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Actor enjoys playing the hard parts

June 18, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Dan Young hasn't been himself lately. He's been Dr. Generosity.

The Hagerstown actor has spent the last month hawking snake oil and other elixirs as the star of a National Pike tent and medicine show in 10 performances of "Wagons Ho: The All-American Trail" at the New Embassy Theatre in Cumberland, Md.

Young said he enjoyed portraying the proud, eloquent and boisterous barker in a piece the actor described as "extremely historically accurate."

"Dr. Generosity was definitely a stallion," said Young, 49.

Theatre owner Mark Baker and poet/playwright Jerard C. Puckett wrote the lead part for Young, whose "hysterical" performance as fictional 99-year-old canal boat captain Otho Swaine kept New Embassy audiences in stitches during Canalfest 1999, Baker said.

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"We wanted to frame something for Dan that really showed his sense of humor," Baker added.

Young said he prepared for the role of Dr. Generosity in seven days, and modified his part between performances. The most difficult aspect of the role was memorizing its many lines of 19th-century dialogue, he said.

"I like something that's very challenging," Young added.

The Cumberland native always enjoyed acting, but he never really knew what he was doing onstage until he studied theatre with professor David Press at Frostburg State University in the 1970s, he said.

Press' role as historian Mansard Brevoort in "Wagons Ho" was an added incentive for Young to accept his part, he said.

The actor has performed roles ranging from formidable King Creon in the Greek tragedy, "Medea," to light-hearted Randall McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Young said he enjoyed portraying crippled World War I veteran boarder Moe Axelrod in "Awake and Sing," the story of a Bronx Jewish family caught in the jaws of economic collapse.

"The drama related to Moe Axelrod was unsurpassed," he said.

But it was the role of McMurphy, a character whom Young portrayed under the direction of Press at Frostburg, which was his favorite, he said.

"I had open reins to do anything I wanted to do," said Young, who won the college's Best Actor award for his performance.

The Nexxus hair care products educator and salesman said his busy work schedule keeps him on the road, and forces him to be especially selective when choosing roles. Young relishes the "escape" into any role he chooses, and loves playing to audiences who can leave behind their daily troubles to wrap themselves in the play, he said.

"I'll escape for you, if you'll escape for me."

Tony Award-winning actor Baker called Young a "unique talent" who shines both behind and in front of the curtain.

"Dan has a great palate of human understanding," Baker said. Young's acting is "very naturalistic but it has a lot of technique behind it to give it that polish."

Impressive performances in the parts that he's chosen have earned the actor accolades from audiences and his peers, but Young said the "confidence factor" has kept him from pursuing a professional acting career.

"Acting is a natural ability that I have, but I don't realize it," he said. "I don't talk about the things that I do right onstage. I dwell on the things I do wrong."

Young said he's also been hesitant to go professional because of the financial woes which aspiring actors often face.

"I love the theater. I truly love the theater. But I'm also a realist. The roles aren't there all the time," he said. "I like eating, too."

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