Dahl sisters bond over theater

Dahl sisters bond over theater

Siblings bond over a variety of passions: sports, music, art. For Allison Dahl (12) and her sister, Natalie (9), it is theater.

A love and support for the arts runs in the family. Their oldest sister, Sarah (’15), majors in visual art and is involved with painting. Their mom minored in dance and participated  in band, color guard, choir and theater when she was in high school. Their dad, a professor, has experience speaking in front of audiences and has helped them develop their confidence and projection on stage. It was only natural for Allison to take a liking to theater at a young age, a love that has since spread to Natalie, and also their youngest sister, Meredith.

It began with a series of theater camps that their mom registered Allison for. Describing herself as a “rambunctious child,” Allison enjoyed the camps and found her niche in theater programs, inspiring Natalie to follow in her footsteps.

“Theater looked cool to me because I was never really into sports, and Allison was the closest [sibling in age] so I thought, ‘Wow! This looks so cool!’ and I just wanted to copy her,” Natalie said, with Allison chuckling. “It was something you could [constantly improve your skill at] and it wasn’t like sports where I was pressured to already be good at age 7.”

As time has passed and they have gained experience in theater, the sisters find that their love for it and support for each other is invaluable to their relationship and theater performance. One of their pastimes is attending shows with each other and analyzing them, because for Allison and Natalie, seeing shows is much more than just a form of enjoyment.

“It’s thinking, ‘What did this choice mean?’ ‘Do you think the directing choice was appropriate?’” Allison said. “It’s a lot of things to consider, and it’s nice that I have someone to talk to about these kinds of things, that understands, rather than just me ranting and the person nodding along.”

When attending each other’s productions, they make sure to give each other feedback.

“Back when we weren’t in the same shows, we would go and see each other’s and comment on different things, not critique in a bad way, but we’re not just going to say, ‘Oh, you did a great job!’” Allison said. “I think because we’re sisters, we have a little bit more of a bond where we can say things like that, where we can be more honest with each other.”

The feedback goes both ways. According to Natalie, each has her own strengths that complement the other. Though both have taken dance before, Allison considers Natalie to be a stronger dancer, and Natalie says that Allison is more skilled at acting and belting when singing.

This year’s musical, “Legally Blonde,” is the first school performance in several years that they have been involved in together, as their age difference has often split them between schools. For this show, Allison plays the role of Vivienne Kensington, and Natalie is the assistant dance captain who helps the cast members learn the choreography. Though Natalie is a newcomer to high school theater, she said that she has faced little difficulty adjusting to its environment in addition to being a dance captain because she already knows many upperclassmen through Allison.

“If I didn’t have [those relationships], I don’t think I would have been able to do a job anywhere near as well,” she said.

According to Allison, her character does not dance as much until near the end, which allows her to observe the other dance numbers and give feedback to Natalie on how she is teaching the choreography.

“It’s nice to have her come back home and ask questions [about the choreography] that I might not have clarified, or even I can tell her and say, ‘Maybe you weren’t loud enough on this line,’ or whatever it might be,” Natalie said.

And like all siblings, they have their moments of bickering, or “differences of opinion,” which often includes their mom as well.

“Whenever we prepare for an audition, it’s not a one-person thing; it’s a three-person thing, us two and then my mom,” Allison said. “We all give opinions, and sometimes those opinions clash because we’re all very outspoken.”

But behind the minor clashes and overlapping chatter, there is a strong and loving support system from their family. The close relationship Allison and Natalie share with each other and their family through theater has inspired them to  continue their tradition of the arts. Both share the same effervescence in speaking about their futures and love for theater. But while Allison looks to her plans with an enthusiasm combined with the poise and slight sagacity of one preparing to graduate, Natalie is just getting settled and possesses a bubbly excitement for what the next few years hold. She is especially eager to take on the role of being a theater mentor for their sister, Meredith, who is in middle school.

“It’s so fun,” Natalie said. “I remember Allison helping me during my auditions for Mesa Verde, and now I get to help Meredith. I’m really excited to be that role model that Allison was for me for theater, because it’s really impacted my life.”

For Allison, she is considering a minor in theater and hopes to continue performing and providing support in any way she can. Both sisters’ desires to be support systems for their family and the community stem from the encouragement they received from their parents and others who have helped them cultivate their passion for and experience in theater.

“We have a lot of local theater groups for kids, and I think it’d be really cool if I could volunteer my time to help younger kids experience the same growth that I experienced in my various shows that I’ve been in,” Allison said. “My mom helps with our program a lot, she donates a lot of her time and I think that’s really invaluable to the program. I think it’d be really cool to give back like that.”

For now, although Allison and Natalie may have busy schedules, theater is the one place they know they can spend time with each other.

“When we actually have time together at rehearsal, when we’re doing things or talking about roles together, or we’re driving home together, it lets us bond a little more than if we were in completely separate areas in school,” Allison said.

And even though Allison is set to leave for college this year, they know that theater remains a special, integral part of their relationship that will keep them close.

“I’m sure when I’m at college, you’ll still text me 3 a.m. before an audition saying, ‘I need help’?” Allison asked, turning to her sister.

Natalie nods in full agreement.

“Yeah, pretty much!”