A Shining Star On The Stage

MONMOUTH — JennyLynn Dutrich moves around the set of “Death by Design” like she owns the stage.

One would never guess she is completely blind in her left eye.

“I can’t see hardly anything,” she said. “In my right eye, I can see pretty good, but not enough to legally drive, darn it!”

Dutrich, 40, also cannot hear out of her right ear. She can hear well enough to use a hearing aid in her left ear.

“On stage, I can hear the other actors say the lines, but I have to really pay attention to key words that they’re saying in order to know when to say my line,” she said.

Dutrich auditioned for Western Oregon University’s production kind of by kismet. The graduate student with a field of study in rehabilitation counseling for the deaf had intended to audition for the musical, “Company.”

“I couldn’t see the audition advertisement because they were so up there on the bulletin board, and I couldn’t reach it to take it down,” Dutrich recalled.

She asked a friend to read it to her, but instead her friend convinced her to audition for “Death by Design.”

“So sure enough, I came over to try out,” Dutrich said. She didn’t have a monologue or anything prepared, but read the part of the Irish maid, Bridgit, using sign language, Dutrich’s primary form of communication.

“Next thing you know, I got the call back and got the part,” she said. “I was really surprised.”

JennyLynn Dutrich studying lines
JennyLynn Dutrich studies her large print script for “Death by Design” at a rehearsal on Nov. 5. She is legally blind, and cannot see anything out of her left eye.

This isn’t Dutrich’s first production. She has acted in plays using both American Sign Language and speaking, and has sang and danced in choruses.

Acting takes her out of the everyday world, she said.

“It puts me in a different place where I am focusing on the character’s life, their world, and everything in it,” Dutrich said. “It takes me to a different scenario, because you have your everyday life, your everyday stress, and then for a few hours you get to be somebody else.”

She enjoys putting the pieces of a character together.

“For Bridgit, she’s an Irish maid, and she’s not very tidy, but she still has a good soul, and she’s kind of crabby,” Dutrich said. “Well, I don’t get to be crabby very much in real life because it’s not what you do. But in this play, I get to be as crabby as I want, and you live with it.”

Indeed, in the play’s opening act, Bridgit is putting her mistress to work in the garden picking greens for a salad. Although her character is a maid, she rules the house.

At the end of the day, Dutrich is grateful her friend advised her to audition for “Death by Design.”

“This has been a wonderful opportunity to do this particular production with this cast,” she said. “They have worked hard, just as I did. It’s been an amazing journey for all of us the past seven weeks, and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”

On Stage

What: “Death by Design,” Western Oregon University’s Department of Theatre and Dance fall production.

When: Continues Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Admission: General, $12; seniors, $10; students, $7.

For more information: WOU Department of Theatre and Dance, 503-838-8461; Rice Auditorium Box Office, 503-838-8462.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer