When Daniel Dorner performed in the Brigit St. Brigit’s production for An Iliad last fall, he gave a rivetting performance in the role of epic poet Homer and related the tale of the Trojan War with gut wrenching intensity. He was the only actor on the stage, and he seamlessly segued between depicting such legendary heroes as Hector and Achilles. He garnered rave reviews—and deservedly so.
Omaha World-Herald critic Bob Fischbach pegged An Iliad as his fave show of last year, and Omaha Magazine executive editor David Williams lauded his work as a “powerhouse performance” in an online review.
But Dorner is not a professional actor, and before An Iliad he had not done theater work for close to a decade. Rather, he is a media design specialist who creates content for film, video, apps, television, and web sites. He is also a director, developer, writer, and animator, all of which require creative passion and an ability to see above and beyond reality. “I really like anything imaginative,” says the 32-year-old. “I like presenting something you don’t see in real life.”
Dorner can trace this ability to his childhood. He grew up in Taiwan and didn’t move to the U.S. until he was 12. His time in East Asia proved highly formative. “I grew up with anime and movies like Blade Runner and Prometheus,” he explains. “They had very strong influences on my visual aesthetic.”
That aesthetic frequently features futuristic landscapes and holographic technology reminiscent of sci-fi films. His ability to portray such conceptual imagery has resulted in his work being featured on ESPN as well as other sports news stations and has won him awards like the prestigious 2012 Telly Award, which honors the best film and video productions, online video content and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs.
But it’s perhaps Dorner’s acting for which he is best known. At age 19, he performed his first non-speaking role at the Omaha Community Playhouse, and meatier ones quickly followed in plays like The Diary of Ann Frank and The Foreigner. Although he began winning awards like the Omaha Community Playhouse’s 2001 Clarence Teal Cameo Award, it was his 2003 lead role in The Elephant Man on that same stage that garnered him one of the most coveted nods: the Theatre Arts Guild award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.
Despite the acclaim, work demands and the birth of his two children kept him from theater work for ten years. Dorner, however, didn’t find it difficult to return to the stage. “I felt very comfortable going back to acting,” he reflects. “It was a brilliant script, and it pushed me in areas where I didn’t think I needed to be pushed.”
Even so, Dorner won’t return to acting anytime soon. “I act every ten years, and I’m happy to keep it that way,” he notes. “I’d like to focus on writing a novel. I’ve never really tackled that as an art form.”
No matter his creative pursuit, one thing remains certain. Daniel Dorner will continue to generate thought-provoking work that brings people to places they can only begin to imagine.