The Pentacle Theatre Governing Board nominates Jo Dodge for an AACT Spotlight Award to celebrate her extraordinary contributions to Pentacle Theatre. Since the theater’s founding in 1954, no single person has given so much for so long. Over the course of the last 42 years Jo has been involved in enhancing every aspect of the Pentacle Theatre. She created a year round acting workshop. She has worked tirelessly in over 92 productions as a director, actress, costumer, artistic consultant, set builder and backstage crew member. She has served on the board, including a year as President in 1988, as a committee member and even briefly as an unpaid office manager.
Jo didn’t start out as an Oregonian by any means but she did start out as a thespian. Josefina Hernandez was born in New York City in 1936. She was youngest of 4, little “Josie” as her father called her. Her Bronx junior high drama teacher, Blanch Rothstein, recognized her talent and helped her get admitted to the, then brand new, “High School of Performing Arts” established in 1947 and opening in 1948, just in time for Miss Hernandez. (Mrs. Rothstein would do the same for Al Pacino just a few years later.) And so Jo and her best friend Doris set off together each day for the long subway ride to midtown. Her new school was the old P.S. 67, an elementary school, set in a l9th century Romanesque Revival style school building, in midtown Manhattan near Times Square. There were many professionals on staff, including a young Sidney Lumet in the drama department. She studied college prep academics in the morning and drama in the afternoon. Among her classmates were Suzanne Pleshette and Dom DeLouise. This was the beginning of her education as an actress and where she met her first husband and father of her 2 children, a fellow actor, John Graham.
After graduation, Jo spent 15 years at the Neighborhood Playhouse, performing and taking workshop during which time she refined her approach to acting and directing. She continued with theater while raising a family and navigating challenges in her domestic life. She moved from New York to Los Angeles to Hawaii, and finally to Oregon where she found her artistic home at the Pentacle Theatre, directing her first show in 1980.
What she began in 1980, she never stopped. As a director, Jo has been prolific. Counting her February 2022 production of Over the River and Through the Woods, she has directed 47 shows over the course of 42 years, including Zoo Story for the AACT competition in 2017. (The total would have been higher had COVID not interrupted the 2020 and 2021 seasons.) And she has helped her fellow directors behind the scenes in at least 48 other shows with everything from production consulting to props.
As an actress, Jo has shared her talents in 15 productions in such demanding roles as Kate in Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, Sister Aloysius in Doubt, Mary in On the Verge, Emily in Wings and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.
As a board and committee member she has served on the board and as President and contributed to season selection, volunteer coordination, the Director’s Forum, (a now defunct effort to improve the quality of directing through collaboration) and the annual fundraiser committee. She literally ran the theater’s office twice during gaps of Executive Directors.
Her most enduring contribution is her Acting Workshop, begun in 1981 and continuing to this day. She has trained and inspired, by conservative estimate, over 2,000 students. Her impact there has been profound, enhancing the lives of her individual students and growing the theater’s cadre of actors and directors.
But the number of shows and of students and of contributions tell only a small part of the story. Her most important gift lies in the intangibles. She helps us expand our sense of our collective humanity and the variety of the human condition. She does this by producing moving theater. She directs with insight and clarity, finding the subtext and human truth for each character on stage. She also does this in teaching acting workshop. She insists that her students collaborate not compete, and they do not. She makes the class a place of trust and growth. She helps her students act by finding the truth not relying on the gimmick and in so doing they discover truths about themselves. She insists they learn the script word for word, without paraphrase. Most importantly she helps her students learn that most fundamental aspect of human connection, to trust and support each other. As Mrs. Kendall said to the Elephant Man: “Trust is very important you know.“
In sum, her gift to all of us here is immeasurable. Although the theater honored her with its Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013 and a Lifetime Membership in 1999, the continuing quality and extraordinary volume of her contributions are deserving of this special recognition. We ask that the AACT award Jo Dodge a Spotlight Award.
Pentacle Theatre Governing Board