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Interview: 'Philly People Behind the Curtain' Choreographer/Director/Artist Dann Dunn

Dann has created and maintained professional works as a Director/Choreographer, Associate, or Dance Captain around the world and was recently named Philadelphia's Best Director (2012) and Best Choreographer
(2012, 2013). NYC: Miracle On 34th Street (Madison Square Garden), Sesame Street On Broadway! (Paramount Theatre), Tom Sawyer (Symphony Space). National Tours: CATS, The Music Man, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, Sesame Street Live!. International: CATS (Toronto), The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Europe), LaTraviata (Scotland), Sesame Street Live! (Canada, Asia). Regional: The Eagle Theatre (Perry Award
nom), Walnut Street Theater, Philadelphia.

Pati Buehler: So Dann, tell us a bit about your background. Where do you call home and when did live arts grab you?

Dann Dunn: I grew up in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, which made it easy to travel into New York for auditions while I was in high school. When I was 18, I auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber's concert tour, 'The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber'. I ended up booking it and touring Europe with the show after I graduated high school. I stayed on the road with various productions for some years while creating a home bases in New York. Eventually, I made the move back to Philadelphia in 2008, and have been fortunate to be working in this incredible community ever since. So now Philadelphia is where I call home, though I'll always be a Jersey boy at heart!

The arts grabbed me strong and early on. My family was a strong supporter of my interest in musical theatre and always encouraged me to follow whatever would make me happy. One of the first productions I remember seeing was the Pennsylvania Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' with my Grandmom. My Brother and Sister fell asleep, and I was glued to the edge of my seat. I knew at that point that working in the arts was what I wanted to do.

PB: So, you perform, direct and choreograph. Did you ever do all three in a production?

DD: Ah, the dreaded trifecta... Yes, actually, but not by choice! As a Choreographer, there are times where I'll step into the show as a performer, but as a Director/Choreographer, casting myself is never the ideal choice for me personally. I like to keep my eye on the bigger picture, and that can be a little difficult when you're worrying about the show from one actor's perspective. However, not too long after I got off of the road with CATS, I was setting a production of the show. One of our cast members had to leave the show unexpectedly as we were going into tech. Since there wouldn't have been time to teach someone the track and I was already familiar with it, the producer was kind enough to negotiate a contract with AEA, and I stepped into the show at the last minute. I can tell you from experience that cats really do have nine lives.

PB: What are a few 'need to know' lessons you teach your students, actors that mean the most to you?

DD: First and foremost, I never pretend to know I have all the answers. I am constantly learning every time I work with a new company, and it is each different company that contributes to a process in their own way. Personally, I think the key to being a strong performer is the same key to being a strong person: You have to be disciplined, supportive, respectful, grateful, humble, and driven. Every job, no matter how big or small, should be treated with the utmost professionalism and dedication. You never know who knows who, and the community is just too small to create a bad name for yourself.

PB: Here are a few more Dann Dunn Credits: Theatre, NCT (3 Barny Awards, BWW Award), Allenberry Playhouse (BWW nom), Delaware Theatre Company, Prather Entertainment, The Kimmel Center, Forestburgh Playhouse, Ritz Theatre (BWW Award), Weathervane Repertory Theatre, MAME (Starring Andrea McArdle and Lea Delaria, Media Theatre, BWW Award), Dann's TV Credits include The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Pati Buehler: You have earned several BWW awards and nominations. Do you take this as the icing on the cake or are you constantly striving to better yourself?

DD: At the risk of sounding like a high school prom queen, I really think it is an absolute honor to be nominated for anything. To me, it's not about the award itself, but the notion that a group of people have identified your work as being good enough to publicly acknowledge. I've been so fortunate to be recognized through various nominations and awards, but I will always be my own biggest critic. While I always feel proud of what I create, I hope I'll always keep working to push myself further.

PB: Obviously you have made your own mark as a creative person. Who are some of the choreographers you admire and why?

DD: Well, thank you very much! This is such a touch question! Every show, dance piece, or movie musical that I've ever seen has had such an incredible impact on how I visualize something off of a page. I've always been most drawn to the work of Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, and Gene Kelly. They've somehow managed to strike the perfect marriage of athleticism, provocativeness, fluidity, and storytelling. It's incredible to me how a person can develop a style that defines them, not to mention physicalize music so effortlessly.

PB: What's up next for you?

DD: As we speak, I'm in New York getting ready to go into tech for a new production of MAME starring Loretta Swit. Following MAME, I'll be spending the summer traveling a bit and directing/choreographing 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', 'La Cage Aux Folles' (Forestburgh Playhouse), 'Spamalot' (Riverside Center Theatre), 'The Marvelous Wonderettes', 'Mame' (Allenberry Playhouse). This fall I'm looking forward to directing/choreographing 'The Addams Family' with Philadelphia's Jeff Coon and Jennie Eisenhower (Media Theatre), and choreographing 'Catch Me If You Can' (Eagle Theatre). While I'm definitely keeping busy for the summer, I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do what I love. I may go the entire summer without getting a tan, but I don't know if I'd have it any other way!

# 1: Headshot -Photo Credit: Jaqueline Passarro

# 2: Performing as Rum Tum Tugger (CATS North American Tour) Photo Credit: Joshua Schulteis

# 3: Teaching an audition combination for The Eagle Theatre Photo Credit: The Eagle Theatre

# 4CATS (Directed/Choreographed by Dann Dunn) Photo Credit: Chris Miller

For more information about Dann visit his website at

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From This Author - Pati Buehler

Pati has been involved with various aspects of the theater from hosting large groups to Broadway shows in the early 90's to supporting various Broadway artists for charities such as the "Make... (read more about this author)