Desk by day, stage by night: When the lights go down, they flock to act out their passion

"It's like a musician. What does he want to do? He really wants to make music because that's what drives him, that's what juices him up, gets him high. Theatre's the same thing," says Rick Korndorfer of Coldwell Banker Schmidt, explaining why he has performed in as many as three Old Town Playhouse (OTP) productions in a single year.

The Grand Traverse area is saturated with artists and artisans. A surprising number of them, like Korndorfer, also lead busy business lives.

Most plays require about two months of nightly rehearsals and about a month of actual production. So, how do they fit it all in?

"You just make time for it," said Korndorfer. "It is a big commitment, and you know that going in, but it's fun. It's the most fun thing I've ever done in my life!"

Korndorfer's favorite roles were Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, and a nerdy weatherman in Moon Over Buffalo. "They were little, unusual character parts, but you kind of get lost in those."

"Since theatre lets performers become someone other than themselves, it is a great distraction from the routine of daily living. I recommend it highly!" said Phil Callighan, senior account executive and marketing director of Knorr Marketing in Traverse City. The full service agency works with many local clients including Astro Building Products and Traverse City Light & Power, and has many retail clients throughout the country.

"It's a major challenge," said Callighan of the time commitment. "I can only attempt participating in about one play each year due to my work schedule."

He was president of his high school thespian society and did some theatre in college, then took about a 20-year hiatus. He was cast by Director Nancy Sundstrom in Oliver in 1997 and has been active at the Playhouse ever since.

Callighan enjoyed the part of the claw-handed leader of the pirates, Captain Hook, in the production of Peter Pan.

Cast as Mr. Darling in the same play, Callighan took reprise to a new level when he eventually asked Mrs. Darling to marry him for real.

Brian Dungjen also met his wife, Michelle, through the Playhouse.

Dungjen is president of Lakeshore Title Co., a title insurance agency serving clients in Benzie, Leelanau and Manistee counties.

"The best thing about the Playhouse is sharing my passion for the performing arts with other people of a similar bent and forming lifelong friendships."

Dungjen acts, directs and works technical aspects of productions. He also sits on the OTP Board of Trustees.

"A friend of mine invited me to go with him to auditions for Chicago which was being directed by an acquaintance of his. I was cast in the chorus of that production and had an incredible time. Twenty-plus years later, I am still there."

"Time hasn't always been an issue, however, lately it is more and more so. Michelle and I have an 18-month-old son and are expecting a daughter in February," said Dungjen. "Family comes first, but Michelle and I both are determined to find ways to allow the other to direct or perform."

By day, she is a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Schmidt and the new marketing representative at Paul Davis Restoration. By night, "I am a German call girl at the Cabaret."

Who is this mysterious vixen leading a double life?

It's Sherry White, dancer, actress and businesswoman.

After studying dance for 17 years, White's aspirations of becoming a professional ballerina changed.

"Ballet was a little too strict for my taste. I loved to dance but wanted to broaden my talent so I moved to L.A. when I was 20 to become an actress and marry Brad Pitt. Needless to say that didn't happen. I landed an acting job, but it was for Walt Disney…Yes, that is me in Pluto costume hugging your children in your family photos from Walt Disneyland. But I will tell you this…it was truly the best job I ever had."

White said her daytime job is somewhat flexible, so she's able to rehearse for shows in the evenings.

"It certainly makes for a long day, but I absolutely love performing and I wouldn't give it up even if it means being a little groggy the next day."

White is cast as Frauline Kost in the current OTP production of Cabaret.

Jan Dalton is a legal assistant for Calcutt, Rogers and Boynton PLLC. When asked how he fits theatre into his busy schedule, he said, "First, I have permission from my loving wife. Second, it is my passion. If I wasn't doing anything else, I would rather be rehearsing."

Dalton directed Tartuffe this past winter and will soon be mentoring a new director, Tom Webb, as he directs Same Time Next Year this coming spring.

His plays include Dracula, followed up by "one of the greatest plays ever," The Importance of Being Earnest. Other memorable roles include Serge in Art, Henry in Lion in Winter, Arthur in Camelot, Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream, and Caliban in The Tempest.

His favorite part about the local theatre is rehearsing with his peers.

"I have been fortunate to work with some extremely talented people including Guy Molnar, Joe Bertuzzi, Mary-Scott O'Connor, Nancy Sundstrom, Jeannette Mason, Mike Nunn, Matt McCormick, Michael Kay, Pat Easterday, Mike Kelly, Phil Murphy, Anne-Marie Oomen, Margaret Schaal…the list goes on and on."

Dalton is more or less taking this season off. Both of his sons are graduating next year-one from Suttons Bay High School and the other from the University of Michigan.

Jennifer Allen, principle of Tandem Design, a full-service design and communications firm, says finding a balance between work, home and the Playhouse is difficult at times, "but always worth the effort.

"Performing is a natural high. There is nothing like being in front of an audience."

Allen's first audition for the Playhouse led her directly to center stage when she scored the lead role of Roxie in the musical Chicago.

"It is a great source of confidence and creativity," said Allen. "I spend much of my time presenting to clients and organizations, and I never seem to get nervous in front of a crowd. In fact, I enjoy engaging an audience and communicating ideas. The energy in my business presentations is very much like the energy I put into performing."

Most rehearsals are in the evening, she said, "so I can wrap up at the office, stop at home for a quick meal, and head to the Playhouse."

The Playhouse doors are open to all, she added. "I always encourage others to get involved in the Playhouse, even if you've never acted before. There are many behind the scenes roles and much needed support with every show."

Korndorfer concurs. "You don't just have actors and actresses, you have people that design lighting, sound, that build and design sets, costumes, makeup artists. There are so many different creative avenues that go into a performance. We're looking for new people all of the time." BN

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