Actor Trent Dawson Is Recreating The Classics In Katonah

CELEBRITY INTERVIEW: TRENT DAWSON

Trent Dawson is bringing culture to Katonah. The three-time Emmy-nominated actor has managed to balance having a successful television career, be a doting dad, and create a theater group in Westchester, NY, too. We spoke exclusively to Trent Dawson about what it takes to bring a long-held dream to life and why he wants to leave a legacy to his children, Jack and Emma.

Trent, so right now, we are sitting on your son’s Star Wars-themed bed. Were you a big fan as a kid?

I loved Star Wars. I’m coming back around to it because of my kids. It was such a big deal back when I was growing up, but then I grew up and put my toys away. But now with my kids, I get to play with light sabers again, which is so much fun.

How did your love for the theater begin?

I grew up with a single mom who loved theater. Everywhere she moved, she started a little community theater. She was smart about making sure that I had good people around me, and I grew up backstage from all these amazing productions. I don’t know if actors make the best parents, but they make the best babysitters! [laughs] I told myself that once I got a degree and became a professional, and got out of my one-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, that I would do this. We loved Katonah, so we decided to start the theater here. It would be a nice place for my children to experience growing up and ideally it will always be there for them.

It’s like you’re creating a legacy.

It’s true. When you get older, you start thinking about a legacy. Ten years ago, I wasn’t thinking about this. I rediscovered a passion for stuff that I loved in my 20s. Now my friends who have listened to me talk about doing this now want to come up and play, which is an amazing.

I would think that having your kids involved makes things take on a greater meaning.

It’s funny you say that. It sometimes takes us longer to make the adjustment. If you’ve been ambitious in a career, it can be a hard adjustment. Some guys are like, “Ok, my life is totally changed and i’m good with that. I’ll be Super Dad,” but I’m not like that. And I think having Katonah Classic Stage has really helped me to have the best of both worlds.

Speaking of which, you’re having a big event coming up soon.

Yes! The Eve of the Ides. It’s our big barn raiser event here in Katonah. We’re doing it at the Harvey School which has been great. We’re going to have an open bar, food from four different chefs, and a silent auction with fun things like backstage Broadway stuff. I have a friend at Moulin Rouge who will take you backstage after the show. Actor Michael Park will come and sing, and we have other folks who will be dropping in, and a mystery guest here and there. It’s going to be a fun party. As of right now, the event is scheduled for April 18, but people should check out our social media pages on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on any possible changes to the schedule.

While we were shooting, you mentioned how the idea for Katonah Classic Stage really took off almost immediately.

When we moved to Katonah with a 10 month old and then my daughter came along soon after, you realize that your world gets very small. I looked around and said, “There is so much art here and a big music festival, but no theater. Maybe this is the time to do it.” I began asking around and at the Chamber of Commerce and other civic leaders. So I got all the enthusiasm of the town before I built the actual structure. Some people form a non-profit, raise the money, and then they convince people it’s a good idea–and I did it in reverse. So it’s still a work in progress. I want to get it up and running for the show in June.

Let’s talk about the show.

We’re starting with Shakespeare’s “12th Night”. The main reason i’m starting with classics is because they are just timeless. And I knew that I had great actors who could fit in well, so you’ll see good acting. My feeling is that If you don’t understand Shakespeare, it’s not your fault; it’s the actors. I want to take the stuffiness out of the material. There’s a reason why we keep doing these plays–and it’s because they’re that good. These plays were meant to be played; it’s a totally different experience to watch a Shakespearean play rather than just reading it in your English class.

How would you say your soap opera days helped prepare you for this?

I loved working on As The World Turns. You had to bring your A game every single day; you had to commit 110% and be in the moment.

It sounds a lot like parenting, right?

Absolutely!

When we have kids in our 40s, we’re often labeled older parents. Do you feel that way?

I definitely see it. i don’t feel like i’m my age, but sometimes you wake up in the morning and you’re like, “Yeah.” [laughs] I wouldn’t have been equipped in my 20s, like you were, to have kids. I was in Me Town. I needed to take that journey to get to this point. Are there times I wish I had a stronger back, or more energy that younger parents have? Maybe, but I have more wisdom, and I think that I’m calmer than someone younger might be. I’m much clearer about what I want. I have a fine career in television that provides for my family. I don’t need to be a movie star.

Do you prefer TV over film?

I haven’t done a ton of film, but what I’ve done has been massive, like Men in Black 3, with like 1000 extras. I  like the rhythm of TV: I feel like it’s so much better than when I grew up. I loved being on The Good Wife, Homeland, and of course, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. These shows are not just really well written, but they’re shot beautifully, too. The camera work is almost like a ballet.

Between your family, television work, and Katonah Classic Stage, your plate is full right now.

It is. The benefit on the 14th is going to be a big party. It’s our coming out, so we want it to do well. Then we have the show in June, which I’m looking forward to. The plan is to go 2-3 years and have multiple shows in rep. At that point, maybe I’ll be both acting and directing. But that’s not the goal right now; this isn’t a vanity project. At this point, I’m just happy to be in Katonah and starting this theater group.

1 Comment

  1. by Lorry MacPherson on March 8, 2020  5:30 pm Reply

    This is a great and much needed uplifting story about bringing Broadway to Westchester County. Theater will definitely distract us from the poisonous political climate and may even help to quell some of the unnecessary pandemic panic.
    Congratulations Trent Dawson on the opening of your new Katonah theatre. Jack and his sister Emma look like two feisty potential actors-in-training already entrenched in the family business. You may want to expand in the future to include a young actors division!

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