If you know La Crescenta native Dana Robie, then you know she has a serious knack for comedy and an innate giggle-producing ability.
The current University of San Francisco student started acting in middle school with Children's Theatre Experience in Pasadena and began improvisation in theatre class at
She was hooked and hasn't stopped acting since.
Patch chatted with Robie about acting and her role as "Kimmi" in the Campus MovieFest's acclaimed Social Notworking. Campus MovieFest is a nationwide competition at several universities throughout the U.S., and for USF the film Robie was in won best picture and best actress. Her film will be featured at Cannes Film Festival in the short film category.
How did you get started in acting?
I started doing plays in middle school at Children's Theatre Experience in Pasadena, and I didn't like it at all. I only enjoyed the week of the show but other than that I couldn't have cared less. At FSHA I took a theatre 1 class my freshman year, and we focused mostly on improvisation, which suited me really well. I was comfortable with that, and I enjoyed it a lot. Eventually I auditioned and was on the ComedySportz team and was the captain for my junior and senior years. I auditioned for the fall musical, Kiss Me Kate, and I actually got a supporting role. At the time, it was such a huge deal to me because I was the only freshman to get any bigger role and there were juniors and seniors who weren't pleased. I took it seriously and was extremely nervous, but I knew pretty quickly [that] I had found my niche. I was in every musical and play after that in the FSHA theatre department, and my senior year I did two musicals at .
How would you describe your role in this short film?
I play Kimmi, a semi-washed up Jersey lady who has spent years going on dates with men she meets online. She comes off confident and aloof but really she struggles with her inability to be in a successful relationship. She finds her strength in temporary doses of attention from these various men via the Internet and going on dates, etc. She's not at all a bitch; she has a soft side and does care--a little bit--about other people.
What drew you to playing this character? Was it a challenge?
My friend Laura Waldron works with USFTv and we have filmed a lot of short films and sketches together. She and I are both on the improv team at USF, Awkward Silence. She asked me if I would be in the film because she had me and my co-star, Matt Cline, who is also part of AwkSi, in mind for the part. I said yes automatically, because I assumed this would be like all the other things we've filmed. But then we had a meeting with everyone that planned to be involved, and it was actually a much bigger thing than I realized, entering Campus Movie Fest. The role was both challenging and not. I tend to play these boisterous female characters, so that came easily. The sensitivity, though, was something that took a little effort. I had to work at the nonverbal aspects of that.
Where is this short film headed next in the festival world? Who has seen it in the U.S.?
We entered the film to several film festivals in the Bay Area, and just this last weekend it was screened at a festival in San Jose. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there because I was home for the holidays.
Do you have any upcoming projects, shows, etc.?
I am auditioning for the main stage play at USF this semester, Loose Knit, by Theresa Rebeck. It's being directed by Christine Young, and it will be in March. It's a small-cast dark comedy, so I'm looking forward to hopeful being a part of that. Awkward Silence is planning to have our usual on-campus monthly shows, as well as involvement in a Chicago Improv Fest that will be in February sometime. Last year we participated in a city-wide improv competition called The Endgames Improv: The Pregames, which was a weekly head to head show with our team against another over a span of three months. We met teams from UC Berkely, Stanford, San Francisco State and professionals across the Bay Area. We won the entire competition last year and made some fantastic connections. I have been exploring stand up comedy and started last year at USF's yearly Last Comic Standing event. I won first place and got $100, and that was the first time I ever tried stand up. I haven't taken any classes or workshops. I sort of have no idea what I'm doing or how to write any of it. I opened up for a local improv team called Chinese Ballroom, and then this past July I did a 15-minute set at The Ice House annex in Pasadena. The Ice House annex is approximately an 80 seat box stage, and I think I filled almost 60 with just people I knew that came out to see me. That night was huge for me. I got a lot of positive feedback from local comics that have been doing this for years. I plan on auditioning again for them and doing more stand up in the Bay Area as well as Southern California.
How did acting at Sacred Heart and community theater prepare you for your future in acting?
FSHA was where I figured out I could be good at this stuff. Doing ComedySportz with James Bailey and theater with Mark Bommarito really shaped the beginning of something that I'm planning to do for a career. I learned a lot about leadership, especially, in CSz because I was managing the team for two years and I had to be in charge of my peers. Most high school theater is crammed with "drama" about who is cast, seniority and the like. At the time, all of that was so important to me. I didn't get the lead my senior year, and I was angry. I resented Bommarito and the girl who did get the lead. It took that experience to show me that you don't have to have the biggest part to steal the show. I would much rather have one line and make everyone bust up laughing than have a lead in a show.
Is there anything else about you, your acting or growing up in La Crescenta, that people should know about you?
Well, I'm a junior at USF now and I cannot believe I'll be graduating in 2013. It's really scary, actually. I don't know my post-graduation plans, but I will most likely return to L.A. and start working and auditioning and taking classes. I try to be as involved as I can at FSHA. I have led a Kairos, and each year I go back up the hill to speak to the senior class about college, what to expect and my story.
What's the big dream for Dana Robie? Where will we see you one day?
My big dream has always been to be on Saturday Night Live. It still is, and just in general I'd like to be in film or television. I enjoy comedy, and right now I'm pursuing goals in working on my stand up technique and my improvisation skills.
Note: I drove Dana Robie and a group of fabulous girls in a carpool to Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Cañada Flintridge, where we both attended high school.