PENINSULA PROFILE: She finds home in many roles — theatrical and real

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

A LOOK AT actress Heather Dudley Nollette's performance schedule this month is like a view of the local theater scene. Here's a cross-section.

■   “Here, There and Everywhere,” short monologues by women playwrights from Mexico to Canada to South Africa, this Tuesday and next Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m., Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St. Tickets are $10. Information is at www.KeyCityPublic and 360-385-5278.

■   “Women of Courage,” a trilogy of short plays by Rebecca Redshaw: “Lunchtime Temp,” “Hazel Speaks!” and “A Conversation with Hattie McDaniel,” this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd., and next Sunday, March 17, at 2 p.m. at Olympic Theatre Arts, 414 N. Sequim Ave. Tickets are $15 at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., Port Angeles; Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St., Sequim; and from the League of Women Voters' Clallam County chapter at www.

■   “Hate Mail,” a comedy play-in-progress by Jack Heifner, read by Scott and Heather Dudley Nollette at 7 p.m. this Thursday, March 14, and on March 21 at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St.

This week's event is “An Evening with Jack Heifner,” the author of “Vanities” and the featured guest at the 2013 Playwrights' Festival. Tickets are $20. The March 21 performance is “Hate Mail” only for $10.

For reservations for these and other Playwrights' Festival parties, workshops and performances, phone 360-385-5278 or visit

Diane Urbani de la Paz
Bobbi the lunchtime temp is headed to another new job, smile on face.

Kathy, meanwhile, is also in transition. At the right moment, she meets a wise woman who takes her by the hand.

Then there's Heather. She's moved all over North America, become an actress, project manager, wife and mother.

Heather Dudley Nollette plays these roles and then some. This month she will appear in “Women of Courage,” a trilogy of short plays at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse and at Sequim's Olympic Theatre Arts. She'll open the show as Bobbi in “Lunchtime Temp,” a quick and comedic monologue. Then she's in the third piece, “A Conversation with Hattie McDaniel,” as Kathy, the woman who listens to McDaniel's story of her extraordinary life as an African American actress in the 1930s.

“We bonded right away,” said Marie O'Neill, the Sequim actress who plays McDaniel.

Nollette “gets into the psychological aspects of her character. She looks at who [Kathy] is, and that comes through in the reading.”

Nollette is also relishing the role of Bobbi in the comedic monologue “Lunchtime Temp.”

“Bobbi someone who is trying to find her power,” she says.

“She's going back into the work force, trying to find what she's good at. She has a glass half-full view of life,” despite a series of hard knocks. “I find myself drawn to women like Bobbi.”

Also in March, the actress will join her husband Scott Nollette for readings of “Hate Mail,” a spoof on A.R. Gurney's play “Love Letters,” during the 17th annual Playwrights' Festival in Port Townsend. “Mail,” a new comedy by festival guest playwright Jack Heifner, gives the pair a rare chance to perform side by side.

Nollette is well-known on the local theater scene, though she moved to Port Townsend only six years ago. She came to work for her family's business, the Hastings Estate Co., rehabilitator of the Hastings Building downtown.

Then she added another job: working with Frank DePalma to open the CoLab, a cooperative work space above the Silverwater Cafe on Taylor Street.

The CoLab (www.PT is a 2,300-square-foot space with a shared kitchen and conference rooms for independent professionals, Nollette says. It's an experimental place, a laboratory where business people can share ideas.

At the same time, Nollette has turned into a self-described “historic preservation geek,” amid her family's plans to restore the Hastings Building, the edifice that dominates the corner of Taylor and Water streets.

Talk about “women of courage,” Nollette says: Her forebear Lucinda Hastings was one of the first white women to start a new life in remote Jefferson County. Lucinda and Loren Hastings were the fourth family to stake a claim here; they built the big blue Victorian in 1889.

Some 117 years later, Nollette came to work at the Hastings Estate Co. with her parents, Harry and Zoe Ann Dudley, and her aunt Lucinda Dudley Eubank, who is named after Lucinda Hastings. Nollette is project manager for the Hastings Building and Hastings Landing behind it; the plans for its next life are outlined at

“I am so blessed to be working with my family,” Nollette says.

