Preview: Pitt grad Dylan Marquis Meyers rises to a starring role for PICT

by Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ralph Musthaler/Post-Gazette

Karen Baum, as Biddy, and Dylan Marquis Meyers, as Pip, in PICT’s “Great Expectations.” Photo by Ralph Musthaler/Post-Gazette

Dylan Marquis Meyers did not have great expectation of a career in theater until he was a senior at Rockwell Area High School in Somerset.

The star of PICT Classical Theatre’s season-ending play, “Great Expectations,” anticipated he’d be starting a career as a video-game developer around now — not playing Pip in Charles Dickens’ classic coming-of-age story. The change in direction came about when a teacher, Lee Hetrick, intervened.

She told him he should be onstage and persisted, driving Mr. Meyers to auditions in Johnstown, where he won a role in Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“I was backstage and [assistant director and acting coach] Paula Carroll turned to me and said, ‘You look like a Bob.’ She cast me in Lloyd’s Prayer” as Bob, the raccoon boy [in 2010], and that was it for me. The fact that I am in shows now and able to live, what could be better?”

Mr. Meyers high-tailed it out of Somerset to study theater at the University of Pittsburgh, where he found another inspiring teacher, Elizabeth Mozer. And he graduated this year, already having found a professional mentor, PICT producing artistic director Alan Stanford.

They met when Mr. Stanford directed and starred in “The Importance of Being Earnest” two seasons ago.

“That was a stroke of luck for me, being able to hit it off with him and for him to come into that position [replacing Andrew Paul as head of PICT]. One of the things that Alan does for people like myself, Lily Davis and Jordan [Ross Weinhold] is he brings them up. Over the course of two years, I’ve gone from having two lines to having … hundreds! I don’t think that would have been possible had I not had him as a mentor and resource.”

The actor described the vibe at PICT as “not just building a company but building a family,” with veteran and young actors performing in repertory throughout the season.

Mr. Meyers also has appeared this season in “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme” and “Macbeth.” As Pip, he is on stage almost continuously, and he evolves from innocence to experience in an iconic Dickensian role.

“If it’s not daunting it’s not fun,” he said. “It runs the spectrum from terrifying to exciting. I don’t want to ever get to the point where I’m comfortable going into a role. If it doesn’t scare me a little bit, I think I wouldn’t be able to work as hard.”

He didn’t have far to go to arrive at PICT, which performs in the Stephen Foster Memorial theaters on Pitt’s Oakland campus. He wasn’t looking for a conservatory college experience, he said, but the variety of liberal arts subjects such as sculpture and drawing that inform his acting.

Being part of the PICT family also has been a learning experience. In “Great Expectations,” he plays opposite veteran actors such as Mary Rawson as Miss Havisham, a wealthy woman who has been warped by being left at the altar and lives in a wreck of a mansion with her adopted daughter, Estella, played by Ms. Davis.

Pip is pulled into their twisted world, and his life of expectations begins.

As the days to this weekend’s opening night drew closer, Mr. Meyers’ expectations were high.

“Energy in the rehearsal room is great, and every direction Alan gives is a gift,” he said. “It’s great to know you’re making progress every day … and it’s truly a gift to be around [actors] Marty [Giles], Mary Rawson, Jim FitzGerald … Oh my goodness, I have so many people to learn from and absorb from. I very much look forward to rehearsal every day.”

Unlike Pip, he’s entered into a harmonious world with shared goals. It may be “terrifying to exciting” to face down a Dickens challenge, but it can be fun as well.

“And if you’re having fun,” he said, “you’re doing good work.”

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