Currently playing at the Randall Theatre Company of Medford is "The Odd Couple: The Female Version," written by Neil Simon and directed by Dianna Warner. Warner, a talented actor and singer, most recently was featured in the Randall's "Man of La Mancha." We met for lunch along with Mike, her husband of 40 years, at the Wild Goose in Ashland.
EH: I've enjoyed many of your performances through the years, but you also direct?
DW: I taught for 36 years, and for most of those years, I directed students in high school and middle school. I also directed two plays, "Shakespeare in Hollywood" and "Lend Me a Tenor," at the Camelot Theatre.
EH: How did you get started in theater?
DW: I was in the sixth grade when "The Sound of Music" came out. I wanted to be Julie Andrews, and so, I would gather all of the little kids in the neighborhood, and get my record player out, and we would all pretend "The Sound of Music" in my backyard.
I had a wonderful high school drama teacher. She has always been my role model because she saw something in me, this shy young girl, that I didn't see in myself. She would cast me in parts that would bring out all of those other qualities. It made me blossom. And I thought, "I want to do that." I became a teacher, and I've taught drama for most of those years. I just love it; it's just beautiful. How many people get to do what they love for their whole life?
EH: Why are people so passionate about creating theater?
DW: Actors are always unemployed. Even if you are Tom Hanks, you are always unemployed. Once you get a group of people together who are professional actors, you create your own theater, not wait until you get cast. And slowly but surely you become a performer. People get together and do classes in their living rooms. That's why it grows; people are always creating their own theater, not to get paid for it, but to create. People will always find a place to do a play. You have to have that kind of drive to be an actor.
EH: What are the personality traits that make an actor? Is there any commonality?
DW: I think we're all a little crazy. There are some people who have to access that emotional part of themselves; and it has good sides and bad sides, because it can also cause you a lot of pain.
You also want to have a spouse or a partner who can handle it when, if you are acting in a certain play, and if that character sort of bleeds into your daily life, that they can take that.
If you can do anything else, you do; because to be an actor as a profession is so difficult. That was a choice that I made when I was really young, that I wanted to have a family, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to, if I pursued professional acting.
EH: Mike, do you think Dianna's interest in theater has contributed to the longevity of the marriage?
MW: No, but I don't think it's gotten in the way, either. I like spending time with her.
DW: He asked me this time to, 'Please not be in more than one play at a time.'
Performances of "The Odd Couple" continue Feb. 6, 7, 8 and 9 at the Randall Theatre, 10 Third St. (Front and Third Streets), Medford. Evening performances are at 7 p.m. and Sunday's matinee is at 1 p.m. For tickets and information, call 541-632-3258 or visit www.randalltheatre.com.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.