It seems like 24-year-old Denton resident Caroline Dubberly leads a charmed life as an actor. She’s popular, respected and sought after, across the DFW region. She got invited to perform in a major professional stage show touring the US for a year while still a college undergraduate. She will graduate from University of North Texas this December, magna cum laude, then head off to Washington DC to pursue acting there. She opens November 21, Saturday, in her stage debut with Dallas Latino theatre innovator CaraMia Theatre Co., playing a major role in the classic Federico Garcia Lorca drama Blood Wedding… Direct, confident, at ease in her skin, Caroline will tell you she’s worked hard for her achievements and appreciates all the guidance, mentorship and support she’s received in getting to this point. Regional arts journalist and nationally accredited theatre critic Alexandra Bonifield asked Caroline to explain what led her to pursue a life in theatre and who has influenced her and helped her get such a charmed start. Caroline currently has a lead role in Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding with Cara Mia Theatre Co., opening 11/21 in Dallas at the Latino Cultural Center.
What got you started in theatre? I was born into a family of classical musicians. My dad has a PhD from Yale in piano performance and my mother is an incredible opera singer. My first role was as a carried-on baby shepherd in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
Your parents actively encouraged your involvement in music? Absolutely. My father was my piano teacher when I was young, a genius kind of hard on a little kid. At age 9 he had me trying to play a Bach sonatina, and he just couldn’t understand why I had trouble mastering it. I hated it. They kept telling me that someday I would thank them for all the piano lessons I endured. They are so right. They put me in a Kindergarten music class to study music theory, and I continued studying theory for many years. It has ended up being a real gift to me as a performer.
What is your first memory of participating in performance? We lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, where my dad taught at the university. I remember being in Puccini’s La Boheme, an ensemble performer in crowd scenes, wearing Victorian velvet children’s clothes. I got to eat a bowl of Jolly Ranchers candy. Then my sister and I played Papageno’s children in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. We were little bird girls in just hatched egg costumes, with the tops of the eggs for hats.
Where did you take your interest in theatre next? I did lots of middle school and high school theatre when we moved to Denton, where my father teaches at UNT. I got accepted into Webster College’s Conservatory-style acting program in St. Louis in 2009. At 18, I didn’t have the work ethic needed for so strenuous a program. And the program didn’t resonate with me. It made me want to rebel and shut down. I ended up burning out and coming home to Denton to regroup and recharge.
How did you get involved in University of North Texas theatre? I decided to take some English and psychology classes at UNT and noticed that a musical theatre class was going to be taught by Professor Marjorie Hayes, also an Equity actor and director. She had directed me in Gianni Schicci before at UNT. I met with her, and an hour later I decided to become a theatre major. I ended up being there 5 1/2 years, including taking a year off to go on national tour. Everything I learned at UNT, including going on the national tour, has really helped me grow as an artist in a really supportive environment. Tough love sometimes, very good for me. I have had amazing opportunities to learn and perform, thanks to all the acting faculty and Marjorie Hayes in particular, who introduced me to Betty Buckley.
What was it like studying with national Theatre Hall of Fame Honoree and Tony award winner Betty Buckley? At Marjorie Hayes’ insistence, I worked with Betty Buckley in her professional story songs music study class, mostly for pros in the business. It was amazing. She teaches from an eastern style spiritual perspective: turn off your brain, come from a place of vulnerability, witness thoughts or feelings without judgment, and be fully present in one’s body. I learned to clear all the mental chatter and practice effective, honest communication, skills that help in any acting situation as well as with singing performance.
How did you enjoy studying with other professors at UNT? Dr. Andrew Harris was a great influence and gave me opportunities to learn and grow. He cast me in the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning mystery drama Proof to play the female lead Catherine, which I wanted desperately. It’s a challenging role I would love to play again sometime. A pivotal mentor at UNT, Dr. Harris approached me after Proof to join the staged reading of his new play about Shakespeare’s “dark lady” of The Sonnets, The Lady Revealed, at Theatre Three, in preparation for its major reading in London. The late Jac Alder, a founding partner at Theatre Three, played the lead in the reading.
UNT theatre professor and distinguished playwright/author Dr. Andrew Harris comments about Caroline Dubberly as his student and actor: “Caroline possesses great natural gifts, which she bolsters through hard work and precise observation. In Proof at UNT, she surprised us all by finding a character for her lead role that bordered on autistic. At first, I feared she might have gone too far; but she tempered it and brought to it a kind of sexuality that made absolute sense. With The Lady Revealed, in its Theatre Three reading, she built on her innate musicality. She was able to be charming and gracious while reserving her fire for the later scenes as woman wronged. For Caroline complex characters emerge from her intelligent and bold choices. I can’t wait to see her tackle Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Lorca knows how to make his women appear as if trapped and helpless, but in the end we are trapped when they run away with the play. Sensuous and daring, Caroline has the energy and the perception to create the magic of a memorable performance.”
