When our journey began our creative team was not sure if we wanted to provide a voice to the story or if we were simply going to let the images and its interpretation guide the audience. As we got closer to finishing the animation, we were settled on the idea that we wanted the film to unfold like a children’s storybook. And so narration was a logical next step.
We wanted a voice that emanated strength and wisdom, and yet, was a gentle guide. We listened to many actors, and one of our finalists was Donna. Coincidentally during the process, one day I was searching for a specialty market that I had enjoyed visiting in the past. The search led me to an article entitled Pride of the Cart. And the subject of the article was none other than Donna Steele. While I didn’t necessarily take it as a definitive sign, it led me to my final decision. And I could not be more pleased. Donna’s professionalism as a voice actor was evident from the first take. With limited time in the studio, it was imperative that we were able to capture what we needed as quickly as possible. Donna delivered on every line. And she brought a fresh perspective and voice to our story. We are so grateful to have found her. And equally pleased to share more about her with you now.
Tell us a little something about yourself (where you grew up, what you were interested in as a kid):
I spent the first 8 years of my life in a small town about 50 miles west of Chicago, Crystal Lake, Illinois. I lived in the house my dad helped design and build in his spare time! He was a chemical engineer and my mom was a librarian. Playing outside, playing piano, building grass forts, swimming in the lake were my favorite things to do as a child. Three years in Johnson City, TN after that, where piano lessons and swim team were my major interests. My family then relocated to Mt. Prospect, IL where I attended high school and participated in swimming, piano (serious study), girls recreation association ( we didn’t have organized sports for girls) and the huge change of direction moment … the next question’s answer!
Why did you want to be an actor? Influences?
My sophomore year in high school I went with my friend to an audition for The Sound of Music. I had no intention of auditioning. The director pointed at me and said: “Stand up!” I coalesced, shyly. She looked me up and down and said: “Read the housekeeper.” I was cast and hooked on acting from that play on.
What inspires you to create a role/performance?
The writing, mostly. I love a complicated character, whether comedy or drama, though I tend to prefer drama. Natural dialogue, good character interaction, a good story, and a hopeful message are things I look for in a role.
What drew you to The Go Cart (artistically and maybe, personally)?
It is so visually and aurally gorgeous! I thought the story line and message were clear, and kinda wondered if it even needed a narrator! (I’m grateful the creative team thought it did!)
What was your process like for creating the voice for The Go Cart? How does voice over work differ from the stage or other film roles?
I read and re-read the script while watching the video and relied on the Director and Author to inform me of their preferences. The only tool I have to communicate in voice work is my voice, and it’s very important for the listener/director to guide the actor, just as it is important for the stage or film director to guide the actor.
Was there a time you ever felt like the cart, either in production or at any point in your life? If so, tell us a little more about it.
Of course! Many times! Some small and fleeting, others large and seemingly overwhelming. I think once you stop feeling like the cart you’re probably not rolling through the real world! The trick for me is to try to fix what’s broken and KEEP rolling!
Did you study acting? If so, where?
I have my undergraduate and master degrees in theatre from Northwestern University, and MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University.
What are you working on now?
I retired a year ago from running a not for profit theatre in St. Charles, IL, called Steel Beam Theatre, which I founded in 2001. I am now living the dream as a full-time actor!! (Subtext: available to work!)
Anything else you want to add?
It was an honor to work not only on this project but also with Kailyne, whose vision and artistry has created a lovely and uplifting film. I hope it is viewed and cherished the world over for years to come! (I’m expecting my first grandchild in a few weeks: The Go Cart would make a lovely baby gift!)