committing to theater: making art and making family

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[article originally published at HowlRound, August 5, 2014.]

dan and samSome American theater careers emerge from the coasts and the flyover states and explode on the scene. Sixteen years ago, Daniel Talbott and Samantha Soule, two members of what has become an Off-Broadway theatrical family-by-choice met up in New York City from disparate edges of the United States and have been professionally linked ever since.

Dan, Sam, and I met on a sunny June morning in the West Village, not far from the Cherry Lane Theatre on Commerce Street where a production of A Fable by David Van Asselt would wind up its run in a few days. Directed by Dan, with Sam in a starring role, written by another colleagues and frequent collaborator, A Fable was the most recent of a long line of theatrical family affairs. We set about unpacking their connections to each other, their views about making art in the city, finding artistic compatriots, founding and working with organizations that produce theater together, and their reflections about A Fable.

Finding Theater and Meeting at Juilliard

When Dan and Sam met as two of the twenty original members of Juilliard’s Group 31 in the fall of 1998, they were drawn to each other’s outsider-ness. Sam recalled, “We were the kids dying our hair purple and orange. Juilliard could sometimes feel like a very posh place to me and it felt safe to be scrappy with Daniel. I love him for that.”

Dan came from San Francisco, where he had already begun acting as a kid. Sam, desperate to get out of her Massachusetts “rural big football playing Americana high school,” tried sports and took dance classes and in dance and theater felt the bliss of finding something she could do all day.

Dan first saw and was intrigued by Sam sitting on a radiator at a dorm introductory meeting, with short dyed red hair, a bandana, and overalls. Sam recalled revealing herself to Dan: “‘ I don’t know anything, but I’m trying desperately to pass like I do. How do you find someone safe enough to say: I don’t know what I’m doing, can you help?’ And that felt like one of the first honest moments that I had at that school.”

Article continues here.

© Martha Wade Steketee (August 5, 2014)

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