We had the good fortune of connecting with Dan Hodge and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dan, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Funnily, I think a life in the arts is just one risk after another. I mean, it’s risky to dive headlong into a career whose benchmark is instability. You never know when the next job is coming, or what the next year will look like. Who could have predicted where we are now? I was in a show that was cancelled by COVID, and most of the theatremakers I know won’t be able to work in their vocation for at least a year, and likely even longer than that. But, in terms of risks, everything comes down to a leap. When I moved to Philadelphia in 2008 (after finishing my MFA at the Old Globe), I had no idea what that was going to mean. Everyone wanted me to go to New York. But, Philly was where the work was, and I managed to do between 3 and 7 shows a year for almost fifteen years. I founded a classical theatre company with some close friends – and that was risky, too. None of us were fundraisers or business people, and who would have thought that a company producing the rarer plays from the Greeks up through the 1930’s would work? After COVID shut the world down, I leapt again. I moved to the mountains of New Mexico, and have been working as a ghostwriter for months. Eventually, I hope to land in San Diego and get back to making some theatre again (when we can), but who’s to say when that will be? You see? It’s all risk. I’m just lucky that I’ve got the freedom to keep leaping.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It’s crazy, but I’ve been working on professional stages for over 20 years, and I’m not forty yet. It’s hard to think how that’s possible. But, as an actor, I can be kind of an oddball. We’re all cocktails of our influences, and mine range pretty wildly. I’m a voracious reader of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but I grew up on classic horror films. So, if you see me in a play, you’re likely to get some of that heady intellectual stuff, with a strong dash of Vincent Price melodrama thrown in. I like to go for the guts of things. I believe it’s impossible to go too far if you mean what you’re doing. When someone is overacting, that’s because there’s a distance between what they’re doing and what they mean. If you invest all the way, anything is possible. Thankfully, I’m pretty happy with where I am professionally. It’s been a lot of hard work, and I’ve spent a lot of time sweeping stages and carrying spears. But, there are a couple of things that I’ve learned that I think are helpful. One is the power of the word ‘Yes.’ So many actors lead from the place of ‘No,’ and it boggles my mind. “My character wouldn’t do that.” “No, I don’t like that idea.” Are you nuts? If you say ‘Yes,’ you find things you hadn’t thought about, so why the hell not? Plus, when your default is ‘Yes,’ then your ‘No’ actually means something. Remember that. Another thing – don’t be afraid to be ugly or unlikeable. So many actors desperately need the audience to like them or think they’re cool. Give that up. If you’re in the arts, needing the audience to like you is standing directly between you and being a good actor. Period.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Gosh, I haven’t lived in San Diego for over a decade, so it’s hard to say? What’s still there? I lived in Hillcrest, and I’m hoping to move back to that general area. I always took friends to Kiki Sushi and Crest Cafe. Those were my favorite spots. It seems like there were some great bars in Ocean Beach where you could get fish tacos and oysters on the half shell. That kind of thing is exactly my speed. I’m a big walker, so Balboa Park is a must. The Spanish Artist’s Village is a great place to spend an afternoon. One of the first things I’m doing when I land is getting a membership to the Zoo. That’s a wonderful place to take people – especially the orangutans. They are fantastic. We’d probably see as much theatre as possible, so I’d be very curious to see what’s going on at the Old Globe, New Fortune, Cygnet, North Coast Rep, San Diego Rep. We’d see what was playing and probably take in a bunch! I don’t remember the bar scene, so the move would probably be to load a cooler with beer and head out to the beach. That’s a great way to spend a whole day. Then, back to Hillcrest to hit up the used bookshops. I loved Bluestocking, and I think there was another great one right across the street.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It may seem trite to thank your parents, but in my case, there’s no option. John and Kay Hodge are the most supportive, caring, thoughtful people I could hope to have in my life. There are all these jokes about parents who panic when their kid wants to go into the arts, but they were thrilled. Not only that, but they go out of their way to see my work, which is a real blessing. And, it’s funny, but when they come to town, seeing the play is what they’re there for. If they come out for a week, they see every performance while they’re in town. I mean, who does that? I was married, and my wife didn’t do that! In addition to my parents, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to Renee Brister Kendall. She taught me theatre school when I was small, ran the youth troupe I became a part of a the community theatre, and transitioned to be the drama instructor at my high school. So much of the artist I’ve become is up to her. She shaped the way I thought about making plays, and instilled in me the discipline necessary to do this kind of work. Not only that, but she basically shoved me through the door to audition for college theatre programs. If I have any integrity in my craft, it comes back to Mama Renee.
First photo: Wide Eyed Studios/Ashley Smith