Natalie Young: The Showstopper

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In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Mark Graham. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

There is a moment in the sexy Adam Rapp play Red Light Winter that could test the courage of the most confident actress. The only woman in the show, a three-character drama about an erotic love triangle, must disrobe in full view of the audience. Naked, she climbs into bed with one of the two leading men. They make love for several long, moaning minutes, as realistically as live theater allows.

Natalie Young played the role of Christina the French prostitute in Second Thought Theatre's production of this play last year. Overnight, Young's performance was the buzz of audiences and critics. The show, also starring Drew Wall and Alex Organ, sold out the rest of its run.

It was a personal and professional breakthrough for Young, 27, a graduate of Plano Senior High and Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. She'd been knocking around Dallas theaters for a couple of years, getting small roles in Upstart's SubUrbia and Shakespeare Dallas' Merchant of Venice.

"Red Light was the first part that made people pay attention to me," Young says. "And yes, it was a difficult show. The acting space was small and the audience was on both sides. I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. I had to do a French dialect. I didn't know how to smoke. There were so many elements I never knew I could do until I got in there and did them. I've always been pretty fearless."

Young has now earned leading-lady status, fully dressed, in Upstart's Melancholy Play and Dallas Actor's Lab's Oleanna. Next year she's performing with the Dallas-based all-woman tap-dance company Rhythmic Souls (which she also manages) at Scotland's Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival.

"Natalie Young is a total gem," says director Regan Adair, who worked with her in the David Mamet play Edmond. "I precast her in Red Light Winter. She is one of the few actresses that

I've ever worked with that consistently commits to every scene, even in rehearsals, no matter how physically and emotionally demanding it may be. Natalie's rare gift is that of raw, honest emotion blended with just enough technique that she leaves you questioning whether you're watching a play or a real-life experience unfolding onstage."

The fall will bring a new round of auditions in Dallas; the question for Young is whether it will bring with it parts worth playing. "Being a girl who acts is tough in this town," she says.

"Every play seems to have parts for eight guys and two women."

But changing careers is not an option.

"There's this great quote that says if you can't go one day without thinking about something, then you have to do it," Young says. "I act because I have no good reason not to."

See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

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