There have been three turning points that have changed my life. Teaching, building a theatre, and directing movies.
I made the decision to pursue teaching walking on the beach with my dad. I always knew that I had something to say and contribute to the conversation of acting. I am fascinated by process and what it takes to make a great moment on stage or on film happen. The connection of all those moments lead to a unique and riveting performance. I have a vision of myself with white hair, teaching young actors until the very last moment of my life.
When I walked into the Edgemar Center designed by Frank Gehry I had a jolt that changed my life. I literally had an out of body experience. I saw stage lights, heard audience laugh and applaud, and felt that we should create live performances in these spaces. In the year 2000 the ECA was one open space. We raised 1.3 million in a capitol campaign and built in the following 18 months two theatres, an art gallery, box office, second floor tech booth, and offices. I think this fulfilled a dream of mine that I had since I was a child, to build live theatres that would have the following mission statement:
Edgemar Center for the Arts (ECA) serves as collaborative rehearsal and performance space open to artists of all disciplines and experience levels. It is a space in which original and classical theater productions, dance performances, visual arts and films works are performed. ECA believes in nurturing high level independent, experimental, and student works in various stages of development and is a collaborative workspace for artists of all kinds.??Additionally, ECA serves all facets of the Westside community and beyond by offering public arts programs. These programs include ticketed performances and educational outreach courses for children and senior citizens.
Our mission is to provide a physical environment that nurtures the creative process and encourages collaboration between writers, directors, actors, musicians, dancers and visual artists. ??
TO CREATE a learning environment for children and adults.??
TO INVITE the community to observe, engage and interact, to add its voices to our creative discovery.??
An actor on break sits in the courtyard running lines by Tennessee Williams as Flamenco dancers practice on the steps for their dusk performance. A group of fifteen third graders hum their way single-file through the Center’s sculpture-filled lobby into the rehearsal room. A small group of eighth graders is busy upstairs in the video editing suite offered by a neighbor business owner. Their friends and family will attend the screening at the Center’s film festival in June.
When I walk into Edgemar, early in the morning, I can’t help but look up at those very tall wood ceilings (that give us great acoustics) and remember that night where I felt that spark.
To make a movie has got to be one of the most difficult things, ever. In this case making Hello Herman was more difficult than giving birth and building Edgemar combined. The day of my birthday I woke up and I felt a click that said to me, no matter what, I will make this happen. I will be shooting this movie. Three months later, despite all the turbulence and obstacles, I was calling action on my first day of principal photography with an amazing cast. This taught me that when I really put my mind to something I can make it happen, I just have to make that decision.
Michelle Danner Bio:
Michelle Danner works with many A-List Actors privately and on set including Chris Rock, Gerard Butler, Seth MacFarlane, Melanie Brown, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Penelope Cruz, Verne Troyer, Grant Bowler, Kate Del Castillo,Michael Pena, Isla Fisher, Common, Salma Hayek, Brian McKnight, James Franco, Marcia Cross, Christian Slater, Catherine Bell, Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Union, Justin Chatwin, Justine Wadell, Rob Estes, Rick Fox, and Sally Kellerman among many others. She has trained personally with Stella Adler, Uta Hagen and has been the managing director of the Larry Moss Studio now The Acting Studio at Edgemar for the last nineteen years. She teaches ongoing scene study classes at The Acting Studio at Edgemar. She teaches internationally in Europe, Toronto, Vancouver, Dubai, and New York. She was the acting coach expert on comedy on the WB show “The Starlet”. She was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers. Once a year Michelle directs for the industry the multi media event Scene Bites. She was featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien in July 2009.
Michelle has directed and acted in over thirty plays and musicals in New York and Los Angeles. Her favorite acting credits include Tennessee William’s The Rose Tattoo, critic’s pick and five Dramalogue awards including best actress.
Her highlights at Edgemar Center for the Arts have been pioneering new works include producing The Night of the Black Cat, a world premiere and winner of the 2005 Best Musical of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards. She directed the world premiere of Mental the Musical, winner of several 17th Annual TicketHolder awards for acting and musical score. Last year she wrote and directed the world premiere of You’re on the Air an improv based comedy which is under development to become a movie. She recently directed the west coast premiere of Hello Herman by John Buffalo Mailer.
She produced and acted in the award-winning short Dos Corazones, which won Best Cinematography & Audience Favorite at the Malibu Film Festival. In 2006 she made her feature film-directing debut How to go Out on a Date in Queens which was nominated and won four LA Film Awards including Best Director. It starred Jason Alexander, Esai Morales, Ron Perlman, Kimberly Williams, Rob Estes, and Alison Eastwood. After being theatrically released it’s now available everywhere on video and also aired nationwide on the Sunday Night Movie of the Week Memorial Day weekend 2008.
Michelle is the founding director of Edgemar Center for the Arts and raised $1.3 million which went to the construction of the two theatres and the art gallery at the Center. She is currently the Artistic Director of the Center as well as Edgemar Center for the Art’s resident theatre company, The Edgemar Theatre Group, whose season she oversees. Her production company, Capricorn Films, is in development for several film projects: YOU’RE ON THE AIR, THE BANDIT HOUND, and THE WILL TO. In April 2011 she completed principal photography on the feature film starring Norman Reedus, Martha Higareda, and Garrett