Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications
 

Joe Danisi, Actor-Screenwriter-Director

October 15, 2008

In this segment, we hear from actor, playwright, screenwriter and director Joe Danisi. The conversation is led by award-winning actress Marilyn Sokol. She's a professor in Lehman's Department of Journalism, Communication and Theatre.

4 Minutes 32 Seconds

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Transcript

00:00

[MUSIC]

LYDIA DIAZ:

This is Lydia Diaz, a Mass Communications major at Lehman College. In this segment, we hear from actor, playwright, screenwriter and director Joe Danisi.

Danisi talks about his evolution from actor to documentary writer. He was creative director of the "Play and Screenplay Development Series" in the Naked Angels Theater Company. He was also a screenwriter for a well-known Court TV series: "Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice: Doctor of Deceit."

The conversation is led by award-winning actress Marilyn Sokol. She's a professor in Lehman's Department of Journalism, Communication and Theatre.

00:41

MARILYN SOKOL:

Let me ask you something. You started as an actor.

JOE DANISI:

I started as an actor.

MARILYN SOKOL:

How did you make that leap from-- first of all, which role did you assume first? To leave-- well, not leave, but to add to your acting? Was it director, producer or writer?

JOE DANISI:

Well, it's interesting because I think I was always a writer and didn't know it. Through the years, I've thought back on -- you know, your childhood comes back to you and then you remember, oh, my goodness, yes, scribbling in the corner of your bedroom. On the floor or whatever. But as Marilyn said, I was trained as an actor. And, you know--

01:21

MARILYN SOKOL:

Where did you train?

JOE DANISI:

I went to the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute.

MARILYN SOKOL:

Okay.

JOE DANISI:

What happened with me was, like a lot of actors, I was very frustrated because you want a part. You go after it. It's-- you know, it's the most difficult career. It has to be one's religion. I was in-- went to Europe at one point with a production of West Side Story. I did an opera at BAM. I mean, all-- I was auditioning for everything I could find.

And I started to write as a result of my frustration. And like a lot of actors who begin to write, I wrote for myself. I would write monologues. I took a little writing workshop just to kill some time. And, you know, that really was a catalyst. And I started to perform my own material around town. One-man shows and this kind of thing. And I -- that was -- you know, that was a real turning point. And so I would give my pages to other actresses or other actors. "Hey, hey, look at this. Does this -- you know--" "Look at this monologue," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then that grew into plays, short plays. And that sort of got the ball rolling.

02:30

MARILYN SOKOL:

And then, how did you get into -- and then you started directing your own pieces, right? Your own work.

JOE DANISI:

I did. I started writing and then I had one-act plays, and I would direct them at different small venues around town.

MARILYN SOKOL:

But to make the leap from this very artistic path--

JOE DANISI:

Yeah.

02:48

MARILYN SOKOL:

-- to being hired by A&E and Discovery, that's quite a jump. How did that occur?

JOE DANISI:

So one of the people I had spoken with was actually, a booker, a sort-of talent booker.

MARILYN SOKOL:

Yeah?

JOE DANISI:

And -- he said, "Are you ready to make a change?" And I said, "Yes." And I felt something shift. And I was still acting, but I was, you know, looking to expand. And that led to having an interview for a job as a production assistant on a TV special. Which led to getting another P.A. job on something else. And all of that kind of, you know, kept moving along.

At the same time, I was performing, I was writing. I felt -- I was all over the map. It's very tough, and you've got to love it. And that love is what keeps that flame alive and will nurture you through all those dark nights. Very, very tough business. Because you've been on Broadway once doesn't mean that you're gonna have a career there.

03:49

MARILYN SOKOL:

That's right.

JOE DANISI:

Because you've had a television show, if you get to that point, doesn't mean that--

MARILYN SOKOL:

That's right.

JOE DANISI:

--you're gonna have a career after those 13 episodes or three seasons.

03:58

MARILYN SOKOL:

You still have to keep digging ditches.

JOE DANISI:

And that's the beauty of being an actor. That's the beauty of working in this -- in this profession. All that life experience. And it constantly changes as we change. And that's the gift that actors are given, which very few other people are given.

04:17

LYDIA DIAZ:

Visit www.lehman.edu. This is a production of the Lehman College Media Relations Office.

[MUSIC]

04:32

[END OF AUDIO]