Lehman alumnus Angel Dillemuth ’06 may not share the fate of the many gun-toting “thug” characters he plays, but the Bronx native has pursued acting with the spirit of a hustler.
“It really is a grind,” he says, sporting a black graphic T-shirt that reads “Night Runners” above an image of a claw. He has a tattoo on his right forearm---the comedy and tragedy masks, a known theater symbol he got during his MFA at the Actor’s Studio Drama school. Apparently, a gang in upstate Connecticut has also adopted the symbol.
The working actor sacrifices financial stability to attend auditions and meet with a trusted acting coach throughout his busy week. Instead of full or part-time work, he juggles a number of per diem jobs---he works at a catering company, a hospitality company, as a substitute teacher, and puts up Christmas decorations throughout the city. He even serves as a senior house manager for Lehman’s Lovinger Theatre. Although challenging, he refers to it as “playing Tetris.”
“A lot of people think this is an overnight success kind of thing,” he says, “and it’s not. Even for the people who end up doing really well, there’s a lot of work you put into it. A lot of time.”
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) lists 22 films and television series featuring Dillemuth since 2007, including NBC’s “The Blacklist,” and the independent film “Dope Fiend.” In the spring of 2017, he completed his latest project, “Night Runners,” a sort horror film recently shown at the Nightmares Film Festival on Oct. 22 and nominated for best short thriller.
Dillemuth grew up in the Soundview section of the Bronx during the crack epidemic of the 1980s, where he could walk from his Rosedale Avenue residence and find a nearby park strewn with crack vials and smokers. At home, he and his five siblings were raised by his aunt and uncle in lieu of his absent parents, who were addicts at the time. To avoid this harsh reality, he acted in the religious- and Disney-themed productions of the C.A.C. Christian Theatrical Program at the Blessed Sacrament Church. One of his earliest roles was as a dog in “The Little Mermaid.”
The “misguided clown,” as he says, was always getting into trouble until his senior year at Cardinal Spellman High School. While auditioning for the school’s production of the musical “Grease,” he realized that acting was what he had to do; he resolved to pull himself together and work harder.
After graduating, he threw himself into auditioning, with no training, no guidance, and no luck.
“I think just being from the Bronx for me has just taught me a lot about survival and perseverance,” he says.
In the fall of 2002, he enrolled at Lehman as a theatre major and found a small crew as devoted as he was, including the current assistant director of Lehman Stages, Henry Ovalles ’06.
“The four big productions that the theatre program would put on every year were not enough for us,” Ovalles says. “So, we created a student repertory company, started doing shows in the summer, then later started doing shows in between the four shows.” They outdid their predecessors by doing “seven or eight shows” on a yearly basis and would take turns acting and directing one another.
“We were strong,” Dillemuth says. He began doing one-act shows and one-act competitions, primarily using the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, a “great space for beginning playwrights and people that just want to put up their work.”
Even though his focus now is on film and television, he finds theater training more beneficial to an actor than film training. “With theater training,” he says, “you’re training your whole body. With film training, you’re just learning to play angles, but you’re still not learning how to be yourself, how to react, how to listen appropriately, how to break down a scene. Because you can do a horrible job or you can do a brilliant job and the editing can make you look great or it can make you look horrible, [and] sometimes it’s not completely in your hands.”
“As far as the craft of it,” says Ovalles, who agrees, “I think any actor will tell you that it’s easier to make the transition from theater actor to film and screen actor, as opposed to the other way around.”
Early on, Dillemuth stood out to the director of Lehman Stages, Dante Albertie, who had taught and directed the actor at Lehman for years. “He was the most serious of the serious,” Albertie says. Dillemuth, Albertie added, is “a raw nerve, and his journey is to get through life not feeling everything.”