow’, and a comedy farce called ‘Habeus Corpus’.
Catherine Cookson’s ‘Fifteen Streets’ was a great play to both be in… and watch. I had a thing for one of the guys who had his top off in a few scenes, and as much as I loved his Geordie accent I had to control myself. I have also played Hareton Earnshaw in Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. Wish I could have done (sorry, played) Heathcliffe. The guy playing him was so buff I didn’t know where to look when we were in the changing rooms backstage before a show.
I wasn’t ‘Out’ at this time so had to control myself and be professional. I knew if I wanted to make it big (in acting that is; before you get any dirty minded ideas) any urges I had for someone had to remain anonymous at this time and I was happy with just the desires.
As my career took off in the theatre I started to think I wanted more than just be treading the boards – I wanted to move up a gear and do more in front of the cameras. This is when I decided to search for myself an agent in the hope of being put forward for professional castings.
For the third part of my acting write up please come back soon.