If you’re a member of the theater community, you’ve probably heard of the incomparable Donna Weinsting. She has been a staple of the theater community for a long time and definitely a true St. Louis treasure. We would like to take a moment to celebrate this amazing actress. Whether she’s acting in a local production or competing in a fundraiser to raise money for theater, she is always entertaining her audience. I had an opportunity to talk to her and ask her some questions about her career, her views, and her experiences, among other things.
Let’s Talk St. Louis Theatre
Jackie McGarry: What is your involvement in the St. Louis Theatre community?
Donna Weinsting: I am an actor and stand-up comedian.
JM: What are some memorable moments you have about shows you have been involved with?
DW: Hearing the audience respond with laughter and spontaneous applause is heady stuff. Those moments are delightful.
JM: What are some things that you think make St. Louis a strong community for the Theatre world?
DW: St. Louis has an abundance of talent that rivals anywhere on Earth. Entertainment abounds, and we have loyal audiences.
JM: What would you like to see as far as improvements in the St. Louis Theatre scene?
DW: I wish there could be more grants and monetary support for the arts. Theatre is so important, and should be encouraged to flourish.
All About Donna
JM: How long have you lived in St. Louis?
DW: I have lived in St. Louis most of my life. I am an unabashed fan, and think we have a rich cultural, artistic, and intellectual community. We also have baseball. Go, Cards!
JM: Do you have any passions outside of acting?
DW: I play tennis and golf as much as possible and enjoy my grandchildren and now I have beautiful new great grand babies.
JM: Do you have a day job?
DW: I have been a real estate agent for 40 years. I used to work for builders and sell homes to be built in subdivisions. Now I just help friends and family buy and sell their homes.
What An Amazing Career
JM: How old were you when you first started acting?
DW: I started acting in that first park play and then in high school. I did some theatre as a young woman but left for 30 years to raise my family. One day I realized what I was missing in my life was theatre and I went to an audition, got cast and haven’t stopped since.
JM: What was your first acting role? How many years have you been acting?
DW: My very first acting role was in a summer camp sponsored by the St. Louis City Parks. It was Sleeping Beauty. I had no lines but the girl next to me was supposed to put the crown on Sleeping Beauty after she awoke and say, “Here is your crown, princess.” The crown had tumbled under the bed and while the girl whose line it was looked for it I pulled it out and said her line. I think I was 8 or 9. That was many decades ago and I’m still not sorry.
JM: Do you prefer musical theatre or non-musical theatre? Why?
DW: I love both musical and non-musical theatre and have done both, although I consider myself an actor who sings a little; not a singer.
JM: About how many shows a year do you do?
DW: I do usually at least 4 or 5 shows a year, a few stand-up gigs in between.
JM: What has kept you interested in performing arts?
DW: Each role I get to play is a new adventure that I get to embark on with new partners. It never gets boring. I am always grateful and delighted to start the journey.
JM: You had mentioned that you do stand-up comedy. How did that opportunity arise?
DW: I started stand-up on a whim. I was always the funny one and one night about 20 years ago I went to an open mic at The Funny Bone. I did well and I was hooked. Making an audience laugh is euphoric.
JM: What are some differences and similarities between stand-up and stage acting?
DW: Being a good actor is an immense help to a stand-up comic. If you have good material, good stage presence is going to set you apart from other comics. It is also more terrifying than acting. In a play, you are someone else saying prepared lines. When you are doing stand-up, you are you and if you bomb it’s all your fault.
JM: Some actors feel that they are stronger in comedy or drama. Do you feel that you tend to one over the other? Why or why not?
DW: I am considered a good comic actor and I embrace that. Good comic timing is a gift and not easy to teach. A dramatic role where you can reach inside and pour out your emotions is very satisfying too. I hope I am considered capable of both.
JM: What is a role that you would love to play but haven’t yet had the chance to?
DW: I’ve been given the opportunity to play some wonderful characters and hope I get the chance to play many more. My dream roles are ones I’m not right for so I play them in my mind.
JM: Have you ever sustained an injury while performing?
DW: I have fallen several times in the theatre in the dark because of lack of proper glow taping. Lots of bruises but no broken bones.
JM: Are you involved in any upcoming shows you’d like to mention?
DW: I am in an exciting, immersive production of “Uncle Vanya”, which will run the last weekend in August and the first weekend in September. It will be performed in a large home in Ladue, and will include lots of vodka. The cast is amazing. It’s a Rebels and Misfits production. Watch for details on tickets.
Some Words of Advice and Encouragement
JM: What is a great piece of advice you’ve been given by a fellow actor that you would like to pass on?
DW: The best advice I’ve gotten from another actor is to never let them (the audience) see the acting.
JM: What would you tell someone who intends to pursue a full-time acting career?
DW: My advice to anyone wanting to pursue acting full time would be develop a thick skin and never stop learning and stretching the boundaries.
JM: What, in your opinion, is the most difficult part about acting, and what coping mechanisms have helped you in dealing with those difficulties?
DW: The most difficult part of acting is auditioning and dealing with rejection. I’ve learned over the years to not take it personally but to realize I just didn’t fit the vision that the director was looking for. That makes the offers you do get that much more satisfying.
In addition to “Uncle Vanya“, Donna will be performing a one-woman play at The Chapel September 15-30. Entitled “Unsuspecting Susan“, it is written by Stewart Permutt and directed by Robert Neblett for Inevitable Theatre Company. Tickets are available through www.metrotix.com. St. Louis Limelight Magazine will be reviewing both productions, so be sure to watch for them!
Feature image by Allan Crane