Maple Grove resident Doree Du Toit is no stranger to the stage. Throughout the past couple of decades, she’s slipped into the shoes of memorable characters, including M’Lynn in Steel Magnolias, been a part of large ensembles, such as Oklahoma! at the Ordway, and spent many hours rehearsing and perfecting her craft. But this February Du Toit takes on a unique role, one that brings her acting career full circle. Circle Mirror Transformation, at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo, is about a small acting class at a community program. Among the cast is Kurt Schweickhardt, Du Toit’s former acting teacher. Besides the perk of working with her own mentor, Du Toit will enjoy a complete reversal of roles, for this time she will play the teacher.
Like many actors, Du Toit’s passion for theater began at a young age. “I was bit by the acting bug when I was in high school,” recalls Du Toit, and she attributes much of her success to early band and drama directors at Chaska High School who “saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself.” Although she was involved in theater throughout high school and college, it wasn’t until Du Toit returned to Chaska for a 25-year all-school reunion and cabaret, to reconnect with directors and classmates, that she rekindled her love of acting. So she signed up for her first acting class at the age of 38 at Normandale Community College, where she met Schweickhardt. “I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew acting was something I loved,” recalls Du Toit.
For the next ten years, Du Toit dedicated herself to her new acting career. “It was a growing experience for me, learning about myself and the craft,” she recalls. She took some time off while her daughters were in college, but when Yellow Tree Theatre opened in 2008, she was happy to pick up where she left off. Now with four productions under her belt, she is a staple in the Yellow Tree Theatre community. Jessica Lind Peterson, Yellow Tree co-founder, is thrilled to have Du Toit in the cast. “She’s open and humble and has a generous spirit,” says Peterson. “She has this ability to connect with people and empathize,” she adds.
For Du Toit, one of the greatest joys of the acting experience is the rehearsal process. “I love the process and what’s discovered, either for myself and my character or my relationship to cast members,” she explains. Even when playing a character that she thinks is her polar opposite, Du Toit is fascinated to find a bit of herself in there. “We all have that dark and light inside of us,” she says. “That’s why acting is such a great thing, you find out about yourself and the world.”
Since the show itself is about acting and the rehearsal process, the audience will have a chance to see inside this world of discovery. “Everyone will see a piece of themselves in these characters,” says Du Toit. For the actors themselves, Peterson imagines “this show is going to be very therapeutic and a hands-on experience.” In fact, many of the exercises and games that appear in the show are identical to the ones Du Toit explored in her first class with Schweickhardt. “I thought they were really silly at first … but you have to be a little silly to be vulnerable with the others in the cast,” she explains. “And you have to be vulnerable in order to let your character have life.”
When she steps out on stage this February, Du Toit will likely be influenced by her former teachers and directors, including her on-stage student, Schweickhardt. “I’m going to take all that I learned from [them] and they’ll be a part of me in developing my character, whether I know it or not, they’ll just show up,” says Du Toit. But she also recognizes that in art, whether it be writing, music, or fine art, you can’t come with a preconceived idea of your finished product, “you have to uncover what’s there … if you are open then usually you find the truth, and then you can go from that honest place.”
Shows February 1–24 (no show February 3 or February 6)
7:30 p.m. Wed.–Sat.
2 p.m. Sun.