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Dana Schultes

It’s opening day at Stage West Theatre in Fort Worth and executive producer Dana Schultes is cool as can be. An industry vet of more than 20 years, she’s opened many shows over the course of her career—both behind and in front of the curtain.
“I considered other careers,” she says. “I thought about being a lawyer or a therapist or a nurse, but as an actor I get to live in the skin of different people from different walks of life, and that’s pretty cool.”
An Arlington native, the single mom of 9-year-old Matilda was bit by the acting bug early on. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Texas Wesleyan University, she traveled the world before settling close to home in Fort Worth.
She built a name for herself in the local theater scene then joined Stage West in 2004. In the years since, she’s done it all—swept the floors, served as stage manager and climbed the ranks to executive producer.
On top of her duties, she wears many hats—from director and sound designer to actor. She’s starred in a number of productions including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Streetcar Named Desire, but her favorite role is mom.
“It was an unplanned pregnancy that made both her father and I extremely happy,” Schultes says. “I loved being pregnant so much. Even today, at 40, if the right circumstances were in place, I would have another one.”
Where does your love of the theater come from? My mother’s side of the family was part of a traveling theater troupe. But my parents took me to the theater too.
What attracted you to stage west theatre? I first discovered Stage West when I was in college, and it’s been my home-base theater since.
Are you happiest on stage or behind the scenes? It depends on the project. I like to be on stage because it’s the only way to exercise that craft. It’s a real pleasure to work with other actors and the whole production team.
Is there a role you’ve played that stands out from the rest? There are many different roles that have been special for different reasons. For the great majority I try to just enjoy and be in the moment. And I love ones that Matilda can come see.
Does Matilda share your passion for the stage? It is a big part of Matilda’s life. She was at the theater with me from the time she was 2 weeks old. She does enjoy acting, but I don’t think it’s going to be something she’s going to want to do as a career. Of course, who knows?
Does having Matilda influence the roles you’re attracted to? She wants to see everything. I had to reflect on what I’m willing to compromise as far as innocence is concerned so she can be a part of this conversation. The compromise I made was with language.
You published a cookbook. How did that come about? In 2007, when we opened Stage West at its new location, we reinstated food service. For whatever reason, my very stubborn self decided to make every pot of soup. I stuck with it. For six years, I would pick a new soup and create my own version of the recipe. And then about that time I was ready to be done with it. It was a lot of cooking. I thought a book would be a great donor gift and Soups! was published in 2013.
Is Matilda’s father in the picture? Yes, her father is a theater teacher actually. And he’s a great dad. We support each other. We’re not together, but he is a big part of her life.
How do you balance your crazy work hours with caring for Matilda? I try my best to be married to the calendar, and if something is going to fall through the cracks, I make sure the one thing isn’t anything that she needs. It’s a juggling act, but my job is part of my life and it’s something that I love doing. And I get to let my daughter be a part of it. In fact, the reason we have theater classes is because I have Matilda.
If you could go back and offer yourself a piece of advice as a new mom, what would it be? Everyone tells you that it’s going to go by real fast, which almost becomes cliché. So I guess it’s kind of silly, but I would probably tell myself the same thing. That’s probably the hardest part of the whole process, is that it does go so dang quickly. At the same time, we the parents are rapidly aging as well. If there was ever a measurement of how quickly life goes, it’s having children and watching the aging process.
How did it feel to turn 40? I feel like I will go through life perpetually feeling like I’m 30—no matter what the outside looks like.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom? Holding her hand, saying I love you and making her smile.
Favorite way to spend a mommy-and-daughter day? I love to take her on the Trinity Trails, to the art museums and to see theater. Fort Worth is such an interesting city. It seems to be really down to earth, but I’d love to see it invest a little bit more in the arts. I’m a person who loves to walk around neighborhoods and see random art.
Where do you like to hang out when you’re not at work? When I go out with other adults it’s after a play. I love Republic Street Bar and Shipping and Receiving. If I do have a lunch date, I’m heading to the Near Southside neighborhood.
What do you do for yourself? I plan trips.
Where are you headed next? We’re about to go on a cruise, and we’re probably going to Colorado in the spring.