She grew up the daughter of a Coast Guard man, moving every two years or so from Virginia to Maryland to California, Oregon and Washington. She graduated from Woodinville High School in 1988, and then relocated another 15 times, working in theater, film and other projects.

Her formal education came via the professional acting program at the Freehold Studio in Seattle, where she built her career, appearing in the short films “Anybuddy Home,” “Suicide Run” and “Betty,” doing voice-over work for Microsoft and Big Fish Games and performing at the Seattle Public Theatre.

But Nollette has chosen a different life in Port Townsend. She and Scott are parents to Elan, 2, and Aidan, 6, so they have a vested interest in the community's future.

Ask her what her hopes are, and she answers that for this phase of her life, she is about making Jefferson County a place where young people can make full lives, with work, art and family in balance.

Nollette is herself learning how to integrate those three things.

This is the shape of the future, Nollette believes: a new economy in which people can balance their livelihoods, their relationships and their creative work.

For her, the winter hasn't been a slow one on any of those fronts.

Take the theater work, just to start.

“When it rains, it pours,” Nollette says — which is all right with her.

She's appearing in Key City Public Theatre's “Here, There and Everywhere,” an evening of short monologues by women playwrights around the world, at the Key City Playhouse this Tuesday and next Tuesday,
March 19.

She'll do two performances of “Women of Courage,” this Friday evening at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse and next Sunday afternoon, March 17, at Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim.

Also in there are the two readings of “Hate Mail,” this Thursday and next Thursday, March 21, at the Key City Playhouse.

Denise Winter, artistic director at Key City Public Theatre, worked with Nollette on the Tin Pan Alley revue “Here's to the Ladies!” and the drama “Birnham Woods,” among other productions. Scheduling rehearsals and performances around Nollette's other obligations is no easy task. But to Winter, it's worth it to have this actress on board.

“She comes with a lot of tools in her tool belt,” Winter says. “There is always going to be a place for Heather Dudley Nollette.”

And while Winter is not quite ready to disclose details, she and Nollette are planning to collaborate on a musical this summer.

When asked how she learned to sing, Nollette replies that her childhood was filled with music. Her father played in a Dixieland jazz band; he's a guitarist and drummer, while her mother plays the bass. Now retired, her parents travel around the United States with the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe and Drum Band, playing in parades and ceremonies.

At Christmas time, her dad is Old Crusty of the Old Crusty Minstrels, a group that hosts sing-alongs at The Upstage in Port Townsend.

These days, Nollette still marvels at the high quality of art and life in Jefferson County. To give one example, she recalls how her son Aidan, a kindergartner at Grant Street Elementary School, came home one day to explain pointillism. He learned about it from the school's art teacher, the nationally known painter and illustrator Jesse Watson.

Theater here is just as vibrant, Nollette finds. In addition to her Key City Public Theatre work, she has acted in productions at Chimacum's Paradise Theatre School, including “Othello” in 2010. Nollette, pregnant at the time, played Shakespeare's fair Desdemona.

A fundraiser for the Paradise Theatre School, a show called “Humor in Paradise,” connected Nollette with Sequim playwright Rebecca Redshaw. Redshaw penned “Lunchtime Temp” for the show, and then watched with delight while Nollette took it away.

In “Temp,” Bobbi is on the phone with an unseen, unheard male caller. He gives her some strange, implausible news.

“She's trying to be sympathetic,” Redshaw says. “It's very funny,” and Nollette carries it off, the writer adds, with signature style.

Someday, perhaps 10 years from today, Nollette hopes to return to acting full time. She envisions traveling with Scott, Aidan and Elan, perhaps performing in regional theater. Acting “is where my heart and soul are,” she says.

Yet, Nollette adds, she is well-nourished here and now. She and Scott recently saw the One-Time Players' “August: Osage County,” a benefit for Port Townsend High School's drama program.

“It was stellar,” Nollette says.

“It's easy to become jaded” as an actress. But whatever the size of the theater she's sitting in, Nollette wants to keep her mind open.

“There's always a moment . . . one interaction between two performers that I can learn from.

“One of the things I love about being a performer,” she adds, “is that it's a lifelong mastery.”

Last modified: March 09. 2013 5:57PM
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