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Theater alum stars at Geffen

By Alexis Matsui

Dec. 1, 2004 9:00 p.m.

When Janelle Dote graduated from the theater department in 2003,
her interest in acting was just emerging from backstage to front
and center.

In the Geffen Playhouse’s revival of Alan Jay Lerner and
Frederick Loewe’s “Paint Your Wagon,” Dote will
get to hone in on all aspects of the stage skills she learned at

Focusing on costume design in school, Dote learned about acting
from a unique angle, refining her skills in researching character
development, setting and era.

“You learn a lot about history and character work from
costuming,” she said.

The history and character work involved with a piece like
“Paint Your Wagon” will certainly help Dote to grasp
the historical role she will be playing.

Set in the California Gold Rush era, the play features Dote as
one member of a three-girl Chinese singing group, the Fandango
Girls, looking to entertain miners and entice them out of their
money. Like most gold rush stories, few strike it rich, and the
main characters are left to find their wealth by less material

“It’s a show about what gold does to people,”
said Dote. “The men spend all their money on girls, drinks
and gambling, which influences the next generation.”

Although she studied musical theater as an undergraduate, Dote
admits she’s not yet an expert.

“I’m kind of a late bloomer in the world of musical
theater,” she said.

Rather than focus solely on musicals, Dote was interested in
many aspects of theater and was able to dabble a little in many
different areas.

“I love trying everything,” she said. “I was
all over the department.”

Dote has been working with children in a kids theater group and
has also been pursuing her acting career since graduation. She
recently finished taping Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of
Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha,” in which
she performed a dance sequence.

Before that, she appeared in the play “Through a
Child’s Eyes” at the Grand Opera House in Delaware.

Dote attributes her success in acting to her well-rounded
education and an enduring passion for the art.

“What’s great about UCLA is that it makes you
experience everything in your freshman year. The production,
movement, acting, lighting, play reading, history, etc. It all
becomes so important.”

Dote also feels that UCLA’s small classes and attentive
faculty also made her theater experience unique.

“The faculty is phenomenal and very supportive,” she
said. “They keep classes small, and there is a lot of
individual attention.”

Dote has an especially positive outlook on her career as an
actress, which is a clear product of both her training and her
spiritual faith.

“There are definitely challenges in acting because there
are so many people here pursuing it. But when you love to do
something, you don’t so much choose a career as it chooses
you,” she said. “What really helps me is that I have a
passion that fuels. Any time there’s a set back I learn from
it and I accept that there’s a reason for it.”

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Alexis Matsui
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