- Dustin Rothbart,
ISU senior theatre major
|Dustin Rothbart and Chloe Elizabeth Ewer, a junior Theater major, rehearse a scene from "Boom," a student-produced play that will be part of the School of Theater's FreeStage Festival this spring. (Photo by Daneisha Goodman / Staff Photographer)|
Brimming with excitement, ISU’s School of Theatre senior Dustin Rothbart smiles warmly as he invites me into his room. “My mind’s in a million places right now,” he confesses. “I’ve been so busy; I barely find a moment to myself. But that’s the life of an actor!”
I start my voice recorder and frantically write notes, trying desperately to keep up as he hurtles through his thoughts at five hundred miles per hour.
“I’ve been so busy,” says Rothbart. “With a theatrical performance, a talent showcase and a film crew offering me volunteer work here on campus, it’s like I don’t have a moment to think any more. I’m looking forward to my break between shows – you know, when I get to eat and shower for a week before plunging back in,.” He laughs.
Dustin Rothbart now seems to be on the brink of a solid break into the profession he loves. With call backs for shows in Chicago, the future looks bright for the soon-to-be graduated 23-year-old.
“It’s always been acting. Ever since I was a kid, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,“ he enthuses. ”I could never imagine doing anything different. I don’t want a desk job, I would hate a desk job.”
Currently sporting a slight smattering of stubble on his chin, the young man dresses so outlandishly and talks so charismatically it’s certainly difficult to picture him filing papers behind a desk. A more eccentric and glamorous life seems inevitable.
ISU audiences recently had an opportunity check Rothbart out when he took center stage in the offbeat drama, “Pullman, W.A..”
“I wanted to stretch myself, and Pullman allowed me to do just that. Up until now my kind of theatre has been purely comedy, but I wanted to try something serious, “ he says.
“I wanted to challenge myself with a new kind of theatre. There was always the possibility I’d fall flat on my face. But it’s probably the best acting work I’ve ever done.
“There’s always something you can relate to within a character, and I try to find that for every performance. For example, in Pullman, one of the main factors holding [my character] Tom back is that, although he’s led a very sheltered lifestyle, he experiences a lot of ridicule, he’s had a messed-up childhood, and he’s very self-critical. I think it’s an important aspect.”
“Pullman, W.A.” marked the end of an era for the young actor; it’s one of Rothbart’s last performances at Illinois State University.
“It’s been a very long five years at ISU, and I know I’m entering a field where I’ll need to work an extra day job. I’ll have to endure the eight-hour days, endure getting butter spilt all over me or whatever. But that’s my future and I love it, “ he says.
“I live by the philosophy that the person who doesn’t get cast is the person that doesn’t audition. I audition at every opportunity I can get.
“You have to be persistent. You could have the audition of your life, but there are three thousand things that could happen in an interview that mean you don’t get cast – you might not look enough like one of the other actors, you might be too short or too tall, or whatever. So you need to be strong and keep auditioning, no matter how many times you get thrown back.”
Dustin’s persistence, and blossoming talent, are paying off. He has recently been cast as a replacement actor in a production called “Electra” at the Mary Archie Theatre in Chicago, as well as being called back for two supporting roles for “The Pirates of Penzance” at Navy Pier.
“My fingers are crossed so tightly it hurts,” he laughs.
“Coming here [to ISU] was probably the best choice I could have made. The acting team is so focussed and there’s a steady variety of productions to get involved in; but most of all, they have great connections with the business in Chicago. That makes it easy to get your foot in the door.
Finishing my degree has been my own personal pride. Everything seems to be falling into place the way I could only dream. I’m thankful, I’m terrified, I’m humbled and I’m supported.”