By Agnes L. Moses
At the school, just before he appeared for this interview, his advanced drama students enthusiastically endorsed Dirtadian as a “great teacher.” One of them said, “He’s the best and it’s really neat having a drama teacher who is actually working in the theatre.” Consider this as a real tribute to the instructor of a two-hour a day, five-day a week class.
This interview was squeezed into an already busy day for Dirtadian. He graciously answered questions in between auditioning his “kids” for singing parts in Catalina’s upcoming production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” And that very evening marked the opening of the “Simon Peter Easter Pageant“ at Tucson Convention Center where he portrays Peter, his 12th year of performing in that role.
Dirtadian pointed out that he had been sick, missing most of the rehearsals. He said, “I feel sorry because it’ll be harder for them and they are such kind people.”
This honest-to-goodness tall, dark and handsome man grew a luxurious black beard for his role as the Biblical Peter. He’ll shave it off for his leading role in Southern Arizona Light Opera Company’s production of “42nd Street,” opening May 17th.
Dirtadian, a bass baritone, has been a popular leading actor at the Gaslight Theatre for over eight years, remembered especially for his role as “The Sheik” (EM, September 1985). He reflected that the biggest difference in preparing for his “42nd Street” part and for the musical comedies at the Gaslight lies in the music itself. “The score of “42nd Street” is very complicated and the harmonies are intricate,” he said. He has also performed at the Arizona Theatre Company.
Then, too, he plays golf. Except, “plays” is not the correct verb. “I compete,” he stated, adding, “I never relax on the golf course.”
He and his advanced students have produced “Christmas Carol” and “Bits and Pieces” so far this year. According to one of the students, they’ve sold out all the seats and made a profit too.
While working on “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Dirtadian said, “The students will have the excellent experience of working with professionals from’ 42nd Street.’ Harriet Cowhey will be the musical director and Cathy Cook the choreographer.”
Dirtadian, himself thoroughly professional, serves as a role model as well as a teacher. Of the most important things he shares with his students, he says, “I try to make them realize the seriousness and hard work involved in the theater; in creating a character. I think I help them to learn about themselves and to be more sensitive to other people.”
In Dirtadian’s hands and with his example, it looks like more Tucson talent is being modeled into future homegrown stars. Performances of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” are scheduled at Catalina High School on May 29, 30, 31 and June 1st at 7:30 pm.
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by Robert E. Zucker
The local entertainment scene in Tucson, Arizona during the 1950s through 1985 was vibrant from the ‘50s rock and roll of the Dearly Beloved to the ‘80s with the Pills, Giant Sandworms and everything in between classic rock, disco, alternative, punk, hard core, country, swing and Big Band. Hundreds of bands and thousands of entertainers over three decades. Within these pages are the memories and the experiences of those people and places.
These are the original articles and interviews published in several local newspapers that covered the Tucson entertainment scene over the decades. Follow their stories through the years the big breaks, record releases, hot performances and duds, break ups, tragedies, personal insights and struggles.
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