Alumnus Dylan Paul makes his Broadway debut in Cabaret
Acting success hasn’t deterred Fulbright Scholar, School of Theatre & Dance MFA’s pursuit of academic research
A Broadway debut is every actor’s dream.
A Broadway debut in the revival of the Tony-award winning production of a musical classic directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and starring Tony winner Alan Cumming is a fantasy made real for CLASS alumnus Dylan Paul.
“I started Cabaret in February of this year,” said Paul who graduated in May 2012 with a Master of Fine Arts from the Professional Actor Training Program in the School of Theatre & Dance.
“I play Victor, which is a small speaking role, and also play trombone,” he said. “Additionally, I cover the roles of Cliff and Ernst in the show, which means if a certain actor calls out or is on vacation I can be asked to play either of those additional parts.”
Paul’s journey to New York City began in Kansas. He grew up in Lawrence, site of the University of Kansas' main campus. He chose to stay home for college and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre & Voice from the University of Kansas.
After graduating, he worked professionally as an actor in regional theater productions around the country for a few years. Eventually, he ended up in New York City. There, he worked simultaneously for a political consulting firm, a storage company, and a Web page builder – while still going to casting calls and auditions.
“I was auditioning for casting directors who looked more interested in their coffee than any actor that was walking into the room with them,” said Paul. “Acting can be a truly rough business. I felt like the work I wanted to do, which was primarily language-driven theatre, simply wasn’t available to me.”
It was at that point Paul decided to go back to school. He reasoned that the right program would encourage casting agents to give him a second look. And more training in an academic setting would help him establish more professional relationships, as well as give him the chance to explore the possibility of a career in actor training.
While at a mass audition in Chicago for universities across the country who were looking for students to enroll in their graduate theatre programs, he learned about the UH School of Theatre & Dance.
“Attending the UH audition was one of the best decisions of my life,” he said. “The feeling I got from the UH audition was simple: we’re new, we’re ambitious, and we will work you harder than anyone else out there.”
Paul enrolled in the two-year masters program, which fulfilled his expectations and presented him with new challenges and unconsidered possibilities.
“The graduate faculty at UH was very good at collectively advising my cohort, and I am deeply grateful to each of them,” Paul said. “These instructors include the current UH faculty of Sara Becker, Jim Johnson, Robert Shimko, and Jack Young. Jack liked to ask, ‘what do you know now that you didn’t know before?’, which lead me to really believe that you can learn from any experience, even if it’s a lesson that no one intended to teach you.”
While in school, Paul applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to study dialects and vocal approaches to storytelling in Trinidad and Tobago. He was awarded the prestigious scholarship and spent nine months after graduation on the twin islands nation conducting his research and voice coaching a production of Oedipus Rex.
“Dylan has great drive and follow-through, and he juggles multiple projects at the same time without seeming phased at all,” said Dr. Jim Johnson, Director of the UH School of Theatre & Dance. “He made the most of his education here at UH, and he was a perfect candidate for a Fulbright award. It's wonderful to see someone with the interest and intellect for doing research who also has such strong performance skills.”
Paul is the chief architect of the redesign and standardization of the International Dialects of English Archive, a free resource that gives access to recordings and transcriptions of native speakers from around the world. It receives millions of hits every year and can be accessed at www.dialectsarchive.com.
He also is the founder and director of the Traditional Mas Archive, a free online archive of Caribbean Carnival research based on his Fulbright research. Carnival is the festive season immediately before the solemn Lenten season on the Christian calendar. Masquerade balls, theatrical productions and parades are major highlights of Carnival, often referred to as “Mas.” The archive will include a comprehensive online catalog of characters and performance elements related to traditional carnival performance.
Eventually, Paul hopes to transition to a teaching career in the theater field, but for now, he is enjoying the experience of being a Broadway actor.
“I have always had the intention to teach theatre at the university level,” said Paul. “For now, my life is about balancing my performance career with my research agenda.”
In addition to completing the Mas archive, Paul is working with talent agencies to launch his film and television career.
“Sandwiched in between all of that I have music I’m writing, books I’m adapting to plays, and nephews I’d like to play with at some point,” he said. “Life is busy, but I’m incredibly lucky, and I don’t want to lose track of how incredibly fortunate I’ve been in these last few years.”
- By Monica Byars