By Charity L. Cohen
Special to The Alamance News
Actor Robin Dale Robertson lounges by the pool of a hotel in his hometown of Burlington. He jokes about feeling like a Hollywood movie star, luxuriating and doing press as a “visiting artist”. He has returned to Burlington to play the role of Liberty Valance in the “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” with the Paramount Acting Company – the group’s final production before renovations begin on the Paramount Theater that will take it out of being a theater venue for as much as two years.
The pool that he is relaxing by is the same pool that his mother brought him and his friends to on Saturdays in the summer. The atmosphere surrounding that pool seems to be charged by memories of his childhood. An electric childhood filled with delight, self-expression, and sillines.
His mind flashes back to dancing to the “Twist” in his aunt’s living room as a child, and then to his performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beetles where he donned a wig and played a toy guitar for show-and-tell in elementary school.
He recalls his aunt’s praises as she clapped and laughed saying, “You sure do the Twist good!,” and his peers and teachers being impressed by his acapella show-and-tell performances.
He quips that his desire to perform and act first came about by these euphoric, and ego-driving moments of praise – but the essence of his call to acting is deeper than a surface-level need for approval. It is a desire to nurture the part of him that’s embedded in his soul where his inner child dwells.
“We all still have these children inside of us, all of us adults do,” Robertson said. “I guess Christ said it, ‘remain childlike,’ not in stupidity but in innocence, so there’s where I am.”
Robertson is the son of a tobacco farmer and part owner of the Newman-Robertson Tobacco Warehouse. As a child, he remembers being a very active child, engaging in many social activities and playing on his family’s farm with his siblings JoLene, Franci, and Renn.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he studied acting and directing.
His father, Joseph Robertson, wasn’t too enthused by his decision to become an actor, rather than a lawyer based on the belief that “acting sounded like more fun.” His father eventually warmed to the idea of his son acting when he saw him on the big-screen at Graham Cinema where he played a young salesman in the 1991 film “Rambling Rose.”
The conversations between Robertson and his father transitioned from jesty sports talk to thoughtful analyses of characters from films.
“He was talking in this industrial film lingo, acting lingo and now he was appreciative of what we call the craft and the terms and all that,” Robertson said. “It was very bizarre, but it took him being able to see that it actually can happen to someone, a farmer’s boy on the screen.”
Robertson’s mother, Allene, was always supportive of his creative aspirations – after all, she was the one who bought him the Beetles wig for his first performance in elementary school.
“I had a little turntable record player, and I’d go and buy musical theater albums, everything from ‘Pippin’ to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and she would like listen to me play those albums and sing along for those roles that I’d always dreamed I could do,” he said.
Over the course of Robertson’s career, he has produced, written and acted in a variety of theater productions, television shows, and films. His first experience as a professional actor was with The Gallery Players in Burlington. Some of his work includes roles in: FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow,” “Sweeney Todd,” PBS’s “The King of Crimes,” and “Summer Heat.”
[Story continues below photos of Robertson in other roles.]
Robertson currently lives in Wilmington, where does videography and works as a handy man. While he still enjoys his creative work as an actor, he finds his other jobs to be a perfect balance between the imaginative and “realness.”
When reflecting on his career as an actor, Robertson feels a sense of fulfilment, acknowledging the joy felt by his inner child, recalling the pride he felt when others appreciated his creativity as a child.
“I’ve gotten these chances to play things that would normally not happen to a tobacco farmer’s son from Burlington, North Carolina,” he said. “It all goes back to ‘You sure do the Twist good,’ it all comes full circle.”
He will be 66-years-old this year and doesn’t plan to retire from acting anytime soon, finding that roles for characters in his age range are more layered and complex.
“There’s more character-actor roles versus the young ingénues,” he said. “Hair leaves, but luckily wisdom in life, if not acting, grows.”
In his current production, he will play the role of Liberty Valance with the Paramount Acting Company.
This production is an adaptation of the 1962 western film – which has the same title – and will be the last play done at the Paramount Theater before this building undergoes renovations this summer. This will also be the last show put on by the Paramount Acting Company, which has operated for 25 years and put on 54 productions throughout the course of its run.
According to David Wright, Paramount Theater Director, the City of Burlington has authorized a $4.5 million expansion of the Paramount Theater into the Paramount Event Center. This project is expected to take between 18 months to two years to complete. David Wright will also being retiring this year with the acting company.
Wright said the renovated Paramount Event Center will always have theater with performances from The Gallery Players, the Alamance Children’s Theatre, and local schools’ dramatic art departments. He looks forward to the continued support for community theater by the event center and is excited about the Company’s final production with Robertson.
“We feel like we’re really going out with a bang with ‘The Man Who Shot Shot Liberty Valance’ and having Robin Dale Robertson come in as our guest artist,” Wright said. “He is just wonderful, and he has a great reputation in the community from when he was here as a younger man.”
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” featuring Robin Dale Roberston will run for one weekend only from June 22 through June 25.