Shortly after graduating from Minnetonka High School in the summer of 1969, Diane D'Aquila and two friends took off on a secret trip: a train bound for Winnipeg. Once there, they would audition for the National Theatre School of Canada.
"I couldn't even tell my parents that I was going because my dad didn't want me to go into acting as a career," recalls D'Aquila, who had graduated from MHS at the young age of 16. "But I had to go; acting and the theater was what I loved to do."
That clandestine journey to Canada has led the award-winning D'Aquila on quite a career journey. After being accepted into the school and completing her studies in Montreal, D'Aquila has been involved in acting for more than 40 years, on occasion traveling the world for her craft. While much of her career has been focused on the theater, she also has more than 40 film and television roles to her credit. In her most recent film, the 2012 Canadian romantic comedy Take This Waltz, she played the mother of characters played by Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman.
And even though her heart lies in the theater, D'Aquila gained quite a bit of fame in 2004 when she earned a Gemini best actress award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television for her role as Elizabeth I in a TV production of Elizabeth Rex. The Geminis are the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy Awards in the United States.
"This might sound strange, but being involved in the theater as a career is hard work, involves long hours, and it takes a toll on you," says the sharp-witted D'Aquila, who spends much of her time in Toronto and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.
Yet, D'Aquila has never lost her zeal for the theater. She was first bitten by the acting bug as a nine-year-old watching her mother perform in community theater productions. In her teen years, she acted in numerous plays at MHS despite the fact that she, according to her own assessment, "was no star or anything." As a teenager she also worked as a dresser at the Guthrie Theater, where she was encourage by some of the Canadian actors to audition for the theater school in their country.
"I had wonderful people supporting me and encouraging me at Minnetonka High School," D'Aquila says. "But I would have to say that the person who really got me hooked on the theater was my English teacher, Mr. Chisolm. He was an extraordinary teacher who really taught me that the written word could tell wonderful stories and was really the main element of theater. He did some things not many teachers did back then; like on Fridays he'd have dark and forboding classical music playing as we walked into his class, and then we'd read the witches' scene from MacBeth."
Since becoming a professional actress, D'Aquila has acted in theaters throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in countries around the world. Soon, she will leave for an acting role in South Korea.
By the way, her father, Frank, eventually accepted her career as an actress.
"When I called to tell him that I was offered my first acting job in Nova Scotia, he asked how much it was for," she says. "When I told him, he said, 'Take it.'"