Denis Arndt, was born in Ohio near the shores of Lake Erie, He was moved West with the rest of the country after WWII, and went to High School in Spokane, Washington. It was there, at John R. Rogers High School, that Denis found a teacher -- or a teacher found a pupil -- one Dale F. Brannon who was head of the Drama and Speech Department, a decorated Infantry Veteran wounded at Anzio, with a communicable passion, a passion for Literature and it's voice and action onstage.
"This guy was electric in his enthusiasm for the very idea of 'theatre', it's place, tradition and value in the human story, how it had and could shape us and change society, and I was a kid at the age when, if you catch them, you just might kindle a fire that will burn for the rest of their lives." Arndt told us.
Clearly, Dale Brannon was that kind of a fire-builder, a true teacher. He kindled kids, set them on fire with the spark of his own committment. He made them fall in love with an idea, an uniquely Human Idea. Arndt feels, "Every kid should find a teacher like that."
Brannon was also a strict disciplinarian when it came to the basic skills needed to participate in that idea, the Idea of Theatre. His vision was transcendent. He often spoke of that mysterious and magic moment when the houselights go to half, and the milling, mumbling crowd becomes one creature, one unrehearsed and willing player who came to the Play to play. Arndt admits there were other factors operative when he added, "And then, of course, there was the grease-paint and the roar, and all those cute actresses. My whole life has turned out to be Dale Brannon's fault," He says laughingly.
Arndt told us about his military experience which he also considers a formative part of the actor he is. He joined the Army and spent eleven years first as a soldier, then an air traffic controller, then a Line A Aviator helicopter pilot. He flew Hillers, Sikorskys, and Bells; models H-23, H-19, H-34, H-13, UHIB, UHID. He flew for several years in Bavaria, based near Augsburg, and then, because at that time it was obvious that he would be sent there anyhow, he volunteered for Vietnam. "I flew Slicks for a few weeks then, because I was senior and had more experience than most," He was transferred into a Gunship Platoon and flew the rest of his time in-country with the 'Firebirds' of A/501st Aviation Battalion, "a choice assignment.", he feels. Denis Arndt was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds received in action, twenty-seven Air Medals and The Army Commendation Medal, otherwise known at "The Green Weenie". "I was really lucky, they usually award the Purple Heart to guys who have had their legs blown off." Then he came back to the States where he resigned. "Too bad, too. I loved the military." he said. "The costumes were great and nobody had props like these guys. One of my best roles was Combat Helicopter Pilot."
Within six months after returning from Vietnam, and after "trashing everything around me because there was nobody left to be pissed off at", Denis found himself with another helicopter "strapped to my ass", flying for Okanagan Helicopters in Vancouver, BC. Instead of firing 2.75 Navy Folding-Fins into Rubber Trees, he was setting powerlines up and down Howe Sound, a highly skilled equipment operator, building towers and hauling line, transporting men and equipment on the job. Denis Arndt was now a Commercial Helicopter Pilot!
His next job was with Evergreen Helicopters and he flew up and down the west coast on various kinds of contracts until the fall season threatened a layoff at Evergreen, and a job came open with a company called Livingston Copters in Juneau, Alaska. A pilot had been killed on the Snettisham Dam Project, blown out of the air when he mistakenly read hand signals from a ground crew and flew his helicopter smack-dab over a blast site just at the moment of detonation. "Hard to fly a helicopter with chunks of rock in your brain pan", Arndt confided.. Mr Livingston needed a replacement pilot ASAP. Denis got on a plane the next morning, and the following afternoon he was sling-loading the wreakage of that pilot's helicopter off the mountain and back to camp. "I grounded the helicopter part of the operation until we could all get our handsignals straight." He flew in Alaska for the next three years, as a Commercial Bush Pilot.
How did all this lead to his becoming an actor?, we wondered. "Ah, yes. About the Acting thing" he said chidingly. After deciding that being a commercial helicopter pilot was a young man's occupation, he was managing an apartment house for free rent and going to school trying to finish a degree at the University of Washington. when a guy who was in Seattle to direct some plays moved into one of the apartments. "I thought that my theatrical experience was far behind me." The night of his first auditions there was a snow storm in Seattle and the guy needed a ride to the theater and Denis was going that way "so...I get to the parking lot to let the guy out and he invites me in for a cup of coffee. I stand in the lobby listening to the actors audition and decide, what the hell, just for fun, I'll read too." Well, he was cast in the play, and he's been making a living as an actor ever since. And over the last 20 odd years, "I have been afforded the opportunity to attempt some to the greatest roles in Western Literature." For Denis Arndt, It's as though a circle has been closed, one that was started back at Rogers High Schooland a fire that was started. "It's what I'm supposed to be doing."
Mr. Arndt shares his passion for the Military with a compilation of War Films called "The Uncle Sam Movie Collection". These should be of interest to us all especially in light of the events of 9/11....
Remember that acting is ego-less. There is an ancient human mystery to the exercise. Acting is not about the Actor. Participate in that mystery which is greater then the sum of it's parts. A great performance is the one that does not draw attention to itself at the expense of the greater "reality" in the play, does not get in get in the way of the script, of the total experience of the Play. Serve the Text. Try to make everybody else's ideas work first. Don't be afraid. What are they gonna do? Send you to Mazaar-E-Sharif? Become a conduit through which the ideas of the playwright may pass unhindered to those unrehearsed and willing players out front, the ones that got a baby-sitter, drove across town, paid money to get into the room where the lights go out and everyone decides to 'Let's Pretend'. And, when you know you've done a good job, don't be shy in taking your curtain call.
--- Eat when you can; and don't get caught Acting.
623 N Parish Place
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Representatives: Suzanne Dewalt (email@example.com)
Colonel Daniel Robbins
Senator Eugene Collins
A.D.A. Joshua Wendt
CIA Director Weylon Armitage
A.D.A. Roland Hill / A.A.G. Quentin Reynolds / Matlin's Defense Attorney
Rear Admiral Richard La Porte
Dr. Bill Augustine
Dr. Ivan Barnes
Attorney Jason Sollers
Ray Ordwell - Sr.
Capt. Frank Solis
D.A. Frank Battaglia
Navy Quartermaster Bickle
Dr. Sam Lane
Dr. Austin DeGroose
Leith Von Stein
Earl / Coach Delano
Lt. Vincent Palermo
Ambassador Burton Kessler
Mr. Novak / Al Novak
John Peterson (as Dennis Arndt)
|Mark Taper Forum||"Dealer's Choice"||Steven|
|New York Shakespeare Festival||"The Ballad of Soapy Smith"||Soapy|
|New York Shakespeare Festival||"Richard II"||Northumberland|
|Intiman/Seattle||"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"||George|
|Arena Stage/Washington||"DC Juno And The Paycock"||Captain Boyle|
|Goodman Theatre/Chicago||"The Tempest"||Prospero|
|Seattle Repertory||"Richard III"||Richard III|
|Remains Theatre/Chicago||"Puntila and His Hired Man" *||Puntila *|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"King Lear" ('77 & '85)||Lear|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Titus Andronicus"||Titus|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Othello"||Iago|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Coriolanus"||Coriolanus|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Moon for The Misbegotten"||James|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Long Day's Journey Into Night"||Jamie|
|Oregon Shakespeare Festival||"Brand"||Brand|
[a] © 2006 Europacorp - TF1 Films
[b] © Photo by T. Charles Erickson / Long Wharf Theatre
[c] © Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times