Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deena Marie Manzanares

Posted By on December 4, 2008, 10:48 AM

The good majority of local actors and actresses are usually well known only to the theater community and the frequent patron.  But one local took her craft to a different level and became a web phenomenon overnight. 

--- Deena Marie Manzanares has been writing, directing and acting in her own films for almost a year now, striking a chord with the internet audience of YouTube to much success.  All while continuing a professional acting career, performing in a dance troop, and continuing to expand her opportunities in various forms. I got a chance to chat with Deena about her career in theater, dance, videos and all other points in-between. As well as her thoughts on the scene and some other topics. Also got to snap some pictures with her at the downtown library. 

Deena Marie Manzanares

http://www.deenamarie.biz/

Gavin: Hey Deena, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Deena:
I am a professional actress, internet personality and model living in Salt Lake City.

Gavin: How did you first take an interest in performing, and what inspired you to go professional?

Deena: I was involved in dancing and singing since I was three years old.  I fell in love with acting much later.  I knew it was what I wanted to do for a living when I realized it was a job that would never feel like a job to me! I never worried about “making it” or having a backup plan.  In my mind it was what I was going to do and that was that.

Gavin:
What were the high school years like for you in performing arts?

Deena: You know, I didn't fully immerse myself in it until high school was almost over. By then I was auditioning for plays outside of school and looking into schools in New York City.

Gavin: How did you get involved with NYU and Juilliard?

Deena: After researching various schools and the type of training I thought I would benefit from most, I chose the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School, which is one of NYU'S Tisch School of the Arts studios and I completed the conservatory training. The school was founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy. I auditioned for Juilliard classes and was lucky enough to be accepted.  I never got used to the fact that my classroom window overlooked Lincoln Center! It was surreal!

Gavin: What would you say were the best and worst experiences during that time?

Deena: Moving without knowing a soul or having a place to live was not something you can prepare yourself for until you do it! It was the best thing I've ever done, it definitely showed me what I am made of and what I can do, having to learn a new city and way of life.

Gavin: What was the experience like performing at Atlantic Theater Company?

Deena: It made me a stronger actress. Absolutely invaluable.  I could never sum it up in words.  I hold that time in my life so close to my heart.  I had moments of love and hate, experiences in acting as well as life that I could never explain... but I love more than anything that I did it! No one can ever take that away from me.

Gavin: What were some of your favorite rolls while involved with Atlantic Theater?

Deena: Darlene in "Balm In Gilead". It was the leading role in the last play before graduation.  Also being a part of one of ATC's children's musicals which are performed in the company's Off Broadway theatre.

Gavin: With everything you've done and the opportunities you've had back east... why stay in Utah?

Deena: I love New York City but not necessarily the way of life.  It's expensive, it's not easy to get around.  I prefer a car to the subway. It's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  But I would take a temporary gig there in a heartbeat.

Gavin: Locally you've performed all over the area from the Egyptian to PMT to Hale. Do you find it difficult to keep up with all the rolls or do you welcome the challenge?

Deena: Bring it on! The more roles the better, right? I want every acting experience possible.  I want to be known as versatile, as a chameleon. 

Gavin:
Do you prefer comedic or more serious rolls?

Deena: Dramatic. I get so much personally and emotionally out of a meaty, serious role.  But I have to have a balance! When a dramatic role ends I am ready for a comedy and vice versa.

Gavin: What would you say was your most and least favorite rolls to date locally?

Deena: Recent favorites were Ida in "Skin In Flames" and Audrey in "Little Shop Of Horrors". Least favorites? I don't think you can complain when you're doing what you love. 

Gavin: While we're on the subject, what's your opinion of our local theater scene, both good and bad?

Deena: What I like about it is exactly what drives me crazy, it's a very small community! You can meet everyone in our industry and make a local name for yourself, which is great! But you're at the mercy of a limited number of equity theatres and contracts offered and if there isn't a role for your age or type in the season, then you're left waiting.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it bigger or better?

Deena: I really don't know... I do wish that we could make the theatre scene bigger.  But I also realize how tough it is for new companies starting up with limited budgets and not being able to hire equity actors.

Gavin: What do you think of the new movement to bring in Browdway-like shows to the valley?

Deena: I'm undecided until I see what exactly is being brought and what happens to already existing theatre in town.

