Deena Levy Theatre Studio

Teaching actors to "unlock the secrets" since 1990"

About Deena


At 10 years old I began my career as the self-appointed “artistic director” of a series of performances that took place every Sunday before the family barbecue. My “ensemble” included my loyal brother, the golden retriever, and a motley array of cousins. We would emerge from my “backstage” bedroom in tutus, all powdered and lipsticked, toting batons and plastic machine-guns, and wearing fishbowls for hats. The nonsensical but structured productions always concluded with a viewing of “Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” Rainbow-like in my endeavor, I was determined to be more colorful. I realized at a very young age that entertainment was a necessity. And that wherever this path led me, I would reach deep into my core to make it happen. I instinctively knew that an artist must fuse the unconventional with logic and find her own authentic voice within the art in order to reach an audience. But first: I had to learn how to act.

My desire to learn was insatiable. Learning how to act was learning how to live, was learning how to listen, was learning how to absorb, how to respond, how to pursue, how to be… how to masterfully pretend. At 12 years old, singing the wrong line out of tune on my third callback for a leading role in Oliver, I darted out of the gymnasium mid-audition, crushed with embarrassment. The next day, throwing myself at the feet of Mr. Dan Calinescu; I begged for one more chance. He greeted me with a firm, “No,” even though he knew he’d already cast me for the part. I vowed I would never run again. To this day, intrinsic to my teaching is “How do you make the mistake work?” Driven by Chutzpah and chocolate in my senior year; I somehow convinced the dean of the Drama Department to fork over a thousand dollars (a good chunk back in the day) toward my graduating thesis. Mentored by the remarkable Anne Bogart, I produced, wrote, and performed my one-woman show “Duet Alone” (and began a trend of one-person pieces at N.Y.U.). With my seven devoted stage technicians in tow, my avante-garde production was mounted for its two-week run. Once again there I stood, like a young girl in her living room playing serious dress-up, challenging both myself and an audience, as I explored such themes as alienation, fantasy, grief, self-love, ADD, and ultimately stillness. I realized that I could do anything I wanted to do. I just had to work my ass off, keep my eye on the ball, and let go. NOTHING’S CHANGED.

I affectionately refer to learning how to act as “a road backward.” In other words the rug sometimes gets pulled out; it’s never quite as you thought it would be. It’s better. I hum with joy to see a student embrace their “flaw“, that human part of us that we can depend on to disable our good intensions at any given moment (especially at an audition)…the mastery of one’s flaw might be the 8th wonder of the world.

There is a basket in my class filled with cell phones. Upon entering, add yours to the pile. You will learn to love “doing” without it.

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CREDITS

Deena was born in Toronto, Ontario and moved to New York City in 1979. She has worn many hats as producer, director, writer, and actor in collaboration with such innovative artists as Anne Bogart, Richard LaGravenese, Nicky Silver, and Jessica Litwak. Along with her partner Gerald Brody, they formed the OPEN STAGE THEATRE COMPANY in 1988, teaching weekend intensives and scene study classes. By 1993, she founded the Deena Levy Theatre Studio, expanding her techniques and offering a wide range of courses and performing opportunities for her students. She has produced and directed countless themed performance showcases in theatre venues throughout New York City. Deena was chosen over dozens of acting teachers to be the subject of the documentary, ACTORS TRANSFORMATION: THE WORK OF DEENA LEVY AND HER STUDENTS created by Canadian videographer Genevieve Appleton. It screened at film festivals and aired on BRAVO Canada for three years.

Deena lectures and teaches at universities and businesses and has been a regular guest speaker at Actorfest NYC. She has taught in Toronto, New Orleans, Chicago, and LA, and was made an honorary fellow at York University, Toronto. She received the Founders Day Award for outstanding academic achievement from New York University with a B.F.A in theatre and is in the Gold Key Honor Society at Emerson College, Boston. Her work has been featured in many published interviews and essays, including the BACKSTAGE article Successful Actors Talk About their Training.

Deena is a proud member of SAG/AFTRA and Actors Equity Association. She acted in many Off-Broadway productions. Most notably, as a member of the Orange Theatre Company she co-produced and performed in the Off-Broadway revival of IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM working directly with playwright David Rabe. She performed leading roles in two award-winning short films, “Confessions of My Closest Friends” (Houston International Film Festival – best dramatic short, WNET Public Television) and “Arts Garden” (Cinemax ShortTakes). She played herself in the award-winning hit comedy TV series, KENNY VERSUS SPENNY (Episode: “Who is the better actor…”). Some of the actors she has performed with are William Fichtner, Rip Torn, Eric Roberts, William Russ, David Alan Grier, Lois Robbins, Mike Bencivenga, and the late Estelle Getty.

Many of Deena’s students are currently performing on Broadway, on tour, on television, and in both Indie and feature films.