090: Common denominators. Veteran performer Dale Wolf on silence, story, and speaking out. [Durham 150 Artist Spotlight]

Dale Wolf is a writer, mime, performer, teacher, and veteran of the NC arts community. In this episode with good humor, good stories, and great vulnerability, Dale touches on physicality, baseball, identity, politics & performance, creating new work, being an independent artist, and making art in Durham since the 1970s.

Dale Wolf Photo by Alex Maness


Dale Wolf moved to Durham, NC in 1976 to start a mime company. Touch Mime Theater performed for 17 years to over a half million people in the southeast. Dale Wolf is a writer, mime, performer, teacher, veteran of the NC arts community and recipient of the Indie Award for Excellence in the Arts (1994). They work with local theater companies such as Little Green Pig, The Delta Boys, Manbites Dog, both hands, Deep Dish, Common Ground, and Leviathan Theatre. You can also hear Dale as a voice actor in MASTER BUILDER, an audio drama produced by Artist Soapbox. Dale has acted in films, industrial videos, voice-overs and commercials in addition to developing and performing two one-person shows, IN THE OUTFIELD and 50! EVOLUTION OF A BUTCH LESBIAN.

2019 is a year-long celebration honoring Durham North Carolina’s 150th anniversary. Artist Soapbox received a grant from Durham 150 in Support of the City of Durham’s Sesquicentennial Commemoration. This episode is one of three Durham 150 Artist Spotlights in which I interview a few of the many brilliant artists living in here. Happy Birthday, Durham! Thank you Durham artists. Thank you for the grant, Durham 150. Listeners, support local artists and help them and your community thrive!

This episode is brought to you by the Soapboxers, the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox. If you like these episodes and want more, get on the Soapbox! This episode was recorded at Shadowbox Studio. Artist Soapbox theme music by Bart Matthews. Additional audio editing by Merrybelle Park Productions.


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Questions for Dale:


You mentioned that growing up you wanted to be an athlete. Talk a little about that. How has your physicality — your capabilities and interest in physicality informed your work in the theatre? 


How did you find mime? What are common myths or misconceptions about mime? Can you share a story about a transformative experience that you had as a performer or you saw in an audience member?

You moved to Durham in 1976 to start Touch Mime Theater and performed for 17 years.

What was Durham/the Triangle like for performing artists at that time (and how has it changed — for the better and the worst)?


Let’s talk about one of your solo performance pieces, IN THE OUTFIELD. What was the inspiration for this piece? What was it ‘about’? How did audiences (and other artists) respond? You described your work as ‘politically inspired with a personal approach’ — what was it like make your personal journey available to audiences and use it to make a political statement? How did that affect you? 


Dale, you’ve done so much work across the Triangle that we can’t possibly get to everything, but I wanted to touch on another solo performance piece that you performed in 2004 — 50! EVOLUTION OF A BUTCH LESBIAN. Why did you feel the need to create and perform this piece? Did you have a particular message that you wanted to share with the audience (or something you wanted to experience yourself?) 

In the intervening years since 50!, your identity has continued to evolve (as an artist and a human) — you have continued to navigate the exploration of your identity. Would you talk about your name as an example of that?  

If you were to snap your fingers and be on stage now as a solo performer — what would that piece look like? What topics would you cover and wisdom would you share? What do you want people to know? 


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Quotes from Dale:

  • I didn’t like my name until the trans community became as visible as it is now and the language became so much more expansive in terms of how we can identify genderwise, sexualitywise.
  • If we want to be sustained here, what are we going to do about it?
  • I wanted to put a face on myself, to put myself out there and tell a story that hopefully would connect with the stories of people who came to see the work.
  • I’m drawn to mime because even though you may be a silent human being, you can still communicate.
  • It was a revelation for me to find this form and consequently I’ve used it my entire performance career. [Dale Wolf on mime]
  • These kinds of common denominator themes are what I wanted to highlight via my personal experience. 

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