In the Spotlight: Holly Dikeman on ‘Sylvia,’ changing things up on stage, and more

Holly Dikeman. (Photo/Beau Gustafson)

There’s no telling what you might see Holly Dikeman in next.

In just the past few months, she appeared in the musical “Into the Woods” at the Virginia Samford Theatre and the sci-fi comedy-drama “Marjorie Prime” at Birmingham Festival Theatre. And now,  starting Thursday and running through June 9, she’s in the comedy “Sylvia” at Homewood Theatre. She likes changing things up, and audiences love watching her do that.

Dikeman took a few minutes to answer some questions about her Birmingham theater career, “Sylvia” and more.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I have lived in Birmingham most of my life. I got my degree in psychology from the University of Montevallo a number of years ago and am director of human resources for a local technology company. I have loved performing all my life, so as much as I enjoy what I do for a living, it’s basically a way to support my theater habit. My siblings all live elsewhere with their amazing families, my parents are here in Birmingham (and are huge theatergoers), and I share my life with my beau, Beau, and two cats. We’re in a band called Exit Strategy, which keeps me busy when I’m not doing theater.

Can you tell me about your theater history?

Growing up I always loved going to Town and Gown and Children’s Theatre. As a kid, I knew some of the incredible people who built the theater community in Birmingham and never thought I would one day have the opportunity to be standing on these stages. I danced and sang in choirs but really didn’t start acting until college, and that was mainly for student-directed shows my friends were doing. My first show in Birmingham wasn’t until 2005, and once I started I never stopped.

What’s your first memory of being on stage? 

Ok, it’s not my first – there were dance recitals and school shows – but when I was in middle school I got to play the back end of a cow at Blue Moon Dinner Theatre in Vestavia. I don’t mind saying that cow stole the show.

What’s your favorite role you’ve played or show you’ve been in?

As Beau will tell you, the show that closed most recently is almost always my favorite show, but a few standouts are “The Big Meal” and “A Doll’s House” and “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” I got to play Nora in both shows, which are set years apart, both of which were directed by David Strickland at TNT. 

What’s a performance (on stage or screen) that sticks out to you as an audience member?

I can’t even begin to answer because I have seen so many incredible performances that have made me feel, and learn, and cry, and laugh. We have so much talent in Birmingham, and I am constantly amazed and delighted by what people give to the stage.

What is a role you wish you will or could have played?

Any role in the play “Noises Off.” I would do it in the parking lot right now.

Any great advice you’ve been given by a director or anyone else about being on stage?

The legendary Carl Stewart taught me many things, not the least of which was, “Don’t be on page 27 when we’re on page 16” (not an exact quote, but the gist is, “Be in the moment”), and to just tell the story. That’s what we’re all here to do.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I always walk the entire stage before a show – checking props, of course, but also just breathing and getting my head in the game. If I’m not nervous before walking out on stage, then I’m not doing it right.

Tell me about a time something went wrong on stage.

Because it is live theater, there are so many (one of which was the infamous “Good Day Alabama” TV segment of the Ghost of Christmas Past fall-down that shows up on Facebook every year at Christmastime), but one of my favorites was during “The Cake” at TNT. My scene partner and I were having a fairly tense conversation and I accidentally knocked over a container of about 10,000 forks. There was a second of not knowing what to do/we can’t leave the stage covered in forks, and then we wordlessly started picking up forks as we continued the scene. It was beautiful.

Tell me something people might be surprised to know about you.

I was actually a pretty good tap dancer back in the day.

What’s the last TV series you binged?

We’re working through “The Blacklist” right now, and I rewatch “The Good Place,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “Ted Lasso” on a regular basis.

Tell me about “Sylvia,” the production and your role in it. What can people expect?

It’s a delightful play with a wonderful cast. Autumn Brown Kisor plays Sylvia, the dog who is brought home unexpectedly by Greg (Dennis McLernon), an empty nester who just moved to the city with his wife Kate, who is “not in the dog phase” of her life right now. Chuck Duck plays three different characters who help tell the story. The show is a comedy with a lot of heart, and (director) Tawny Stephens does a great job of helping the audience see each character’s perspective. People can expect a good laugh and a lot of energy.

In just the past few months, you’ve done a musical, sci-fi drama and now a comedy – do you intentionally mix it up, or does it just happen that way?

It just happened that way. I didn’t intend to do three shows so close together, but all were such good opportunities with such good directors, that I just couldn’t turn them down. The fact that they’re so different makes it more interesting.

What’s next for you?

I’m taking some time to enjoy the summer (we love paddle boarding!) and focus on band gigs we have coming up in the next few months. We also have a couple of trips planned. I’ll be back on stage in the fall, so keep an eye out.

“Sylvia,” at Homewood Theatre May 30-June 9. Go here for tickets.

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