What was it like to work on the professional stage at Theatre Three? It was my first experience performing with Equity professionals, and it was wonderful. What an honor to be part of a major evolving play and to work with people so respected in the profession who have done so much for the arts in the region. Mr. Alder had such an easy-going confidence and played his role with such grace. He always put everyone at ease. I earned my first weeks as an Equity Membership Candidate during The Lady Revealed.
What was your next professional role? At UNT, I performed in the musical Spelling Bee for regional professional director Michael Serrecchia. I loved working with him. Out of the blue, Michael invited me to audition for the Dallas Children’s Theater touring show Flat Stanley, to replace an actor who left for another job. All my UNT professors supported me in taking a major leave of absence to do this. We toured the country for a year, and I had a blast and learned so much. When we performed in Chicago this past April, I saw a production of the very unusual, exciting new work Mr. Burns: A Post-Apocalyptic Play. It blew me away with its unique characters out of The Simpsons and its dynamic musical score. I learned that Fort Worth’s Stage West was mounting it in the Fall in its North Texas regional premiere; so I sent in a tape as an audition, wishful thinking, not counting on getting cast. Surprise! Director Garrett Storms wanted to do a Skype callback. Then when I was in Manhattan, Stage West’s stage manager called to say, “you’re cast, not sure which part yet”. It was a defining experience for this year. Again it was fabulous to get to work with regional professionals like Paul Taylor, Jessica Cavanaugh, Mikaela Krantz and Kelsey Leigh Ervi. We all found a deep emotional connection with the text and each other as an ensemble. The show’s playwright Anne Washburn told us this was the first production where every review came out positive. The play was pure magic. We all knew it could change people’s lives, and it felt so good to be a part of that. It ended on such a perfect note.
How did you get involved with your current show, Cara Mia Theatre Co.’s Blood Wedding? I wanted to do one more professional show before I finished college and moved to DC. I found an audition notice of a Federico Lorca play on a local website. I love Lorca, so even though I had never heard of Cara Mia, I signed up. What an opportunity this has been — a classic play, surreal, political, romantic with an awesome ensemble of dedicated artists. David Lozano, the Artistic Director of Cara Mia Theatre Co., has been truly amazing to work with. Even at callbacks, I could tell these people and this company were so REAl, so truth-based. As a director, David incorporates the actors’ feelings about his or her character first before “directing” them into his vision or expressing his expectations for the roles. It’s a co-creative process. We have started every rehearsal with eye contact exercises and ”breathe in “ every actor in the room. It’s been a bit scary to be so vulnerable but exhilarating, like jumping off a cliff into freefall. Ivan Jasso and Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso have been delightful to get to know as a couple and as two really grounded, pro actors, well respected across the region. Rodney Garza and Jeffery Colangelo our fight choreographer bring so much to the show with their varied skills and rich experience as performers and choreographers and directors. I play the wife in an abusive relationship with an angry man in love with another woman. Andrew Aguilar, one of the most engaging and open actors I’ve ever worked with, plays my husband. He has to act so angry and violent; never once have I felt threatened or unsafe rehearsing with him. Thanks to the way David Lozano has directed us, we have become a trusting, tight-knit ensemble, telling the remarkable, tragic story of Blood Wedding together.
David Lozano, Cara Mia Theatre Co.’s Artistic Director and Director of Blood Wedding describes his impressions of actor Caroline Dubberly: “Caroline really caught my attention at auditions for Blood Wedding. She has such an elegant command of language and text with a strong physical presence and internal connection as well. She responds eagerly to direction and is always open to try new techniques to find insight into developing her character. She is a spectacular singer. Her perceptions about thematic content are inspired; in fact, her views on Blood Wedding’s emerging feminism and the desire for female liberation from male domination helped shape our production’s overall interpretation.”
What do you hope the audience will see in Blood Wedding? This play is all about passion v. duty and the conflict generated. In rehearsal and discussion of the work, we have all concluded there is no right or wrong answer. Lorca wanted to paint the most vivid, truthful picture of complex human beings interacting with humor and love and rage and weave around these relationships layers of profound symbolism and lyrical poetry. I hope the audience sees the tragic beauty in humanity.
What’s next for Caroline? On December 12, I graduate from UNT. December 13 is the final performance of Blood Wedding, and six days later I move to Washington DC, after an amazing farewell party in Denton. The theatre scene in DC fits my personality. I get to explore the wide range of professional opportunities that exist there and hope to perform nationally respected feminist/ lesbian playwright/ actor/director Carolyn Gage’s one-woman show The Second Coming of Joan of Arc sometime soon.
Cara Mia Theatre Co. presents an original adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding, featuring the charmed and charming Caroline Dubberly, November 21 through December 13 at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak, Dallas Texas 75204 Tickets are available online at http://www.caramiatheatre.org or by calling the box office at 214.516.0706. Opening night is November 21 at 8pm, with a reception at 7pm, where the luminous blue painting by Armando Sebastian of “Blood Wedding” will be for sale with proceeds benefiting Cara Mía Theatre Co.