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.
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