David Dressel (1958-2018): A Life in the Theatre

MUSKEGON — David Dressel was an accomplished high school football player and record-setting weightlifter when he got bit by a bug:

The Acting Bug.
A lineman for the storied Big Reds of Muskegon High School, the 1976 MHS graduate walked away from the gridiron and into a life in the theatre.

Furthering his education first at Muskegon Community College and then, in New York City, The American Academy for Dramatic Arts, Dressel strode a career path that wound through acting, directing, designing and all manner of tech.

Dressel was 59 years old when he died Thursday, May 17. His wife of 25 years, Jacquelin Ford Dressel, said he had been battling lung cancer.
Dressel got his theatrical start in 1975, when he was part of the Story Truck troupe that toured moveable feats in West Michigan.

He did not begin as an actor, but rather as a “techie.”

“I was told Dave was the muscle, the stagehand,” said Ruth Bloomquist, a founding Story Truck performer who now is a national and international folk/bluegrass singer and musician performing with her husband, Max. “He had just graduated Muskegon High School. Someone told me he was a football player, not an actor. Well, they were wrong, as time would tell.

“Dave was sarcastic, mouthy, and opinionated. But sometimes he was quiet and very observant. It wasn’t long before he was as much a part of the cast as anyone else. He was quick and funny and willing to do any part needed. Dave still did stage duties like setting up the sound system and loading and unloading the truck. But he was a part of the cast.”

Dressel’s acting encompassed primarily the live stage but also included motion pictures.
In theatre Dressel played such Shakespearean title characters as Hamlet and Macbeth, and iconic roles such as Iago in The Bard’s “Othello,” Jimmy Porter in “Look Back in Anger” and the villainous Harry Roat Jr. in the thriller “Wait Until Dark.”
While at The American Dramatic of Dramatic Arts, Dressel received the New York City Drama League Scholarship Award for “Hamlet,” and received the Charles Jellinga Award as Best Actor.

Back home, Dressel also starred in two productions that benefited the local chapter of the American Red Cross, “The Nerd” and “The Good Doctor.”
Among his film credits were the low-budget horror film “Blood Diner” and bits in director Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” and director Woody Allen’s “Zelig.” He directed such stage productions as “Inherit the Wind,” “Harvey,” “Born Yesterday,” “The Boys Next Door,” “Marvin’s Room” and “A Walk in the Woods.”

Over the years Dressel worked with such companies as Muskegon Civic Theatre, Black Sheep Players, The New Theatre Co., Overbrook Players at Muskegon Community College, the House of David, and the professional Cherry County Playhouse.

Dressel also did a variety of voice work, and designed such shows as “Look Homeward, Angel,” “Silver Anniversary” and “An Interview with F. Scott Fitzgerald” (both of which he also directed), “Sunset, Sunrise,” “The Magic Forest” and “The Gingerbread Lady.”
For 10 years he was theatre manager at Reeths-Puffer High School, and for years he worked with the West Michigan Symphony.

David Michael Dressel was born May 26, 1958. He was preceded in death by his parents, Helga and Alfred Dressel, and his brother, Bernie Dressel. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his nieces Andrea and Natalie.


Categories: Awards and Notices

4 replies

  1. Rest in the sweet Peace of Christ, Dave.


  2. Rest in the sweet Peace of Christ, Dave.


    • I saw Dave’s Hamlet at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (and of course was impressed) and I was among his fellow actor/graduates attending our graduation ceremony when David was awarded the Charles Jellinger Award for Best Actor. I remember him smiling ear to ear. He was a dedicated and talented actor. We used to hang out together with a few other “cool” students from the Academy (at least I thought we were cool).. We lost touch after our Academy days unfortunately. David was a great guy and I thought highly of him. Occasionally over years I sometimes wondered what he might be up to. Sadly, tonight I found his obituary on this internet site. The photo of him must have been taken around the time we were in the Academy together and that’s how I remember him. If it was long after the Academy then he aged very well. I have a photo or two that Dave was in taken back in those days along with other actor friends. Those were exciting days for all of us. I lost my beautiful wife, Janice, in 2016 to metastatic breast cancer. Janice was also 59. Cancer is an unrelenting thief that steals too many our friends and loved ones. It leaves the rest of us standing on the sidelines feeling helpless and alone. I wish I could/would have connected with David after the Academy. We would have had much to talk about. God bless him and may he rest in peace. I am so very glad to have known David Dressel from back in the day. Adios my friend.


  3. Thank you for your beautiful memory of Dave. He is still acutely missed. Cancer is a thief, but it cannot steal our memories. Love and peace to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: