The star of the latest Patriot Players show going up at Patrick Henry Community (PHCC) is not only a performer but also a drama instructor at Magna Vista High School who will share the stage with some of his students.
Bryan Dunn said he's a big proponent of "practicing what you teach."
"I feel like if I'm going to teach something, then I should also show that I have the skill to do it," he said. "When I'm in the classroom, I demonstrate what is good practice and not good practice. And doing shows with the Patriot Players and Theatre Works is an extension of that."
Dunn will play the role of Shrek in the upcoming Patriot Players show "Shrek: The Musical." He said he often encourages his students to audition for shows put on throughout the community, which prompted several of them try out for parts in "Shrek."
One of Dunn's students participating in the show, Kiana Espinoza, said it's great to see Dunn in action on stage.
"I think it's a good experience for every student to see teachers in their own element," she said. "It just goes to show the phrase, ‘Those who can, do; those who can't, teach,' isn't true at all. Working with Mr. Dunn outside of school has shown me that he teaches for fulfillment, but he acts for passion."
Working with his students is a positive experience, Dunn said. "They get to see directly that I know what I'm talking about as an instructor. Furthermore, I think it's fun for them to see me outside of school and being like one of them... I think they enjoy seeing me in my element," he said.
Dunn received his BFA (bachelor of fine arts) in theatre education at Virginia Commonwealth University after discovering his passion for theatre in high school. He said back in college when he first heard of "Shrek," he wasn't a big fan of the film, but enjoyed it from a theatrical perspective.
"(Shrek) was a character that I really, on a certain level, identified with," he said. "It's the idea that you want to push everyone away and stay in your own little bubble in your own little world until you realize you're not happy with that anymore. That was kind of my whole journey into theatre."
Dunn has been at Magna Vista High School for nearly four years. He said performing is a big part of teaching others the craft.
"When I'm in the classroom, I'm performing for them; I'm showing, demonstrating and encouraging them. I think students who really grasp on to that are ones who find what the core value of theatre is all about. It's more than getting in front of people and being silly. It's confidence building, and using your own intellect and what you know to base character decisions and your own decisions on."
"Shrek" is shaping up to be the biggest production attempted by the Patriot Players, who just celebrated its first anniversary in April, according to Artistic Director Devin Pendleton. He said it's taken about a year to plan out the entire show.
"I really look forward to presenting this show to our college and community," he said. "This will be the biggest production to hit the stage at Walker Theatre. The story in ‘Shrek' has a great message for any age - to embrace uniqueness, accept your ‘difference,' and to never judge a book by its cover."
Patriot Players Director Jane Leizer said not only is the show great for all ages to enjoy, but it's also a wonderful learning experience for students to be involved in a professional production.
"We have a 25-foot dragon, fairytale creatures of all shapes and sizes, professional sets, professional makeup and a 12-piece orchestra that will perform in this production," Leizer said. "It will be like seeing a show on Broadway, but all you have to do is drive to your local community college. We're very excited for the community to see this wonderful show."
Dunn said the entire cast is working hard to make sure this is the best production possible. He said it's "going to be a big production. I'm not going to lie and say that it's going to be easy to pull off, but everyone here wants it to work, so it will work."
Tickets went on sale Friday, May 2 at the PHCC Switchboard office and at The Artisan Center in uptown Martinsville, located at 54 W. Church St. All tickets are $15 for general admission.
Students enrolled at PHCC also have the option to take "Shrek: The Musical" as a class for college credit. Credits earned are transferrable, or they can be used toward earning an associate degree in general studies.
The show opens May 29 with additional performances May 30-31, June 1 and June 5-8. All performances are at 7 p.m. except for Sunday shows, which start at 2 p.m.