On Stage and Screen, Liz Mikel is the Hardest-Working Actress in Dallas

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 Stanton Stephens. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here .

Here's where you might have seen Dallas actress Liz Mikel: singing the roof off the Wyly Theatre as wicked-sexy Evilene in The Wiz, as the song-belting narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as one of the ghosts in A Christmas Carol or doing comedy improv in Second City Does Dallas, all at Dallas Theater Center, where she's a resident company member. Or maybe you caught her in the title role in the musical Black Pearl Sings at Fort Worth's Jubilee Theatre.

Or as temptress Hetaira in the musical Lysistrata Jones at DTC, later getting rave reviews from New York critics for playing the same part in Off-Broadway and Broadway productions. Perhaps you spotted her in the role of Powers Boothe's caregiver in the movie Straight A's alongside Luke Wilson and Ryan Phillippe. She's also in a national ad campaign for White Cloud bathroom tissue and she played a judge on the cable TV reboot of Dallas.

All this, by the way, has happened over the last couple of years.

In three decades as a professional actress, Mikel, 49, has built an impressive and busy career around her big voice and powerful onstage and onscreen charisma. (You might also remember her as Corinna Williams on three seasons of NBC's Friday Night Lights.)

Growing up in the Red Bird neighborhood of Oak Cliff, Mikel studied dance as a child, with dreams of ballet. Hitting 6-1 at age 13, with a size 13 shoe, changed her plans. Her Equity card was earned in her 20s starring in the musical Blues in the Night at the old Dallas Repertory Theatre. A tour of Blind Lemon Blues with her mentor, Dallas-based actor-director Akin Babatunde, took her to Geneva and Paris, where she recalls the audience clapping and stomping through seven curtain calls on opening night. But she still calls Dallas home. "Dallas has been my incubator," says Mikel, who now lives just south of downtown. "So many people here have cultivated this big black girl from Oak Cliff."

This year Mikel will perform in her 18th go-round of DTC's A Christmas Carol (in the past she's played Ghost of Christmas Present and Jacob Marley). She opens July 26 in WaterTower Theatre's production of the disco musical Xanadu. In September she'll open DTC's season as Lena, the mother in Lorraine Hansberry's landmark 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun.

You'll also see her body-slamming Ben Stiller in the new film version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. And she just wrapped a role opposite Keith Carradine in Dakota's Summer, shot in Shreveport.

What's left, Liz Mikel?

"I'd like to delve into more Shakespeare. I'd love to play Cleopatra."

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