Dawn Victoria Dudley, far left, with Joy Zapata, center, and the Westworld team. (Video Courtesy of Television Academy Foundation)
Theatre Wesleyan alumna Dawn Victoria Dudley '93 was among the recipients of a 2018 Creative Arts Emmy Award. The 2018 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards were presented on Sept. 8 and 9, 2018 in Los Angeles, California and recognize the technical and creative contributions from artists that go into the production of a television series.
Dawn, who was recognized for her work on the hit HBO series, Westworld, is a wigmaker, cosmetologist, and member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE.
While a student at Texas Wesleyan, Dawn worked on several productions including Godspell, God's Country, Pirates of Penzance, The Birds, Sweeney Todd, Die Fledermaus, and The Man Who Turned Into a Stick.
In the midst of her busy schedule and Emmy honor, we reached out to Dawn and she told us about her experience as a theatre major, working in the industry, and how Joe Brown helped her on her journey.
"Theatre at Wesleyan, though tough, was a nurturing environment thanks to 'Papa' Joe Brown," Dawn said. "I think this was vital for me to be able to thrive as a young, sensitive student not always sure of what I wanted or needed. In addition to building a skillset over a variety of theatre crafts, Wesleyan taught me self-discipline, the value of a strong work ethic, and both personal and professional integrity."
The benefit of working at Wesleyan is that students get to participate in different facets of production. Dawn agrees saying, "We were required to spend time studying cross disciplines, both backstage and on stage, I have a working understanding of the needs and priorities of other departments and the actors with whom I work closely. I believe this makes me a team player and a responsible, considerate co-worker. It was a great foundation upon which to build my career ultimately specializing in hair and wig design.
Dawn talked about going to graduate school and receiving her MFA in Wig and Makeup Design from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and the differences had she just moved to one of the bigger entertainment markets like Los Angeles or New York City earlier in her career.
"In retrospect, I could have, and maybe should have. The skills I have learned on the job are every bit as valuable as my graduate education was. Higher education is important if you ultimately want to work in academia, which I also tried, but found it was not for me."
Among mentioning that "every craft is different," Dawn talked about the kind of working environment she thrives in and how the people she collaborates with encourage her own work ethic, and how she does her best to do that for the next generation.
"I thrive in an environment in which I can surround myself with my equals and betters. I believe this is the only way you can grow as an artist and as a human being, and it keeps me from being complacent. I regularly work with some of the best in the business who have given me unbelievable opportunities, and in turn, I try to pay it forward to those coming up behind me. I am an introvert and my colleagues and supervisors have often referred to me as their 'secret weapon.' I like it that way. You don't have to be a boss to be '[the] boss.'"
When asked on words of advice she would give to current and future Wesleyan students, Dawn says it is a "life-long experience" learning who you are as an artist and discovering what continues to push students to pursue work in this industry.
"In my experience, I have not been able to 'have it all' in getting where I am, and I have sacrificed the things that have grown less important to me over time, like relationships and family. Really consider your priorities and what you want your whole life to look like, not just work, expecting for there to be challenges and sacrifices in achieving your goals."
Dawn also gave one bit of advice she gives to students interested in pursuing a career as a hairstylist for film and television.
"For the love of God get your cosmetology license; the sooner the better. Do it in high school, if you can. I even spent 3 years working in a salon, and though that was never my plan long term, it was an invaluable experience in developing technical, people and business skills that benefit me to this day."
But overall, Dawn said that the best advice she can offer "is to follow your gut, and it if happens to steer you wrong and you end up where you don't want to be, just change course and keep moving forward. You will end up where you are supposed to be in the timing you are supposed to be there."