“Booking It”: A Conversation With Dane Reis
By Casey Bell
Once a high school athlete who hoped to go pro, Dane Reis learned how to pivot early on due to body injuries and surgeries. What started out as a favor to a friend of his sister ended up being a long-time love and career. Mr. Reis is a successful actor, stage manager, and now host of his own podcast, where he talks with show business professionals. He chose to get on the other side of the interview and answered a few questions for me.
1. What was your earliest memory of your first theater experience?
I’m basically your real-life Glee/High School Musical story. I didn’t start performing until late into high school after a series of concussions took me out of football, and the need for elbow surgery took me out of baseball. I went from having a crazy after school schedule to nothing to do. I was super bored, and then one day my sister’s friend was over and she asked, “We need a guy to lift some girls in this Christmas show. You want to do it?” I figured, I had nothing to lose, and said, “Yes.”
First day, I show up they hand me a pair of white ballet tights, a white dance belt, and said, “Go try this on quickly.” I had no idea what to do, or what I was even looking at. So, I put it on… and I didn’t discover this until years later that I was definitely not wearing the dance belt correctly, and nobody had the heart to tell me. Live and learn hey?
That Christmas show was what truly got me hooked on the theatre and performing. Being under the lights, hearing an audience cheer for you, the adrenaline of performing. I fell in love!
2. You have been a professional entertainer for more than 16yrs and performed in many different countries. Explain your journey on how you got to that success.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t start until late into high school, but once I started, I was in it 100%. I took every dance class in every style I could fit into my schedule. I joined choir, did plays with my high school, and got involved with community theatre. When it was time for college, I auditioned to be the mascot of The University of Montana. I got that, began a degree in vocal performance, and while there I even won the Capital One National Mascot of the Year Award for being the best collegiate mascot in the USA!
I felt like I wanted better training, so I transferred to The Boston Conservatory to study Musical Theatre. Did some regional shows, graduated, moved to NYC, did a bit of work there, performed on a few ships, moved to Australia where I performed, then moved to Las Vegas where I’ve been for the past seven years performing in nine different shows up and down the strip as well as international performances as a singer and performing in a variety act. That is a very nutshell outline, but that gives you an idea of my journey.
3. You are an actor and stage manager. Which came first?
Performance was first. It wasn’t until a few years ago that stage management found me simply by a series of fortunate events that simply boiled down to being in the right place at the right time, and saying “Yes.”
4. What led you to do both (perform and stage manage)?
For performance… Like I mentioned previously, it really was me not having anything to do after my sports injuries and needing to fill my time with something that was fulfilling. I always thought entertaining would be fun, but never really considered it. Then, I once I did that first Christmas show… I was hooked, and never looked back. That one dance show has led to an incredible career in this industry!
For stage management… That was a wild turn of events. I have a knack for saying, “Yes.” Almost 100% of the time. I was in performing in the production of BAZ at the Palazzo Theatre in Las Vegas and a series of scheduling events and people suddenly becoming unavailable had the production staff in a bit of a frenzy, and no stage managers for the show in a couple weeks’ time. So, they asked me if I’d be interested in calling the show. Mind you, I had NEVER called a show in my life. Let alone a full-blown equity musical with about 600 queues! I said yes, and figured it out. It was an insanely wild ride, but I discovered I really enjoyed it. After BAZ closed, other calls began to come in asking me to stage manage… and again, I said “Yes”
5. Do you prefer one over the other?
It’s hard to compare the two. My first love will always be performing on the stage, but stage management is very thrilling as well. It works a completely different part of my brain and creativity. My entire career I have expanded and diversified the different types of work I do because to me it is exciting to do and learn different things. It’s that journey that I’m really drawn to versus preferring one over the other.
6. Children are often discouraged by their parents to work in the arts. Did your parents support your decisions to work in the field of art?
