STU grad Jeff Dingle wins acting award

Jeff Dingle plays Jack Worthing, J.P. in Theatre St. Thomas’ 2008 production of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. (Stephen Moss/TST)

When a young boy dressed like a pig walked on stage during a school play, he had no idea it was the first of many times he’d be in the spotlight.

As an actor, Jeff Dingle has come a long way since then.

The St. Thomas University graduate is in his final year at The George Brown College Theatre School in Toronto and recently won the Theatre New Brunswick (TNB) Foundation Stephen Graham Bird Award.
Dingle was getting ready for an opening night when he found out he won the award.

“I was in the shower that morning when my dad knocked on the door and told me a letter came from TNB and he read it out loud to me while I was still in the shower,” Dingle said. “It’s pretty awesome to find out you won an award and open a new show on the same day. Definitely the best day of the summer.”
The $3,000 award is given to students from New Brunswick who are enrolled in an acting school and show the potential to make a career out of it.

Dingle says his time at STU and performing for TNB gave him the foundation he needed to take his acting to thenext level.

“St. Thomas definitely influenced my decision to become an actor,” Dingle said. “I owe as much to Theatre St. Thomas as I do to TNB and I’m pretty blessed to have had Ilkay Silk as a mentor during my studies there. It was by doing productions with Ilkay that I really began to take acting and theatre seriously.”

STU has sent four students in four years to the National Theatre School and has sent numerous students to other notable institutions such as the Royal Conservatory in Scotland and George Brown, where Dingle is studying.

Silk said Dingle made a smart decision by coming to STU to get a degree before pursuing theatre school.

“Jeff is part of a robust group of actors who have come through here and I think that they all have greatly benefited from getting a degree from this institution,” Silk said. “I think that’s what we’re known for. If you want to study acting or go on to theatre school, you’re given a good foundation here.”

Dingle’s award has also sparked conversations among the current members of Theatre St. Thomas.

Nicole Vair is a second-year student who performed in TST’s production of Top Girls last year. Vair said knowing that a former TST actor is winning awards and pursuing acting as a career pushes her to take acting more seriously.

“It’s very encouraging, especially for someone like me,” she said. “I know there are lots of people who are involved in TST with me that love theatre so much, and to know that there’s so much out there for us after St. Thomas… is a great thing to know.”

Dingle was accepted into the National Theatre School (NTS) but decided to go to The George Brown College Theatre School instead. Dingle advises students applying to theatre schools to find a school that offers what you want to get out of acting.

“I’m sure there are some people that were disappointed that I didn’t go to NTS but I don’t think it was the wrong decision,” he said. “There is no such thing as a super-ultimate acting program that spits out mega actors that can do anything.

Theatre school is a testing ground for artists to experiment, learn about yourself and ultimately create tools to help you in the field, and even after graduation the learning never ends.

Acting is based on life experience. The important thing about theatre school is finding the right fit for you for the tools you want to develop.”