I almost spit out my coffee reading these FABULOUS answers from Dustin of Big Muddy Dance Company- you’ve been warned!
Q: What was your first experience in theatre?
A: That is a surprisingly difficult answer for me. I have been in theaters since before I was actually making memories. The only catch was, it was not theatre as the art form I recognize be revere today. I started dancing at the extremely young age of three, and constantly performed in dance recitals in this (incredibly fabulous) theater in a small Texas town. I was performing, but it certainly was in a very different context.
My first experience in theatre was in high school, when I was cast in a church play as a sophomore in high school. I had been dancing all the while, but suddenly I was trying out this art form for which I was really not equipped. After being re-casted because I was far more
flaming I mean TALENTED than my other cast mates, I pretty left the experience with even less understanding of the art than I had before. Then Variety happened.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
A: When I was 11 years old, I met the then-artistic director of Nederlans Dans Theater (who now directs Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago). I thought everyone was just mispronouncing the name of Nederland, TX just a few miles away. They made me perform my competition solo for him, which was to the song “Papa” from Yentl, but covered by Michael Crawford. He stared at it blankly. When asked what advice he had for me, he dead panned, “Don’t quit.”
So here we are.
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
When I was a trainee at Ballet Austin, I was cast in their production of Peter Pan as John Darling. As a pre-professional trainee, to be cast in a production other than Nutcracker was a big g——-n deal. The huge bit was that I got to fly in an aerial harness, by guys from this company called Foy. By then I had developed this intense love of circus and aerial arts, and to be in the air was a dream come true.
While being fitted for the harness, I was shown a secret for padding the large metal buckles that leave some incredible bruises. They wrapped them in a pad (yeah, from Kotex) and voila! So comfortable. During one of the shows, I was slow during a quick change into the harness, and did not secure my pad. During the scene in which we were being reunited with our family after our jaunt in Neverland, my pad managed to escape my harness, work its way down my pant leg, and deposit itself Center Center onstage in full view. I knew I was going to get fired. I ran up to the assistant artistic director backstage, bumbling and groveling with apologies. She could barely keep a straight to tell me it was alright and make sure to be more careful with it tomorrow. Everyone knew that John Darling was blossoming into a full grown woman. They were happy for her.
Q: What is your dream role/show?
I think my dream show as of now would be the spring concert with Big Muddy in 2023. I’m old now and that’s about all I have going for me.
Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures… but right now I am so obsessed with Chef’s Table. I can’t imagine any artist who would not be inspired by the ways those incredible chefs approach their craft.
Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.
See her work at gracemaustin.com