Thursday, June 21, 2007

Interview: Denise Dowse

Contributing writer Daood recently sat down with actress and director Denise Dowse.

Daood: Greetings Denise Dowse

Denise: Greetings to you Daood!

Daood: Before discussing your remarkable career, let's begin with your upbringing in Honolulu Hawaii and your introduction to the world of acting?

Denise: Aaahhh yes, the beautiful island of Honolulu. Well, I was born there as my father, a US Naval Officer was stationed there at the time. We lived there 6 years in total - moving away and then back as is the "norm" in a military family. We moved on the average of every 2 years and if we were lucky it would be 3 years as was the case in Hawaii. I have beautiful child's eye images of the island and look forward to the day I do return. It wasn't until the 3rd grade and we were living in Chula Vista, California that I had my first theatrical experience when I was cast as the narrator in the 6th grade production of "Hansel and Gretel" (my sister played the witch!).

That was the beginning... Then as my mother saw me flourish, we auditioned for a Saturday program in San Diego for the "gifted and talented" and I was accepted. My first production with them was televised (UHF at the time) "A Dog called Bum" in which I played the dog catcher - lol!!

Daood: Were there any academies attended that helped to cultivate your skills and talents?

Denise: Oops, guess I kinda answered this question in the last answer. I don't remember the academy's name in San Diego. But there we did dance, music, and acting every Saturday. It came to pass that although I was playing the trumpet - acting became something I was good at and could get involved in wherever we moved; it was usually a drama club at school or at the very least an acting class.

Daood: Growing up as a young girl what films and actors had a major impact?

Denise: I grew up watching old Black & White movies on Sundays and as African Americans weren't as represented then...I filled my days with Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Betty Davis and finally Sidney Poitier.

Daood: Share with us that magical moment when you knew that acting was what you wanted?

Denise: Wow...that's kinda hard to pinpoint Daood! Hmmm let’s see...I think the FIRST moment was my trip to NYC that my mother organized for my birthday and my introduction to Broadway - I was a junior in High School and we went to see "The Wiz" and all I kept asking my mom when the show was over was "how can I do that mom??" Then in my senior year, I applied to the Naval Academy the first year it was opened to females and was accepted - boy was my Dad proud :) But I had also interviewed with the traveling company "Up with People" soooo... I had to make a choice - so for a year I was on the road with "Up with People" and haven't looked back!

Daood: Your illustrious career covers the entire gamut of acting and genres such as drama, comedy, etc. Possessing the ability of such diversity requires what type of philosophy and training?

Denise: I have had an amazing and blessed career Daood and have enjoyed every delicious diverse minute of it! Lets see, I teach that "acting is recreating life" and as I do so enjoy people watching, and have traveled extensively in my life that has been the foundation of my approach - to find within myself what part of each of these characters is a part of me. So my work comes from within. I also studied with Jeff Corey upon my arrival to Los Angeles after having lived and worked for 7 1/2 years in Germany. Jeff was instrumental in my transition from working onstage to working in front of a camera...teaching me how to shave off the theatrical veneer of stage to the more conversational elements of television and film work. All of this I accompanied with doing 6 months of extra work to understand and learn those elements required to work with a film or television crew...now that was truly an education!!

Daood: In the last several years you've appeared on TV, such as "Law and Order" and films such as "Her Best Move." Describe your most challenging and rewarding role/s as an actress? Most challenging..


Denise: I would have to say playing a futuristic drug dealer in Oliver Stone's mini series "Wild Palms". It was challenging as I had to tap into that wonderful world of imagination and come up with what I thought would be a dealer of the future...I altered my voice, donned a dred-locked wig and had a ball!! Most rewarding would have to be "Ray". To be a part of such a delicious piece of history and filmmaking as well as my first time to New Orleans - was all a dream come true. I also used pieces of who my mother was to create the character of Marlene which brought that character closer to my heart.

Daood: Your directorial films include "Long Time Since Yesterday", “When Willows Weep in Foxholes" and "A Story of Redemption," but you've also have a history with Amazing Grace Conservatory and directing youth in "Broadway" fashion shows such as the "The Wiz" and "Dream Girls". Can you share with us both experiences?

Denise: Actually my directorial stage debut in LA was PJ Gibson's "Long Time Since Yesterday", done with a group of friends who trusted me enough to help bring that wonderful script to life. That was followed by "The Chest" by Angela deJoseph - also a wonderful cast of women, and both plays received numerous NAACP Theatre Nominations and I garnered 2 Best Director Awards. I love acting, I'm passionate about it and then I love actors!!! I get us and am able to communicate, direct and paint a picture that breathes life not only into the stories but enables the actors to have a safe place to play, fall, discover and grow, and deliver believable, honest performances.


Working at Amazing Grace Conservatory - well, that in itself has been a true blessing!! There is nothing as honest, innocent and pure as a young artist. And it is in these young artists I find my constant reminder of why I do what I do. They bring such a freshness and fearlessness to their work and with each outing I can only learn more about my craft, more about how to communicate and teach it and more reasons as to why I love it so. Plus having no children of my own...I have the trust of parents to teach, nurture and grow with their children. And yes, we do introduce them to Broadway shows that they may never have the opportunity in life to perform and it's been life changing for all of us!

It was at AGC that I had my initial opportunity to direct on film with our production of "What About Us" a short film written by Tracy Coley and then "The Chocolate Factory" - where we shot the first Act on Film and then opened up onstage in Act 2 where they arrived at the Chocolate Factory - it was a magical experience to say the least!!!

Daood: June 1 is the debut of the play "Love & Other Social Issues," starring Malcolm Jamal Warner (Cleo of the Cosby show) in which you're the director. Could you elaborate on your relationship to Malcolm Jamal Warner and your interest in directing him in "Love & Other
Social Issues?

Denise: I have known Malcolm and his mother Pam since the early 90's when I directed her production of "When Willows Weep in Foxholes. The friendship began and flourished from there. I then began coaching Malcolm from time to time for his auditions. Then one day Pam invited me to his Miles Long Show up at Universal City Walk - which blew me away - had no idea Malcolm was into the Spoken Word Scene. Then Pam came up with the idea to incorporate his pieces into a One Man Show (ok wow) and asked me to direct it. Soooo our first outing of it was at the National Black Theatre Festival done every odd year in Winston-Salem, NC in 2003. We were honored with Sold out houses during that week and amazing feedback; consequently were invited back in 2005. So now, here we are 4 years later with our West Coast Premiere! It's been an exciting journey and as both Malcolm and I have grown as artists and as humans...it's been awesome to see how the show has grown.

Daood: In addition to all of your activities such as acting and directing you also teach acting classes. Where are the classes held and what programs do you offer for your students?

Denise: Aaahhh yes, I do teach class. Not as regularly as my students (nor I) would like!! LOL For the past couple of years I've been teaching at Amazing Grace Conservatory (On Adams and 11th). I teach all levels of actors and we do improvisation, creative imagery - to help tap back into the imagination, and a lot of time spent on the creating of characters. It's usually a 6 week class meeting once a week for 3 hours.

Daood: Are there any television projects or films that we can look forward to seeing you in the months to come?

Denise: I wish I could say there was!!! One of my students has written an amazing film called "Sundays in Fort Greene" that is to be shot sometime this summer in NYC. It will star Meagan Goode, Tamara Bass (writer) and ME as their Mother. Other than that, I shall look to God to see what he may have in store for me!!

Daood: Where can one find more information about the play "Love & Other Social Issues," your acting classes and future endeavors?

Denise: For information about Love & Other Social Issues, you can check out malcolmjamalwarner.com and as for me, you can check from time to time denisedowselive.com or my myspace page: myspace/livelifejuicy.

Daood: It has been an honor and humbling experience speaking with you!

Denise: It has been an honor to have been asked Daood. Loved your questions and yes, your patience!!! Continued blessings to you my dear!!

3 comments:

kurt tarkington said...

Hey Denise; it's Kurt From Germany years. its so neat to know you followed your passion. i have seen you in a few things. It's so good to know you are still directing too. I hope God continues to bless you. I work for Teen Challenge Training Center in Rehrersburg PA. Its a faith based drug treatment program for men. i look forward to catching you on tv again real soon.

Anonymous said...

Wondering...is this the same Kurt Tarkington who grow up in Webster Groves MO?

whitlock

Michael Crudup said...

Hello Denise, I se God has blessed you to follow your passion and be successful. My name is Michael Crudup from the Bremerhaven years... @ the gym. Continue the EXCELLENT work, looking to see more.