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.
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.
Speaking of which, you’re having a big event coming up soon.
Yes! We’re going to be hosting our first annual KCS Film Festival (KCSFF), which is currently scheduled for August 28, 2020. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has halted all live performance, KCS is reaching out to the community in a new way to foster art, creativity, and a love of classic theatre. We partnered with Film Freeway (https://filmfreeway.com/festivals), to encourage and promote indie filmmakers of all ages. KCSFF will accept short films, 30 seconds to 30 minutes long, with any theme, but the theatre company is particularly interested in works inspired by classic theatre. Examples may include taking a line from Romeo and Juliet to create an entirely new screenplay, stop motion animation set in an ancient Greek theatre, August Wilson as a space opera, or a documentary about a grandparent’s love of Chekhov. While classic themes are suggested, they’re not required. The goal of this festival is to bring family members and neighbors together through creativity in a time of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. And judges for the festival will be film and theatre professionals.
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?
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.
o. 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.