Actress Debbie Pollack has seen her fair share of show business. She starred in the John Hughes film “Sixteen Candles,” portraying the jock Marlene, nicknamed “Lumberjack,” who, to the amazement of protagonist Sam, becomes foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong’s unlikely girlfriend within minutes upon arriving at the school dance. She’s also been a co-star on the NBC program “ER” and starred in theater productions such as “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “My Fair Lady.”
With her years of experience, Pollack has the know-how to make it in show business. She will be giving a presentation called “What I DIDN’T Learn in Drama School” at the Bowers Writers House Feb. 29. She will discuss the difficulties actors can have transitioning from drama school to the constantly-changing entertainment business. She wrote in an email, “It is just overwhelming how little the country’s finest drama schools do to prepare their graduates to enter the entertainment business.”
After leaving the business for 20 years to raise her children, Pollack is now a commercial, television and film actress. Pollack said that she is able to get a lot of job offers because of her experience: “The culture icon-status of my character in ‘Sixteen Candles’ made me a recognizable commodity…”
She will share her knowledge of how actors can efficiently and inexpensively market themselves in the real world. She wrote, “I am happy to share some of my experiences over the past 30-plus years in and out of the business, and I will give practical suggestions for what students can do now to be aware of the ‘who, what and where,’ to begin to build their plan for moving forward with an acting career.”
Pollack already has a connection to Elizabethtown College. Bowers Writers House Director Jesse Waters was able to book Pollack because, he explained, “She’s my step-aunt.”
Pollack knew she wanted to be an actress from a young age. As a child, she watched Shirley Temple movies every Saturday afternoon. “I was sold! I started singing and dancing when I was three and began working professionally at 17,” Pollack said.
Pollack can’t cite one reason for returning to show business, but she does credit her current husband. She said, “He asked me on our first date, ‘If you could be doing anything, what would it be?’ And without thinking, I said, ‘Auditioning!’ So a supportive, understanding husband was a really good reason to take the plunge!”
Waters believes that Pollack’s experience “and the fact that she’s made a career out of acting,” will be beneficial to theater majors and other students considering going to drama school.
Last semester, Waters also scheduled Tom Mallon, of Washington Shakespeare, who founded An Educational Theater Company. Waters said that, as he continues to make connections with people like Pollack, there will be more opportunities for actors and acting workshops at the Writers House.
Pollack is sure to provide some excellent advice for students who want to make it in the entertainment business.