I am very lucky. My parents are my biggest fans. In the very beginning, when I started dancing, they were certainly taken aback for a short amount of time since I had essentially made a 180-degree change in what I did (sports to dance). Even through that, they were always very supportive of me and did whatever they could to help me achieve what I was moving towards.
7. What advice would you give to the parents who do not support their children in the arts?
I usually highlight my career, and speak on the diversity of the industry. Being a movie star in Hollywood, or being a Broadway star is not the end all and be all. Most people simply don’t know how large the entertainment industry is. Most parents, and people for that matter simply don’t know what is possible in the arts. Making that aware to them usually is enough.
I also say, at the end of the day… your child’s life is not your life. They will do what they do regardless of what you want for them. Even if you manage to get them to do what you want them to… do you really want to have a child that resents you? Guide them, let them explore, let them try a million different things. They’ll find their feet and their passion.
Also, ask yourself… are you truly happy in your life? Beyond having what you perceive to be a secure source of income, because that’s usually what it comes down to. Most people are unhappy and have settled for a perceived level of comfort in exchange for any vibrancy of life.
8. What advice would you give the children who are not being supported?
Do what makes you happy. Do what you are drawn to. That also means be purposeful about what you do. Find your tribe. There are wonderful communities online where you can discuss your situation. Generally speaking, the arts is a very accepting place. In the scheme of life, having to endure unsupportive parents is a short amount of time. Stay focused, and find your people. If you need someone to reach out to now. Connect with me on social media. Let’s chat. @youbookeditpodcast
9. What three main advice from personal experience would you give a theater student on how to succeed in the theater world.
- Be good at what you do… that means be prepared, show up early, have integrity, and do what you do well.
- Be nice to EVERYONE
- Say, “YES” until saying, “yes” becomes a problem.
10. What inspired you to start the podcast, You Booked It, where you converse with other performing art professionals?
From my personal experience in the industry. I graduated from the #1 school in the USA for Musical Theatre. Then, when I went out in to the real world I suddenly realized even after spending $200,000 learning how to be a professional entertainer… I was CLUELESS on how to actually use my skills to create a career.
I don’t want anyone to have to experience that. It caused me years of momentum in my career. My primary goal in creating the podcast was to fill the gap between training and the real world. To discover the true actions and fundamentals needed to create a successful entertainment career.
11. What do you enjoy about hosting this podcast.
I love meeting new professionals from all aspects of the entertainment industry and having really impactful conversations that I know are really helping and inspiring so many around the world.
12. With the pandemic, where do you think the world of theater and live entertainment is headed?
I believe a lot of the “old school” and inefficient methods of auditioning and casting are going to be updated and rely heavily on technology.
I also believe once theatre’s open up again we will begin to see technology work its way in. I envision cleverly placed cameras live streaming productions and making those live streams available for purchase to a global audience in addition to the live theatre goers.
13. Who was your biggest influence in theater when you were first started out?
It was Lisa Deer. She was the dance studio owner when I began dancing. She had accomplished so much in her professional career and inspired me to work harder, dream big, and pursue a life in entertainment.
14. If you could have lunch and conversation with an actor (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Dwayne Johnson. In my opinion he is the epitome of mastering the business of the entertainment business. I love his energy. I enjoy his movies. His story and journey are absolutely incredible. He operates his entire life on such a high level. I want to be around that.
15. How do the readers find the podcast. Is there a website?
16. Any finals words to the readers?
If you are a professional in the entertainment industry, or aspiring to be an entertainment professional… Search for the podcast, subscribe, and start listening. Then, share the podcast with anyone you know who is in the industry, or aspiring to be in it.
Every episode is essentially a mini-masterclass! What you’ll learn, and what you will immediately take away from every episode is integral to your success in the entertainment industry.
If podcasts are your thing and you are looking for a theatre themed podcast then check out You Booked It. The show interviews show business professionals, on, off, back, under, and all over the stage. Dane’s story is definitely an amazing journey of not allowing setbacks to cause you to give up. Thank you to Dane Reis for sharing his story.