I grew up in Chicago, am an Aquarian and am enjoying a life filled with challenging and wonderful roles on the Broadway stage, Regional Theatre, TV, Radio and Film.
Started my career working in Bob Simpson Revues at the Edgewater Beach and Del Prado Hotels in Chicago. Moved to NYC and landed my first Broadway show playing the role of Vito DiRossi in Richard Rodgers/Steven Sondheim/Arthur Laurents’ Do I Hear A Waltz?. Next came George M!, Via Galactica (oh, the stories one can tell about this one week space odyssey disaster with music by Galt MacDermot and directed by Sir Peter Hall), 42nd Street, Sunset Blvd., The Scarlet Pimpernel and Pacific Overtures, originating the Sondheim songs Someone in a Tree and - extolling the merits of “Detente” - Please Hello.
Toured with shows like Camelot (Mordred), J.C. Superstar (Herod), 42nd Street (Andy Lee - 3 years and over 1000 performances throughout the U.S.A.,Toronto & Tokyo) and Guys and Dolls (2 years as Harry the Horse). Kind of makes my head swim when I think of all of the cities we played for sometimes six months and other times just one night. I can’t begin to tell you the fun (and sometimes the not-so-fun) times we had while packing and unpacking luggage. “Hi-ho, the (sorta) glamorous life.”
Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to study acting with Mary Tarcai, Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof and Bobby Lewis; voice with Keith Davis, Amelia Haas and Denes Striny; dance and movement with Edna McRae, Luigi and Anna Sokolow. I’m deeply indebted to all of them for giving me the knowledge to create and maintain the craft.
Being in NYC - and being in the the right place at the right time - gave me the opportunity to audition for Jerome Robbins’ American Theater Lab, and asked to be one of the original members of the group which consisted of James Mitchell, Cathryn Damon, Barry Primus, Mariclaire Costello, Leonard Frey, James Moore, Julia Migenes, Cliff Gorman, Erin Martin and Jerry Ragni (who was, at the time, secretly writing something he called HAIR). We had a rigorous schedule of daily classes which included improvisational and experimental theatre games (think Grotowski). Gregg Lawrence writes about our American Theater Lab in his book Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins.
And what actor doesn't consider a few years in Los Angeles? While living there, Equity Waiver Theatre was in full flower and my motto was “suit up, show up, and say yes.” This resulted with my becoming a six-time recipient of the Drama-Logue Critics Award. What a blast it was working with Ray Bradbury and Jose Feliciano creating the role of Villanazul in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit at The Pasadena Playhouse, to also work with George Rose in the L.A. premiere of Drood !, to play the wacky Tristan Tzara in Travesties, Jigger in Carousel, Tom in That Championship Season and several roles in The Great American Playwrights Show (10 short plays, 10 different roles), which we took on a six city tour after it’s run at the Odyssey Theater.
Regional Theatre thrives around the country and it’s been great playing diverse roles in Plaza Suite, Jekyll & Hyde, Breaking Legs, Nine, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin’ in the Rain, The Sea Gull, Tovarich (doing a duet Charleston number with Ginger Rogers), Hello Dolly - with both Ann Miller & Betty Grable -, Romeo & Juliet, Kiss Me Kate (yeah,another gangster role), the King in The King and I, and last but certainly not least playing the role of Barnum for three months, walking the high wire while singing (as we crossed the Bermuda Triangle) aboard the S. S. Norway in the 700 seat Saga Theater.
Music has always been a part of my life, and jazz and classical music are what I enjoy listening to most. Some of my favorites are Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Ron Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Shirley Horn, Sarah, Ella, Peggy, Dakota Staton, Anita O’Day, Irene Reid, Roberta Gambarini, Eliane Elias, Tania Maria and even though she’s not a "jazz" vocalist, the sublime Elaine Paige. William Congreve said, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast"; the music of Mahler, Chopin, Bach, Mozart, Brahms and Schubert always soothes and profoundly moves me.
I love to travel (photography is a hobby) and have had the great pleasure and opportunity to visit and photograph so many extraordinary countries, states, cities, towns and villages; adventures in Tokyo, Paris, London, Rome, Krakow, Sicily, Thailand, Turkey, Costa Rica, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Jerusalem, Vienna and Venice, not to mention magnificent sights like The Grand Canyon right here in the U.S.A.
So many other shows and stories have happened through the years. Most recently I played yet another bad guy. This was a Casa Manana - Dallas Theater Center co-production of the play To Kill A Mockingbird. The role of Bob Ewell is now one of my favorite characters. He’s a lean, mean, lyin, drunken, creep. Who, me ??? The cast was brilliant and our director Wendy Dann is one of the best.
A couple of months ago, writer/director Zachary Volker asked me to play the role of Lou Mullin - a wacko con man - in his short film called Club Magic Moment, which will be shown at film festivals throughout the country.
So, that's about it for now. Again, many thanks for visiting my site. I look forward to hearing from you.
James Dybas Papers: Newberry Library - Chicago, IL