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'Hair' hopping back to 1962

Woodbury residents Lynn Dyrhaug Rotto, right, and Brianna Graham will be appearing in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' production of "Hairspray," which runs now through Jan. 28.

Two Woodbury women are time traveling back to 1962 -- complete with big hair.

Woodbury residents Lynn Dyrhaug Rotto and Brianna Graham, a recent Tartan High School graduate, are appearing in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' production of "Hairspray," which runs now through Jan. 28.

"Hairspray" takes place in 1962 and tells the story of "pleasantly plump" Baltimore resident Tracy Turnblad, whose only dream is to dance on a popular television show.

When her dream comes true, she is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. However, she must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning teen queen. All of this is happening while the television network is in the process of integrating.

"Even though a lot of it is big wigs and makeup and larger than life characters, there are so many great themes," Dyrhaug Rotto said. "It's a non-stuffy way of getting into a conversation that everyone wants to talk about."

Some of the central themes of "Hairspray" include acceptance, self-esteem, body image and racial integration.

"You get to mask such a big issue in something that is so campy and fun," Graham said.

Channeling characters

Both Dyrhaug Rotto and Graham portray multiple characters during the show.

Graham portrays a total of two characters.

In one number, Graham portrays a "Dynamite," or a member of a three-woman musical group similar to the Supremes.

Throughout the rest of the show, Graham portrays a sassy schoolgirl named Lorraine.

Lorraine is one of the black schoolgirls who is trying to understand how the integration of the television network is going to work.

Graham said she read "The Help" to get inside the mind of her character. She also talked to her parents and grandparents about their experiences during the 1960s.

"After reading the book, I channeled my character to truly understand what it would have been like to not be able to do the same things as everyone else," she said. "I wanted to make it more of a real character rather than a cartoon character."

Whereas Graham portrays two characters, Dyrhaug Rotto is tasked with portraying a total of five unique characters.

"I'm a character actor in this play," she said.

Dyrhaug Rotto's characters include: the prison matron, the gym teacher, Prudy Pingleton, an overprotective and close-minded mother, a "lady of the night" and a giant Pepsi bottle.

"I feel like I'll never get bored with it," she said. "I'm just starting to embrace the strangeness of all the characters."

Dyrhaug Rotto said she relies heavily on costumes to help her switch between characters.

"I have to have the costume piece to make me feel like I'm not Lynn," she said. "You have to find that silly place."

An escape

Graham and Dyrhaug Rotto said one of their favorite aspects of theater is being able to lose themselves for a while and become someone else.

"You get to strip yourself away and be somebody else for a brief moment," Grahams said, "and people embrace you for it."

"It's kind of an escape," Dyrhaug Rotto said. "You're taking the audience away to a different world."

Graham said she also really enjoys being around acting veterans such as Dyrhaug Rotto, who has been a part of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres since 1986, because it helps her grow as an actor.

"I've never been in a cast where talent just exudes from people," she said. "I've learned a whole lot about myself."

Dyrhaug Rotto said working with the younger generation of actors is great as well since it helps her relive where she once was.

"It's a wonderful way to pass down traditions of theater," she said.

oing home

Dyrhaug Rotto and Graham said they both have thoroughly enjoyed their experience with Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

"I feel like (the Chanhassen is) going home," she said. "Everything feels like a big hug when you come back there."

Graham echoed Dyrhaug Rotto's sentiments, saying the theater is a warm place to perform because of its layout and the fact that the audience eats dinner during the show.

"It's almost like being a kid again performing a show for my mom," she said.

Both Dyrhaug Rotto and Graham said they hope to do more shows at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

"It's a very quirky kind of place," Dyrhaug Rotto said. "There's no place on earth like it."

Visit www.chanhassen for more information on, and to purchase tickets for, "Hairspray."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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