Actress Deanna Lund visits WBHS theatre classes
VINTON–Carol Webster, who is the director of the Roanoke County Schools Center for the Performing Arts and the theatre arts teacher at William Byrd High School, each year endeavors to inspire her students by introducing them to successful professionals in the entertainment business who visit her classes as guest artists.
Her most recent guest was Deanna Lund, star of stage and screen, who conducted workshops during the week of September 10 at both schools, listening to, videotaping, and critiquing script readings by students and advising them on the finer points of the film and stage industry.
One message that Lund wanted to convey to the aspiring actors is that although acting seems glamorous, it is a difficult life, filled with competition and rejection.
“Only those who absolutely ‘cannot not act’ should choose acting as a profession” said Lund.
She also emphasized that for those with talent and determination, it can also be a very lucrative career.
Lund shared her own story with the students to emphasize her points, along with anecdotes of different situations she found herself in over the years.
She grew up in Florida, never considering a career in acting, until her father encouraged her to take up drama in high school to help her overcome her shyness. She discovered that she really enjoyed performing and went on to a career on stage, in television, and in movies spanning several decades.
Over the course of her career she worked in films with Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Jerry Lewis, and Burt Reynolds. Her most memorable role was in the television series, “Land of the Giants”, a science fiction show before the age of computerized special effects. It was set in the then-future year of 1983 and featured a group of earthlings transported to a distant planet where the inhabitants were 72 feet tall.
Her role evolved from being a screaming victim in the earlier episodes, enduring week after week of such traumas as hanging by a rope over flames, being carried off by an ape several times, being taped to a table, and being dropped into a specimen jar, to being one of the most popular and respected actresses on television.
Deanna Lund met her husband Don Matheson while working in “Land of the Giants.” She had two children from a previous marriage, then a daughter, Michele, with Matheson. Her daughter grew up to be a television performer on the sitcom “Mr. Belvedere” starting out in pet food commercials, another lucrative field with income from residuals.
Lund went on to recurring roles on the soap operas “General Hospital” and “One Life to Live”, and appeared in the regular cast of the “Stump the Stars” game show from 1969 to 1970, which featured guest celebrities playing charades.
She appeared on a variety of popular television shows from “The Waltons” to the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” to the “Bob Hope Specials.”
Her advice to the students in the workshops emphasized the importance of a good work ethic, useful in any profession: show up on time, do your homework (know your lines, over learn your part), cooperate, don’t make waves, be a team player, and pay attention to what is going on.
“Most actors would act for free, but acting is also a way to get paid well for something you love to do,” said Lund.
Lund and Webster met when a friendship developed between Lund and Webster’s parents, Fred and Carolyn Eichelman, starting with RoVaCon (Roanoke Valley Fan Convention) a science fiction and fantasy convention in 1988.
Lund is semi-retired and has undergone some orthopedic-type surgeries in recent years. While “actors never retire”, she is enjoying her time working in animal rescue, painting, gardening, reading, doing some work in commercials, and enjoying her infant grandchild and great grandchild. She divides her time between her home in California and Florida, where most of her family is located.
She remains the epitome of glamour and sophistication one would associate with a career in show business.
“I just want to tell you that you are absolutely beautiful,” said one student in the workshop.
Lund enjoys working with students in theatre classes and sharing her expertise. She likes the idea of giving something back. She also finds the enthusiasm and energy she sees in high school students rejuvenating.
Lund is amazed each time she visits Webster by the amount of talent she sees in the area and also by the scope and professionalism of the programs Webster has put together for Roanoke County Schools.
“Carol is fabulous,” said Lund. “She certainly doesn’t need any help on the acting side, and she is tremendously adept at exposing her students to other aspects of the business, apart from the stage and camera.”
Webster, her students, and many members of the community are currently in rehearsals for the upcoming musical “Annie” scheduled for October 10-14 at William Byrd High School. For the first time, Webster will be performing as a member of the William Byrd Players. She has been cast as the villainous Miss Hannigan in the production.