Gavin: You also perform with the Voodoo Darlings. How did that come about?

Deena: I was already friends with the founder of the darlings.  She told me that if she ever started a burlesque troupe I would be the first girl she would call!  I was interested but too busy to get involved in the beginning.  Eventually things worked out and I started performing with them this summer.

Gavin: Do you view it as dancing, performance art, or just more “mature entertainment”?

Deena: I view it as burlesque with a modern twist.  It's nothing more than another chance to perform.  I think it's beautiful and empowering and what I love about it is that there are all body types, looks, and talents.  It's kind of like a variety show.  There's nothing else like it in town.

Gavin:
Where did the idea come from to start doing the videos for YouTube?

Deena:
This time last year is when I first became very aware of internet celebrities. I learned their were actors, comedians, models, singers, vloggers all posing their original content online and getting known. A whole new world and form of artistic expression opened up to me then. I knew I could do it too and that the more I could get myself out there, the more opportunity would come my way.

Gavin:
What were some of the first attempts like at making material to post?

Deena:
I went all out, not caring what people would think and I wasn't afraid to look silly.  The first video I posted was a parody of an already existing video, which I figured would be a good start and familiar to people in that world.  The fact that anyone could, and did, comment on whatever they wanted about you took some getting used to.   But you quickly learn that's the point and you accept it.  You get a tough skin quick and it only makes me all the more determined!
Gavin: I've read your husband works with you on the videos as well. What's his involvement and have you learned anything from him along the way?

Gavin: I've read your husband works with you on the videos as well. What's his involvement and have you learned anything from him along the way?

Deena:
He helps with filming, editing and effects on some of the 'fancier' videos.  He's also composed original music and recorded the vocals for some.  We have both learned what a great team we are.  It's almost spooky how well we can create and compliment each other. Both of us jump at the chance to help and support the other. We are each others biggest fans.

Gavin:
In most of the material you're not just the lead, you also write and direct it. How does it feel having control of that end of the creative process, and what are the challenges you've run into?

Deena:
I love that control! I am so in love with video making now because I get to do whatever I want. I do what I think is funny and entertaining and I have every say in how it will be created. That's every artists dream! The only downfall is that I don't get to be my boss in everything I do! Ha ha! I could get used to that!

Gavin:
Have you ever given consideration to just writing and/or directing, or will acting always be the focus of your career?

Deena: Acting right now comes first, but I would love to do it all!

Gavin:
Since we're on the topic, what are your thoughts on the local film community?

Deena:
I haven't spent as much time in that industry. I am getting more into it these days. I am wanting to pursue film more now than I have in the past.

Gavin:
What did you think about “The Joke” getting a front page view?

Deena:
It was such a surprise! When it happened,  I was still pretty new to YouTube so I didn't realize how many people are dying to get noticed that way and get a feature. I was lucky!

Gavin:
Were you amazed at how the videos caught on in popularity, or did you just take it in stride as people finding something new?

Deena:
I knew that I could post quality content that people would find entertaining, but there are many more potential viewers out there I have yet to reach!

Gavin:
You've gotten a lot of recognition for your work from local papers to G4TV. Does the attention feel odd or have you found a way to roll with it all?

Deena:
I set out to create a name for myself so I love it! I was more than ready for it and I feel very lucky. But this is just the beginning! I still have a long way to go!

Gavin:
What is the ultimate goal for you down the road with everything you're doing?

Deena:
I always want more! More opportunity, a bigger scale of the path I am on now. I want to be able to keep people interested, to work steadily in the entertainment industry and to be someone who others want to work with and have respect for.

Gavin:
Do you have any advice for those who wish to pursue a career in acting, performing or film making?

Deena:
Spend some time training.  Live in different cities.  Make things happen, create opportunities for yourself.  Be polite to everyone in your industry and conduct yourself professionally!

Gavin: What can we expect from you this upcoming year?

Deena:
I have a potential project I am waiting to hear back on.  It's not something local. Hopefully I'll be able to talk about it soon and have good news! Other than that, I'll continue making videos and acting and modeling as much as I can!

Gavin:
Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Deena:
My page, http://www.youtube.com/BeanerLaRue. Go create a page if you haven't already and subscribe! Spread the word! Also, Sirens Of The Stage, a pin-up book from the Voodoo Darlings that showcases tributes to Broadway's brightest stars!

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