Anyone who has seen David Dials as the tragic/comic Shelley Levene in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (now at Oregon Stage Works) can see that David is an accomplished actor. But David fell in love with education early on. As we lunched at Geppetto’s, he told me how he combined a life of theater and teaching.
DD: I got my BA in theater with an emphasis in children’s theater, and then I got my teaching credential. I had a wonderful teaching career for 30 years. Just for fun, just recreationally, like you would play recreational softball, I’ve been in plays all the time, except for a period of time when my kids were at an age where I wanted to be at home with them.
I discovered a local character, Hathaway Jones, who was a storyteller. He carried the mail; he was an historical figure who went all up and down the Rogue River. He had some great, tall tales. He made a great character for me, so I could rehearse that at home and still perform. People would hire me to perform at various functions.
I incorporated a lot of theater in the classroom. We would write plays and produce them. When I taught first-grade, kids would tell me what their Halloween costumes were and we’d develop a play around their costumes and make a show.
When my fifth-graders were studying the American Revolution, I had them write a comedy based on their understanding. We divided into groups and each group wrote scenes about the Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, the Townsend Act or “The Shot Heard Round the World.” Everybody went home and wrote scenes. They would come back and meet together as a group. There was a lot of writing. They combined their work. We’d have a big editors’ meeting and put the final script together based on the scenes and transitions. Then we video taped it. The whole room was turned into scenery.
EH: You had them paint scenery?
DD: Yes. The nextdoor classroom teacher was a talented artist. We would exchange; I taught her kids and she taught mine.
When we got to signing the Declaration of Independence with John Hancock, they were all around making their speeches. As they were saying, “Should we sign this?” everyone would say what they individually would want. There were all of these wonderful fifth-grade ideas such as “no cruelty to animals.” At the end, when the credits were rolling, there was a shot of King George saying, “It will never work.”
EH: You were in “Hot L Baltimore” at Rogue Community College. What was it like working with the students?
DD: I loved that whole experience. I loved the energy of the students — naive, full of confidence, competent and good, just raw talent. They weren’t all young, and I totally saw them as peers and equals — adults. It was just fun watching the newness, with them discovering new things and applying them and using their power and feeling empowered. It just felt really good.
Working with this crew (the cast of “Glengarry Glen Ross”) they’re all such veterans, they’re all so there. That newness isn’t there, but the love of it is there; it’s a whole different kind of admiration. I watch these guys and I just catch myself smiling. I just enjoy the process, just watching them, just that magic of theater.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays at 8 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., through Oct. 19. For tickets and information call 482-2334.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre, and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at email@example.com.