If We Were Birds Interview: Dana Lee Thompson

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we have given you the chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this last interview, meet actor Dana Lee Thompson.

Actor - Dana Lee Thompson
Actor – Dana Lee Thompson

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?

I am Dana Lee Thompson and I was born in Kansas City, Missouri.  The world of acting was always a mysterious and interesting concept growing up, but I only contributed that interest to all the TV and movies I watched.  I would sit there in the move theatre staring at the people on the big screen thinking to myself, “I can do that.  I can entertain an audience of people and cause them to have real emotions from made up stories.” I was naive about my opportunities and didn’t grasp that I could actually participate in live theatre.  It wasn’t until high school when I was in my Debate & Forensics class, that my teacher suggested I audition for one of the children’s theatres in the area.  It was my senior year of high school when I was in my first professional show at Theatre for Young America, in Kansas City.  And even still, after that experience I waited a whole semester in college before the epiphany struck that I could major in theatre.  I originally enrolled in college under a Communications/Public Relations degree.  My mother told me, “Study something you love.  It doesn’t matter what you get a degree in, just as long as you get a degree in something.”  The theatre bug had bit me and left a mark.  After those words from my mother and remembering the feeling I had on stage, there was no turning back.  I graduated in 2005 from Missouri State University with a BFA in Theatre Performance.

What excites you most about If We Were Birds?

I’ve never worked with such dark material, hahaha.  It’s horrifying, and that brings me a level of excitement.

What is your role in the play? What do you think will be the most challenging and/or rewarding part of performing this role? 

I am part of the chorus, The Pious One.  Being part of a chorus usually provides it’s own set of challenges.  We work as a unit, but maintain our individualism because each of our experiences are important and crucial to the telling of the story.  The reward is to work with a cast and production crew that truly wants to bring forth a breathtaking piece of art.

Tell us a little bit about the character.  Is this role similar to roles you have played in the past or will this be a stretch for you?

Well, I had to look up the word pious.  And for those who are in my similar shoes, pious means “devoutly religious”.  The Pious One wants to find all of her answers through her religious beliefs.  I believe that she is looked up to in her community, but walks around with a sense of entitlement and self-ritiousness.  I have been playing with her character in rehearsals and Ive decided that no matter what the situation, whether it’s the evil things that have happened to The Pious One or the evil revenge she plots, The Pious One will rationalize everything to “God’s will”.

I haven’t played a character quite like The Pious One before.  She is not a stretch for me as an actor, but more of a stretch on a personal level.  Though I do believe in a higher power, I don’t consider myself religious, especially not devoutly so.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, or thinking after seeing If We Were Birds?

That’s a hard question to answer.  I imagine that this play will impact every person a little differently.  I think that part of the purpose of this production is to give a voice to the stories that many of us may choose to ignore, forget, or to even pretend never happened.  The production takes the history of women and puts it in your face and says, “HERE!”.  We will all digest it differently, but what kind of after taste will it leave behind?  Being in the rehearsal process, I’m still digesting, but I’m sensing a bit of heartburn.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

I am a fulltime administrator at CLIMB Theatre.  My title is Maintainer of Excellence in Performance.  CLIMB is a non-profit touring educational theatre company.  One of the many roles of my position is coordinating the Twin Cities Unified Theatre Auditions which is going to be March 14th-15th of 2015.

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

My favorite thing about the Twin Cities is he diversity, and all the appreciation for the arts in the community.

What is your favorite type of bird?