Though waves of actors from New York (and elsewhere) are often brought in to fill Equity spots, Dallas definitely has its own stable of local talent. Winnowing that list down to five is an excruciatingly difficult task, but not impossible when you start to consider breadth of work and each actor's stylistic contributions. And who knows? Next year's list might look completely different.
As part of our Best of Everything series, we present five Dallas actors who get our motors running when we see their names in the program.
A swaggering, sexy former president. A young, creepy English boy. The author of The Chronicles of Narnia. A cuckolded husband. Shakespeare’s tortured Danish prince. It’s an understatement to say that Cameron Cobb has played a wide range of characters in his career, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that his ability to embody these varied personalities is remarkable. A company member of Kitchen Dog Theater and frequent presence on many local stages, Cobb will next be seen as the stoic Tom Joad in WaterTower Theatre’s upcoming The Grapes of Wrath.
Though we often lose her temporarily to both the big and small screens, when Pam Dougherty is onstage in Dallas, the whole city seems to sit up and take notice. Equally at home playing comedy or drama, Dougherty has been scoring accolades for decades in roles such as the pill-addled Violet Weston in August: Osage County and the bedridden Big Edie Beale in Grey Gardens. Each time she returns to the stage, it seems like a gift. Here’s hoping she gives us another performance soon.
At Ochre House’s last production, Old, the most talked-about thing during intermission — besides the play’s wonderfully bizarre bent — was Justin Locklear’s age. The 2009 Baylor grad is only in his mid-20s, but onstage he believably transformed into a decrepit old man, shuffling painfully and groaning at his lack of physical dexterity and fading mind. It was just one convincing portrayal in a long line of risky, memorable characters that he often originates for frequent collaborator Matthew Posey’s scripts. The DFW Critics Forum bestowed the Emerging Artist award upon Locklear in 2011, and so far he’s continued to exceed our expectations.
Once, I was waiting for a show to start, and Liz Mikel entered the theater as an audience member. People started applauding, then stood, then whooped as she acknowledged them. This is the power of Mikel. Her sparkling personality translates to the stage, imbuing the characters she plays — everything from the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol to Alberta “Pearl” Johnson in Black Pearl Sings! to Hetaira in Lysistrata Jones — with a charismatic presence. After traveling with Lysistrata Jones to Broadway in 2011 (where more than one critic dubbed her a “hot mama”), her return to Big D seems even more precious.
Directors know that when you need an actor who can convincingly play someone a little “off,” you get Drew Wall. Incredibly nuanced performances, buzzing with energy and barely noticeable tics, Wall’s characterizations never feel forced or fake — just heart-stoppingly real. But for all the oddballs he’s known for playing, it’s easy to forget some of his more dramatic turns, such as the suicidal Matt in Second Thought Theatre’s Red Light Winter. Whether playing desperate or quirky, Wall finds the humanity in each role.