Dean Coutris spent 12 years as a certified public accountant until he realized it was no longer the career for him. Unfulfilled, he took a risk and leapt from the office to the stage to embody some of Shakespeare’s iconic characters. Perhaps he took a line from the Bard, “To thine own self be true.”
The recent masters graduate from the University of Houston Professional Actor Training Program will play Julius Caesar, marking his debut at the Houston Shakespeare Festival this summer. Now in its 45th season at Hermann Park’s Miller Outdoor Theatre, the festival features “Julius Caesar,” a classic tragedy, and the romantic comedy “As You Like It,” in which Coutris plays Jaques, a senior nobleman. The shows run Friday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 11.
Nowadays, all the world’s a stage for Coutris who is living out his dream, but he admits the transition from accountant to actor still has its challenging moments.
How do you compare your role as an accountant to being an actor?
The one thing I would say about acting is that you are encouraged to make mistakes. If you try to be perfect, you will make things worse. If you make a mistake in accounting, you could disappoint the client and get in big trouble.
What is your favorite part about acting?
It’s sharing the moment with the audience. I think that is something unique to live theater. It’s three-dimensional and people are right there with you sharing that moment. Being connected with the audience is exciting and frightening at the same time. It’s all of those things that get your adrenaline pumping.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering making a career change like you’ve done?
Be persistent and persevere as much as you can through the difficult times. Are you doing this because you truly love it, or are you doing this because someone expects something out of you? As cliché as it sounds, listen to your heart. What makes your heart pound more? What keeps you alive? Everything else will fall into place.
Your career seems to have unfolded gradually. What was your first big break in theater?
It was playing Bo Decker in “Bus Stop” at the Actors’ Summit Theater in Akron, Ohio. As far as Shakespeare, my first play was “The Merchant of Venice” and I played Bassanio. I performed at the Ohio Shakespeare festival. At UH, I was Orsino in “Twelfth Night.” Just this past spring, I played Don Carlos Homenides de Histangua in the UH production of “A Flea in Her Ear.”
There have been numerous adaptations of the role of Julius Caesar over the years. How do you plan to make your Julius Caesar a little different?
I hope to bring a bit more humanity to Caesar. You have this person - this icon, and it's easy to get lost in the histrionics of it all. But I'm hoping I can toe that line between the Caesar who is alive and the spirit of Caesar after his death. As Shakespeare wrote him, he was a great conquering general, a great politician, and the people loved him, but he was also a flawed human being. He had fears and he had paranoia, but he was also an incredibly willful person. So hopefully, that comes across to the audience.
In “As You Like It” you get to deliver Jaques’ famous monologue “The Seven Ages of Man” which is pretty powerful. How do you see the character in modern times?
To be able to recite that speech in front of 5,000 Houstonians at Miller Outdoor Theatre is unbelievably cool. I portray Jaques, who is a melancholy guy. He’s a deep thinker, a wandering philosopher through the Forest of Arden and he is never really happy with where he is. If he lived in modern times he would probably listen to a lot of Nirvana or R.E.M. or he would be playing a lot of the Johnny Cash song “Hurt.” He’s someone who dresses all in black, smokes and talks to his friend about all of the injustices in the world.
The Houston Shakespeare Festival is produced by the UH School of Theatre and Dance. Performances at Hermann Park’s Miller Outdoor Theatre (6000 Hermann Park Dr.) are free and open to the public. The 2019 schedule is as follows:
- “Julius Caesar” – Aug. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 at 8:15 p.m.
- “As You Like it” –Aug. 3, 7, 9, 11 at 8:15 p.m.