Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order.
"I tend to play wacked-out characters, but there's no reason I couldn't play doctors and lawyers." Actor Van Quattro, a favorite among DFW theater directors and critics, is frustrated. He's been auditioning for a lot of TV and film work lately and getting beat for roles by younger actors "playing older."
"Lately every role I go up for, I lose to some actor who was in [the HBO series] True Detective," says Quattro. "They're 10 or 20 years younger than me and we're up for the same part."
Quattro, 60, already has a resume any professional actor would envy. Before moving from Los Angeles (where he was born and raised) to Fort Worth 14 years ago, he had appeared in big TV series including Millennium, Chicago Hope, Picket Fences and General Hospital, and had good roles as mean cops and psycho killers in films such as Fight Club and End of Days.
Then he stopped acting for a decade, busy raising his son Case, now 15, and going through a couple of divorces. The splits, he says in a conversation over coffee at the West Village Starbucks, partly came down to his desire to keep acting and his wives' requests that he get a "regular job." "I've given up two families for this profession, so I guess I'm serious about it," he says.
When Quattro decided to start auditioning again -- after 10 years of working construction, painting houses, doing photography, whatever it took to stay near his son -- he quickly scored back-to-back jobs at Dallas' top theaters, receiving rave reviews as Boo Radley in Dallas Theater Center's To Kill a Mockingbird, and as the leads in Theatre Three's Superior Donuts and Second Thought Theatre's A Behanding in Spokane. He was Lennie Small in Theatre Arlington's Of Mice and Men a year ago. He played a variety of characters in WaterTower Theatre's Tom Sawyer and The Grapes of Wrath. In 2012, the DFW Theater Critics' Forum named him the year's top "emerging artist."
Recently Quattro shot a good part in an episode of the upcoming [early 2015] ABC series American Crime, filmed on location in Austin co-starring Felicity Huffman and Tim Hutton. And he has a supporting role in The Object, a new short indie film made by the guys who run the Texas Theatre. In between all these legit acting jobs, however, Quattro isn't averse to taking $250-an-hour gigs playing a Halloween ghoul or Santa Claus at corporate parties.
It's tough to be the oldest guy at the audition, he says. Quattro is hard to categorize for casting. He's sexy but not your silver-haired Clooney-esque older leading man. Quattro can come across quirky and menacing, like Christopher Walken and John Malkovich; or dark and brooding like Tommy Lee Jones. Dallas theater director Emily Scott Banks, who staged WaterTower's Tom Sawyer, says she found Quattro "a delight to work with, wonderful intensity, always bringing new ideas ... and those eyes!"
"It's kind of challenging when you're older to find the roles for an edgy 60-year-old who still feels like he's 28," says Quattro. "And it's tough to not be typecast at a certain point. That's why I'm doing my own material."
Standing Eight Count is the one-man play Quattro has written for himself about his brief stint as a boxer when he was young. "I was on a downward spiral with too much alcohol and partying, and my dad, being a working class guy, thought boxing would be a great way to help a sensitive kid," he says. Besides the idea for the play, another souvenir of his short boxing career is the broken nose he never got fixed. (Quattro has submitted his play, directed by Clay Wheeler, to WaterTower's 2015 Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.)
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Writing his own material is about "having a bit more control over what I want to do at this point in my life," he says. "I've always had stories to tell."
Next he's venturing into directing with Why Things Burn, a play about a group of carnival workers by his friend Rick Krause that Quattro says he's had his eye on for 20 years. The $3500 budget was raised through Kickstarter this fall and rehearsals have started with a cast of locals that includes Danny O'Connor, Elias Taylorson (with whom Quattro co-starred in Of Mice and Men), Cindee Mayfield, Nikki McDonald, Patrick Douglass and Andrew Kasten. [The show will run January 9-23, 2015, at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park.]
"In order to stimulate the artist inside yourself, you have to keep doing work that is cutting edge," says Van Quattro. "Johnny Cash did that great song on his deathbed - "Hurt" by Trent Reznor - that was heavy and dark and incredible. This is all part of it, folks. As an artist, you can't put yourself out to pasture. I know I never will."
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino