After college, native Coloradan Lea Marlene left for Hollywood, where she excelled at standup comedy, studied Meisner Technique acting, and earned certification as a yoga instructor — all while developing her chops as a director, producer and writer. Marlene returned to Denver with that rare set of skills in 2012 and launched Actasana, an acting school and theater incorporating yoga. Now rebranded as the Lea Marlene Actors Studio and Namastage Theatre, Marlene's business is settling into a new space on South Pearl Street, offering classes at all levels. Learn more about Marlene via her answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Lea Marlene: My students could answer that question in a heartbeat! I have no doubt about that. I would have loved to collaborate with Sanford Meisner. The fact that he dedicated himself to the craft of acting and turned out some of the most inspiring actors in the world inspires me greatly. Not only was he a genius when it came to acting, but hIs philosophies are so translatable to life. His technique for being “simple and specific” helped me in so many areas, both professionally and personally. He was radically truthful and revolutionary with what he did for the craft, and in turn, we have some of the bravest actors in the world.
I only wish I could have been in the room with him at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, learning from the master himself — even in his later years, when he delivered his astute direction through means of a voice box. What he has given to me even beyond the grave has been the foundation and lifeline that has transformed my work as an artist on stage, on camera and, most important, in my life.
I am forever grateful to him, and his dedication to the idea of tearing off one’s mask to find a raw, beautiful, perfectly imperfect authenticity has always led me home to my own inner truth. It has guided me in the face of the most challenging of circumstances. What he developed with the Meisner Technique has been the cornerstone for why I want to give this work back to others and open a studio here in Denver. So even though I didn’t have a chance to collaborate with him in person and would have absolutely loved to, I’m honored that we get to collaborate every day through his teachings and what he unabashedly gifted to the arts and humanity. Here’s to you, Mr. Meisner!
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Many people who live bravely and share their vulnerabilities; however, one in particular right now is Kyle Alan Cease. He is actually a dear friend of mine, but regardless of any bias I may have, he is still interesting to me right now. He went from having two number-one Comedy Central specials to jumping into the transformational space and is creating at light speed despite naysayers. He fills 1,500-seat theaters to get his message out about possibility, even though it hasn't alway been an easy path to do this.
Having been a standup comic myself, I know firsthand how cynical some comedians can be, and he has been the subject of a lot of ridicule from many people for how he is evolving and sharing with the world, but he does it anyway. He doesn’t let that stop him, and that is extremely empowering. He meditates for two hours every day, goes within and finds an abundance of new ways to create amazing content uplifting more and more people worldwide with videos (that go viral in a heartbeat now), posts, huge events, podcasts — and now he is scheduled to release a book he has written this spring. He is trusting his instincts and following a deeper calling with the intention to help others to do the same. I have tremendous respect for anyone with the courage to use their gifts and talents in new and innovative ways. Way to go, Kyle!
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
That to be an artist you can only take on the “popular” beliefs, politically and otherwise. I think to be an artist you are a free thinker, period. I would love to see artists in particular embrace our differences on the world stage in a much more compassionate way. After all, artists are the ones up for judgment the most, and yet they often judge the most. The trend of finger-pointing has become really old and, in my opinion, very outdated. This is a trend that has got to go. If we could have a listening for one another, especially with the individuals and groups that have opposing views, we might just learn and grow exponentially. That new paradigm of powerful listening would be super-stylish!
What's your day job?
I am the founder and artistic director of Lea Marlene Actors Studio and the Namastage Theatre. Day to day, that entails anything from teaching, private coaching and putting actors on camera to submit for castings to producing and directing. It always changes, and it’s always exciting! Being an entrepreneur means I’m self-employed, but the only thing is…my boss can be a real pain sometimes!
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would produce a screenplay and a pilot for television that I wrote. I would publish books. I would put a lot into our scholarship fund for students who cannot afford class but have talent oozing out of them. I would launch an inner-city youth and orphanage program providing a creative outlet for kids who would otherwise never have access to it. I would have a state-of-the-art program designed with teachers and therapists to bring theater and acting to those suffering from PTSD. Lea Marlene Actors Studio would have a soundstage as well as a studio system similar to Paramount or Universal Studios, with streets we could shoot on as well as a big, open ranch area somewhere up in the mountains. These facilities would enable us to easily produce many film, television and web-series ideas that my students have. We would also be able to provide a lot of jobs for our students and others. We would host amazing acting and yoga retreats on the ranch, where people could recharge their creative batteries. We would also be able to offer more classes with hands-on experience for the students to be able to work on set.
In addition, I would bring in many more celebrity master teachers to guest-teach and speak, to continue to inspire and educate people of all ages. Wow, I’m really excited now. Let’s do this, mystery patron, we’re ready for ya!
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Being a native, I do love it here. My family lives here, so it certainly keeps me here, and I love the mountains and open sky, although L.A. will always be my second home. The only thing that makes me want to leave is that with the huge influx of people moving here, some of the charm of how nice people are in Denver seems to be disappearing. Don’t get me wrong: Many people moving here are lovely, but to the people who are bulldozing around with road rage and transplant stickers on their bumpers, please just mellow out a bit, adopt the laid-back Colorado respect that drew you here in the first place...and we will all get along and thrive together!
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Offer more tax credits to productions to shoot here, the way they have in Atlanta, where the film industry has hit it big time. Generous tax credits have paved the way for Georgia to be one of the top states for movie and television production, behind California and New York. It would be awesome to do the same thing here, bringing more jobs and creative abundance to this state.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I know everyone says this, and it may sound cliché, but that really is a tough one because I have met and worked with so many amazing people here. But if I have to pick just one right now, I will say R.W. Perkins. He is a local filmmaker, and he is so easy and wonderful to work with. He has cast two of my students — Elena Rose Davis and Conner Greenhalgh — in a feature film he wrote, produced and directed called Crash and Burn Stories. He also directed a one-act play in our Denver Day Plays series, where everything is written, directed and performed in the course of ten fast hours. His insight, grace and ease to start and complete a project with integrity make him a genuine Colorado Creative!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
To continue to grow as a studio and theater with the intention of supporting other artists as they find their voice and authenticity. We will be graduating our second Meisner Technique class as well as starting new first-year classes this year. We will be offering year-round camps for youth, including another teen film camp, since the first one was a ton of fun and really successful. We are planning to produce a web series with our Meisner Students and Master Class actors and a lot of other exciting things, some of which I cannot reveal at this time. We have more Denver Day Plays coming up, as well as a holiday variety show featuring musicians, comics and actors. And I will be having a baby girl this November, so a lot is happening around here, and we are thrilled to be in the flow of it!
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
This may sound a bit obvious, but I can’t help but be a proud acting-studio mama. The studio's master-class students who graduated from the Meisner Technique this past spring, along with our next graduating class, will definitely get noticed in the local arts community this year. Many of them have already been cast as leads in plays, films and web series. Some of the actors to be on the lookout for are Whitney Price, Art Razo,Trevor Cody Lyons, Elena Rose Davis, Bradley Gibbons and Erica Boston West. I have no doubt Lea Marlene Actors Studio actors will continue to succeed!
Lea Marlene Actors Studio will host the fifth installment of Denver Day Plays as part of grand-opening festivities celebrating the studio’s new digs at 1601 South Pearl Street on September 17. Five directors, five playwrights and ten actors from across the city will create five new plays all in one day; the plays will be performed in the Namastage Theatre at 7 and 9 p.m. Admission is $20 in advance online or $25 at the door. Learn more about the Lea Marlene Actors Studio on Facebook.