Editor’s note: Listen Up is a Q&A featuring locals in the arts and culture community.
This week: Dan Ekblad, a local actor who can be seen in Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswoman’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery,” which runs June 14 to 17 at The Oxford, 1814 Oxford Ave. When not acting, Ekblad sells insurance and is a lifestyle coach for Overeater Wellness Coaching.
How long have you been acting?
I believe it is now going to be 13 years.
Were you an actor in high school and/or college?
Not really, I played in a rock band. That was a long time ago.
I got involved because of my children. My son wanted to audition for a show (at ECCT) and I came along, and Wayne (Marek, ECCT director) said he needed some adults.
So the first show I did, I did with my son and,actually, most of the first shows I did with either my son or my daughter. Both of them started acting when they were seven.
What was it about acting that drew you in?
I was very comfortable and it was a lot of fun. It is a great outlet. I got to play characters that were larger than life, and I’ve been able to play some really great bad guys on stage. I played Jafar (from Disney’s “Aladdin”) and Captain Hook (from Disney’s “Peter Pan”) and in some of the smaller children’s shows I got to play the bad guy which is cool because I’m big.
But the best thing about it is, when I was playing all those bad guy characters, the kids loved it. The very first show I did I played a bad guy in it, but they enjoyed it so much they would stop me in the mall. The kids would come up to me, and it was like seeing Santa Claus.
That is probably one of the things that is really rewarding is the reaction of the children and the people that come to see the shows.
In what other ways are you involved with the children’s theater?
I was on the ECCT board for over seven years. I am currently on the special events committee — that’s the fundraising side. I helped raise the money for this (The Oxford) building we’re sitting in.
It’s one of those things that you leave a mark somewhere, you helped build something and do something. I was one of the people that came up with the Dancing with the Stars and helped make the annual holiday auction as big as it is.
What’s the most memorable character you’ve gotten to play?
There are so many. Playing Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” was amazing.
The last show I did, “The Addams Family,” I played Lurch and that was such a great show. Wayne (Marek) gave me free range to ad-lib. In every show, my whole scene where I died I got to change it up without telling the cast every show, so their reactions were great. Those are just a couple. And of course, in “Joseph” ( “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat”) coming up again, I’m playing Jacob, the same character I played last time we did it.
There are a lot of them.
Who are you in the upcoming “The Farndale Avenue” show?
I’m Gordon, but the character Gordon is playing is Inspector O’Reilly.
The whole show is kind of a farce. This is the women’s theater guild putting on this murder mystery. All these ladies have names but then they’re playing characters on stage. I’m Dan, who is playing Gordon, who is playing Inspector O’Reilly.
It’s very Monty Python-ish, Britishy humor — people forgetting lines and stuff falling apart on stage.
What’s it like being in a mostly female cast?
It’s nothing new. A couple of us are part of the regular crew that does the murder mysteries, so it’s nice to play off of them, especially for some of the improv stuff, and making up things, embellishing the script.
What has playing such a wide range of characters taught you?
I think being on stage and being able to act, it gives you the creativity you don’t normally have in your regular life. That’s one of the biggest things. One of the things that was a turning point for me is when my son was 9 years old he had the lead in the show, and he had more lines than I’ve ever had in my entire life in any show.
He literally killed it; at the end of the show, there were standing ovations, and teachers said he did such a great job.
As a parent, there’s really nothing more proud than to be able to say your kid did something like that. That’s one of the things I try to give to other parents, why it’s important to get kids involved in theater, in the arts. They get to express themselves in ways they don’t get to otherwise. My son is 24 years old now and he loves being on stage.