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December 4, 2017

Faces of Fauquier: Stage presence a family affair

Photo/Cassandra Brown
Elementary school teacher, Dawn Fansler has worked on about 40 Fauquier Community Theatre productions.
Being able to be so diverse and stretch who I can be — that’s what keeps me coming back. It sounds so cliché and corny to say you become a family, but to anybody who’s never experienced it, if they participated in one part, no matter how minor, you become a family. There are friends that I made at “The Loft” that I still have today.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The lure of the stage has kept her coming back to volunteer with the Fauquier Community Theatre for 33 years.

Dawn Fansler has performed in about 40 plays, directed two shows and produced four musicals with the nonprofit theatre that started in 1978.

Ms. Fansler’s involvement began when her mother, Pat Fansler, and three sisters got parts in the production of “The Crucible” in 1984.

“I’ve been with it ever since,” Ms. Fansler said. “My mom went on to direct, produce and act. She died in 1995, but she was directing up until then. I guess I just carried it on in her place.”

This year, Ms. Fansler produced “1776 The Musical.” In 2018 she will produce “Big Fish.”

As producer she helps with behind-the-scenes work, including organizing the program, budget, and scripts.

Ms. Fansler remembers the early years of the community theatre when performances still took place in “The Loft” on North Third Street near the Old Town post office in Warrenton. FCT moved to Vint Hill in 1996.

“It was an all-around theater so the chairs would be on all sides,” she said of The Loft. “You were up close and personal with the actors.”

Playing Shelby in “Steel Magnolias” remains her favorite role.

“That was in the days when you got your own costumes,” she said. “Finding a lot of pink clothes was difficult.”

Her most memorable show, the comedy, “Let Him Sleep Till it’s Time for His Funeral,” involved several family members.

“My mom directed it, and my dad and I acted in it,” Ms. Fansler said. “My sister, Carissa, stage-managed. That was the first time we had done a show together. It was so much fun.”

Rehearsals for most plays begin eight to 10 weeks before opening night. Time remains the biggest challenge for pulling a show together.

“We have such a short amount of time between shows,” Ms. Fansler said. “It’s quite a turnaround. You only have about a week and a half in the theater before the show begins.”

Rehearsals take place two to four nights a week, depending on the director, and can last three to four hours, according to Ms. Fansler.

“You have to have a big commitment,” she said.

But, audience applause makes the hobby fulfilling.

“I think what’s most rewarding for an actor is that people are coming to see you,” Ms. Fansler said. “That people would actually pay money to watch people they don’t know get up on a stage and act out a show that they have loved all their life. It makes me do my best, makes me want to know my lines, be energetic and bring character and charisma.”

• Age

• Home

• Work
Third-grade teacher, Bradley Elementary School, 2011 to present; P.B. Smith Elementary teacher, 1996-2011; previously worked at Humpty Dumpty daycare and Simply Aerobics in Warrenton.

• Why do you participate in the community theatre?
I love the involvement with the people. I love getting to know new people. I love theatre in general, watching it live, more than watching a movie of it. Just to feel the connection with someone on the stage.

The freedom to be somebody else on the stage, to step out of who you are in real life and get to be a grand princess or king. I’ve played men roles. In “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” I played one of the brothers, and in “Scrooge,” I played two parts — the bum on the street and the beautiful woman at the dance party. Being able to be so diverse and stretch who I can be — that’s what keeps me coming back.

It sounds so cliché and corny to say you become a family, but to anybody who’s never experienced it, if they participated in one part, no matter how minor, you become a family. There are friends that I made at “The Loft” that I still have today.

• Family
Father, Don; sisters Patti, Tammy and Crissa; brother, Jack.

• Education
Master’s degree, curriculum and instruction, Liberty University, 2002; bachelor’s degree, childhood education, kindergarten to 8th grade, Liberty University, 1996; Fauquier High School, 1987.

• Civic and/or church involvement
Fauquier Community Theatre volunteer, actress, producer, director, stage manager, box office worker, 1984 to present; Hope Christian Fellowship church member; runs an after school math club at Bradley Elementary.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
41 years.

• Why do you live here?
I love the small town. I came home from college and my mom had just passed away. I came home to get things settled, and I got my job at P.B. Smith, where I went to school and fell in love with it. I just never wanted to leave.

• How do you describe this county?
Friendly, festive. Almost embracing when there’s tragedy anywhere in the world. Everyone puts their stuff aside and reaches out to those who have been affected. I’ve seen communities come together with Sydney Davies (a student who died of leukemia). Just seeing the love of outpouring and emotion. Everybody stops whatever they are doing to take care of their neighbor — that’s what I love about this town. I know everybody on my street.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
Keep it small and not get so commercialized. I like to see the scenery and farmland. I hate to see them get sold to big commercial developments. When we first moved here, we would see nothing but cows everywhere. I could go down Route 605 and never see another car. Now, it’s like where did all these cars come from? I would love to see it not continue to expand at the rate it is expanding.

• What do you do for fun?
I love to see live theatre at the Kennedy Center. Play computer games, go bowling and roller-skating.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I spend all my time between Longhorn and Chick-fil-A. I love being in my church.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I think it will be overgrown with commercial buildings. I think some of the quietness will be gone. I think the schools will be overcrowded. I think it will be sad. I don’t want it to be, but I think that’s what’s coming down the pipe.

• Favorite TV show?
My all time favorite show is “Alf.” I love his sarcastic remarks and sense of humor. I also love “General Hospital” and “NCIS.”

• Favorite movie?

• Favorite book?
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Ocean City, Md.

• Favorite food?

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
“You gotta put one foot in front of the other.” Just keep going. That was from my mom’s best friend, Sharon. She wasn’t going to let us give up. Sharon’s daughter was my best friend who was killed in a car accident when I was 19. My mom died when I was 25. The two of us cling to each other. She didn’t stop, so I didn’t stop.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My dad, because he is calm and quiet, but when he speaks, he is sincere and funny. He is the strong, silent type and is a very godly man.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
First, I would share it with my family. I would try to help people who need help. There’s gotta be a cure for cancer that money can help.

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Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at, Don Del Rosso at or Editor Lou Emerson at
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