The lion, the ghost and the wardrobe changes of Carol-er David Ryan Smith
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
David Ryan Smith isn’t a Dallas native, he just seems to play one onstage.
The New York-based actor has made the Dallas Theater Center almost a second home in 2011 — first playing the Cowardly Lion in last summer’s The Wiz (one of the triumvirate of friends of Dorothy, along with the Tin Man and Scarecrow, who stole the show), and currently in several roles, most notably the
Ghost of Christmas Present, in DTC’s annual revival of A Christmas Carol.
So what accounts for his sudden honorary Texan status? Even he doesn’t know.
“I’d never even been to Texas until this summer,” he says. He grew up in Asheville, N.C., before attending school in Indiana and later San Francisco; he moved to New York six years ago. But he “had a great time” here.
Really?! He liked spending a record-settingly sweltering summer in a furry lion suit? Well, yeah, kinda.
“I’m not a big musical-theater actor, but I’d always wanted to do The Wiz,” he says. He’d auditioned for the DTC before when the company held casting calls in NYC, but actor and part never quite clicked before. Still, he agreed to assist the casting director, helping read other actors for parts. Then the casting director suggested he would be right for the Lion. DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty agreed, and his Texas tour was on its way.
“The Theater Center is great — the facility and the people. And working with the Dallas Black Dance Theater was amazing, they are all so talented.” He even became friends with his Wiz co-star Liz Mikel, who is in New York right now preparing for her Broadway debut in Lysistrata Jones.
But Smith also wanted to work with DTC’s Joel Ferrell. “Liz and Cedric [Neal] told me, work with him if you can,” he says. So when Ferrell returned this year to direct A Christmas Carol again, Smith jumped at the chance.
It actually wasn’t his first experience with DTC’s annual holiday show — Smith had worked in San Francisco with former DTC associate Jonathan Moscone, who mounted a version of Christmas Carol in the 1990s. “He was really proud of that show,” Smith says.
So what’s it like staying in the holiday spirit 10 times a week since Halloween? Not as hard as you might imagine, Smith says.
“We do original music, not the same old Christmas carols you hear everywhere, so at least it doesn’t make you cranky,” he says. “And wearing those boots [as the Ghost of Christmas Present] takes you into a whole other reality. I see my job in that role as forcing [Kurt Rhoads, who plays Scrooge] into changing. Kurt’s a wonderful acting partner.”
An even better partner is Smith’s boyfriend of five years, Josh. How do they handle Smith being on the road so much?
“It’s part of the job,” he sighs. “Usually he comes to visit, but because of how the holidays fall this year, he won’t get down here, though he visited during
The Wiz. And actually it makes the time we spend together all the better.”
That’s the way to stay in the holiday spirit — especially for a man playing a holiday spirit.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.