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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ATC actor, StarKid Productions founding member Dylan Saunders talks accidentally finding fame

    Courtesy Eleni Gianulis
    Dylan Saunders and Adam Haas Hunter in Arizona Theatre Company’s King Charles III. (Photo by Jeff Smith).

    From playing Professor Albus Dumbledore in a just-for-fun play that became a YouTube sensation, to embodying the future Prince Harry with the Arizona Theatre Company, Dylan Saunders’ short acting career has been quite extensive and varied.

    StarKid Productions was the team of creative University of Michigan students that took the internet by storm with original, streamable musicals including “A Very Potter Musical,” “Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier” and “Starship.” Saunders has been part of this team since it began in 2009.

    Saunders, currently involved in the ATC’s performance of “King Charles III,” sat down with the Daily Wildcat to talk about his time in the desert, the beginnings of StarKid and his bonds with fellow “King Charles” cast members.

    RELATED: Review: Arizona Theatre Company prevails with opening show, ‘King Charles III’

    Daily Wildcat: So you were recently in the ATC’s performance of “King Charles III” in Tucson and are now performing the show in Phoenix. What made you come to Arizona for this show?

    Saunders: I’ve been trying to do this play since I first read it. I fell in love with it the second that I read it and I identified with the character, and I think it’s a really important story. So I’ve been just trying to find theaters across the country that were producing it and Arizona was a perfect window because [it’s] really great to [its] actors and it was a really great window of time. I just went in and auditioned and it just kind of worked out.

    You’re out here in Arizona now and have been taking on various acting roles across the country for the past few years, so are you still involved with the StarKid team?

    Very much so. It’s funny to hear you refer to them as the StarKid team because they’re just some of my best friends. That’s like saying are you still involved with your college friends, you know?

    StarKid’s such a funny beast—it’ll always exist in some form because it’ll always be online. It’s basically project to project — we get approached to do the shows that we want to do and if it works with people’s schedules, it’s kind of like that’s how it’s always been.

    So have you been with StarKid from the beginning?

    Yes, I have been involved since the beginning. The guys who write all of the books for all of the scripts are some of the most talented comedy writers I’ve ever met. They are who approached me first about doing it and I always tell people it’s so bizarre to me that StarKid exists in the way that it does in a certain sense because it was a complete accident from day one.

    We taped the very first show that we did which was “A Very Potter Musical” for our families and it was basically put online as an archive. There was no intention of it going any further than that — we thought, ‘Oh, some of our parents missed this so it would be nice for them to be able to see it since a lot of families live all over the country.’ And then kind of instantaneously people were referring to it as a company.

    It was basically like, ‘Oh, what company is this and who are these actors and what’s their next project?’ And none of those are questions we even considered because, like I said, this wasn’t a goal, it was an accident. So I was basically tapped by Matt Lang, who’s one of the two writers and he said, ‘Do you want to play this role of Dumbledore?’ So that was kind of my first foray into it and the rest is history.

    It’s changed the course of my whole life — it allowed me to get my first theatrical agent, it’s been a constant source of work and entertainment and joy for me. It’s always funny, you don’t know where your life is going to take you based on little decisions that you make on the day-to-day. I mean, this is a defining moment of my whole life, this play we put up for very little money on a shoestring budget for fun.

    RELATED: Arizona Theatre Company leaves audience in ‘dark’ with new play

    So how does StarKid Productions and working with the StarKid team differ from more traditional theater performances and crews?

    I think with regional theater most of the time you’re working with a director you haven’t met and a cast you haven’t met before. Right off the bat, everyone’s going in trying to scope out what the rehearsal room’s going to be like.

    And then with StarKid, I imagine it must be like “Saturday Night Live” in a sense, where you’re in a format that’s very familiar with a group that’s very familiar. The trust in the work is automatically much higher. That’s still achievable [with regional theater], but the main difference I would say is that StarKid is family. It’s family first and its trust first, and it’s also people whose work I’ve seen develop over the years.

    Do you have a favorite role from your StarKid Productions?

    Yeah, probably my fondest StarKid memory on a number of levels is “Starship.” I played a guy named Tootsie Noodles [Pincer] and I doubled as one of the main villains in the show.

    It was our first show that we had done out of college … and it was also creating a character that didn’t exist in any kind of canon. That was the most exciting for me and I just fell in love with these characters so fast.

    Do you have any advice for students here at the UA pursuing dreams in theater, film and television or any of the arts?

    You have to love the work. You have to love the fact that it’s hard. I think I expected that it was going to be difficult … but nothing can really prepare you for being totally on your own without a safety net.

    So that’s the thing that took me a second — as much as I adore the creative side of this job I also, with as much passion, have to love the business side of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that, they coexist for a reason.

    I think I’ll also say it’s imperative to be making your own stuff. Even if it’s just writing a pilot, or a short film or a web series, I think for the downtime when people are telling you ‘no,’ you get to create your own ‘yes.’

    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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