Q&A with theater prof. and former principal artist Horton

by Caela Murphy | 1/29/13 11:00pm

by Rebecca Burten and Rebecca Burten / The Dartmouth

Jamie Horton: I was a principal artist there as an actor and a director for 23 seasons, and it was one of the most extraordinary periods of my life. To have an artistic home for over two decades was a great gift. It was a wonderful place to grow and to experiment, to fail and to get back up on the stage and give it another try. I learned an enormous amount, worked with very talented people over a long period of time and made terrific friends. CM: How did you end up with a role in "Lincoln"? What was the process like?

JH: I was in a play called "Eurydice" a few years ago, acting with students here on the Moore [Theater] stage. Genevieve Adams '11, who played my daughter, had a friend who came up to see her in it named John Goracy. He said that [the producers of "Lincoln"] were looking for men about my age to take part in this massive casting effort that they were making around the country, and asked if I would be interested in submitting a tape. I said, Absolutely.' This was a fantastic opportunity to work for Steven Spielberg and to be associated with the picture. I sent in a tape and promptly forgot about it as one should, as an actor. I was having a coffee with Genevieve at the end of the term, and I got a call from my agent to say that they wanted me to play a small part in the movie.

CM: What was it like to be involved in such a critically acclaimed film and to work with so many famous and talented actors? What did you take away from your experience working with them?

JH: I was able to watch the work of very gifted actors. As an actor myself, it's always eye-opening to have the opportunity to watch an actor of the caliber of Tommy Lee Jones, and there were multiple actors on this picture of whom I could say the same thing. The opportunity to watch those people at work was like a master class on acting for the camera to me. To watch Steven Spielberg compose a shot, and to listen as Tony Kushner's screenplay came to life you're working with people who are at the top of their game, and that is an amazing opportunity. The other thing is that it whetted my appetite to do more.

CM: After acting in "Lincoln," would you consider auditioning for roles in any other major films?

JH: Yes, I'm definitely going to be trying to do some more of that. I have an agent in New York, and we're going to be speaking about the possibility of me auditioning for other projects that would fit with my teaching schedule. I'm very eager to keep that up.

CM: You're currently preparing to direct "The Liar," an intricate comedy by David Ives. What was the reasoning behind selecting this play? What are you looking forward to about this performance?

JH: We were looking for something that would complement "Angels in America" well. "Angels in America" is a play of extraordinary importance that is dark and disturbing in many ways. It's a brilliant piece by Tony Kushner, who I met on the set of "Lincoln." We were looking for something to really set off from that production. "The Liar" is a farce, written by one of today's greatest writers of comedy. It seemed to fit together really well with "Angels in America" as a season, and I was really taken with the play. It's a great deal of fun; it's extremely witty and silly. We have a marvelous group of actors, so I'm very excited about it. CM: Before you began teaching at Dartmouth, you worked with the National Theater Conservatory's MFA program as an adjunct teacher for 20 years. What inspired your passion for teaching your art?

JH: As an actor, I've worked with some of the greatest teachers. The National Theater Conservatory was designed so that the students became a part of the theater company in their second and third years. I soon found that I loved the process of working with these talented students and helping them to develop their skills and their craft. I worked often as an adjunct teacher with these students, many of whom have gone into our business. Quite honestly, watching somebody grow and develop is one of the greatest thrills of being a teacher. It's the same reason I came to Dartmouth.

CM: What other upcoming projects are you working on?

JH: I'm going to be shooting a small film with colleagues here at Dartmouth, a screenplay written by Tabetha Xavier '10 called "White Lies, Blue Dream." I directed some of Tabetha's plays when she was a student here, and I'm working on that in the next few months. I am also working as a producer on a movie called "Disaster Rep." It's a low-budget feature that I'm discussing with various people about its production sometime in the next year. I'm involved as both a writer and a producer in that.

CM: What connections exist between the theater department and its alumni?

JH: We have three Dartmouth grads Thom Pasculli '05, Kate Mulley '05 and Matt Cohn '08 who founded a theater company called Vox Theater. Those founders and the other alums who participate, all of whom we've established a relationship with, are now off and running in their own professional careers and coming back to work with us here. We also invite our graduates back to work with us on a wide variety of projects. Josh Feder '08 is currently working on this production of "The Liar" as an assistant director. Theater professor Carol Dunne has involved dozens of Dartmouth students in her company. Establishing and maintaining relationships with the talented people that come through our program is just very exciting for all of us in this department. In terms of the next 10 years of my career outside of Dartmouth College, I have no doubt that the associations that I make here at Dartmouth will become an important part of that.