January 2, 2014
By Mike Killeen
When Dean Holt says he fell into professional acting, he's not far from telling the truth.
After all, the veteran of the Children's Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis and a 1994 graduate of Saint John's University isn't afraid to take a pratfall on stage or use slapstick comedy to draw a response from an audience.
But yes, he really did fall into acting. He transferred to SJU after attending St. Cloud State University for one year.
"I transferred to SJU in my sophomore year and declared theater as my major because the only class I truly enjoyed at SCSU was this intro to theater class," Holt said. "It proved to be serendipitous as I was quickly absorbed into the theater scene at CSB and SJU.
"By my senior year, I was fortunate to take part in Theatre de la Jeune Lune's residency at CSB and SJU, which ultimately led to my work at CTC. One of the company members of Jeune Lune had a twin sister at CTC and recommended me to the theater's professional apprenticeship program. A few weeks after the residency, I received a phone call from the production manager at CTC and shortly after that my first professional theater job.
"Had I not transferred to SJU, who knows where I would be," Holt said.
His one-year paid apprenticeship was "an awesome year where I worked my butt off and would sit in the wings and watch and learn from some truly amazing artists," Holt said. "The theater invited me back the next season as a guest artist and I joined the acting company the following year."
Holt has spent the last 20 years in CTC's resident acting company and has appeared in more than 75 productions.
"It is without a doubt a fun and fascinating place to work," Holt said of CTC. "The people are amazing, the work is always interesting, it's certainly never dull and I share in it all with my wife (Stacy McIntosh, who is a stage manager at CTC) and two boys.
"It is very demanding and you have to keep a balance not to get burned out," Holt said. "We perform six days a week, 10 performances a week, with Monday as our day off. In addition to performances, we rehearse the upcoming show, do readings and workshops of potential shows for upcoming seasons and have various meetings to discuss everything in between."
Holt is currently appearing as the "prettiest step-sister Pearl" in CTC's production of "Cinderella," which closes Jan. 5. It's a raucous production performed in the popular English tradition of Panto, with gender-switched roles (Holt and colleague Reed Sigmund playing the stepsisters) and an "anything goes" attitude.
"It is an absolute hoot to feel like you can do anything in this world, from crazy physical antics, one-line zingers thought up on the spot, audience participation and performing with my best friends," Holt said. "It all adds up to a sure fire recipe for fun onstage and from the audience. There are several moments when we honestly do not know what is going to happen next or what is going to be said. As it is improvised on the spot each performance."
Holt has won two Ivey Awards for acting excellence in the Twin Cities - for "Reeling," a 2006 production based on the work of silent films comedian Buster Keaton, and for "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" earlier this year.
"The show 'Reeling' was both the most physically demanding and most rewarding production I've done," Holt said. "It was definitely one of those 'in the right spot at the right time' sort of experiences for which I feel truly blessed to have been a part of."
"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" ran from June 21-July 21, and Holt played the role of the Mouse, which he originated in 2008.
"This was a remount - or re-mouse, as we called it - of the 2008 production, so many of our original challenges had already been faced concerning how to approach the show from a design standpoint and how to access it physically," Holt said. "The same challenges were present in the forms of the physical demands of the show, lots of slapstick physicality, pratfalls, high energy and knowing how to protect and preserve yourself for 10 shows each week. It doesn't make anything easier by being five years older, too."
Holt said attending SJU and CSB gave him a "tremendous resource on how to understand and appreciate all of what goes into a production.
"You take such a well-rounded series of classes that you can't help but have humility in whatever focus you end up choosing, mine being acting," Holt added. "I think having respect and admiration for the people that you collaborate with, both onstage and behind the scenes, only strengthens your work, your aesthetic and your understanding of the word 'play.' "