Dan Venne grew up in Racine loving theatre, acting in grade school and high school plays and taking on the role of Tony in Horlick High School’s West Side Story. He graduated from Carthage College with a BA in education, and then spent his career, 1987 to 2020, teaching in Racine elementary schools.
He spent 15 years as part of the cast for “Cardiac Capers,” a fundraiser for St. Mary’s Hospital. That included lots of singing and dancing, and gave Dan a good background for jumping into Racine Theatre Guild musicals.
It was when the RTG was doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1997 that Dan decided to audition.
“I just loved that show and the music,” he says, “and it was such a thrill to be cast as Reuben, the oldest son. My big song was ‘Those Canaan Days,’ done with a French accent. That experience was a real highlight, with our whole cast and crew in tears at the closing performance, because we had gotten so close to each other.”
Being a teacher is time-consuming, and Dan wasn’t able to fit much community theatre in his life. But in 2011 he was cast as the karaoke salesman in the musical Don’t Hug Me, set in Minnesota. Later that year Dan was Lawrence in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
“Again I had to do an accent, because I was a duplicitous con artist posing as a prince from a fictitious country with a British accent. Then I also pretended to be a psychiatrist with a German/Bavarian accent.”
Dan’s next appearance on the RTG stage was in 2020, as Charlie the postman in On Golden Pond.
“What a wonderful experience that was,” he says. “It was my first non-musical, and it was such a touching story and exceptional cast and crew. Once again I did an accent, this time trying to sound like someone from Maine. It is great that I have more time for theatre now that I’m retired, but then, unfortunately, came the pandemic shutdown. I look forward to volunteering in more back-stage activities in the future.”
Dan and his wife Pat have been ushers at the RTG for more than 10 years. They have two sons, one a teacher at Horlick, the other an administrator with Racine Unified. Dan has also been active in the choir and as a cantor at St. Lucy’s Church, a volunteer opportunity that keeps him in good voice.
“I am so looking forward to Guys on Ice,” Dan says. “Bob Benson and I are working hard at the accents and developing the characters of Marvin and Lloyd. I am playing with ways of bringing Lloyd to life. He’s down-to-earth, hopeful and funny. We are trying to make both guys believable, not caricatures. Even though I’ve never fished in my life, I love the script, and it will help me to become Lloyd and portray his love of ice fishing. The 15 songs are really comical, and I hope the audience will enjoy them as much as Bob and I do.”
When describing what keeps him coming back to volunteer at the RTG, Dan uses the word “play.”
“What we theatre folk do is have fun and play with the character and situations on stage. It is an opportunity to be creative with my theatre family, where I feel like I have a second home. There is nothing like theatre people, all spending so much time and using their talents freely on stage and off. It’s the people who draw me back to the RTG. It’s rewarding for me to be part of the sense of community and positivity that live volunteer theatre creates. Theatre gives me the chance to be a kid again, and I LOVE it!”
The RTG is lucky to have “players” like Dan Venne, and we wish him luck in his ice fishing.