Deanna Neil is a writer, producer, singer, actor and educator.
WRITING AND RADIO
Deanna always knew she wanted to be an author. She found physical confirmation of this in a music bulletin in which she was interviewed about her future career aspirations at the age of nine. (She also said her favorite book was "The Trumpet of the Swan".) She wrote for school newspapers throughout high school and college and received an Honors Degree in American Studies with a focus in literature from Wesleyan University in 2003.
Deanna's first job out of college was working as a full-time writer for cosmetics entrepreneur Trish McEvoy. She also served as a script evaluator for the 13th street Repertory Company, and honed her own script writing with Storahtelling, penning over a dozen original works (see below).
In 2004, Deanna spent a year and a half at political talk station Air America Radio. She originally started as a web content writer, but moved into production. She was a Segment Producer for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Ring of Fire, the Associate Producer of the Mike Malloy show, a regular guest on The Kyle Jason Show and she was a Production Assistant for Public Enemy founder Chuck D and Grammy Award winner Steve Earle. She also produced and hosted weekly "Behind the Scenes" web-based interviews with Air America talent, including Al Franken, Liz Winstead, Marc Maron, Sam Seder, and Rachel Maddow. More recently, Deanna freelanced for independent producer Johanna Cooper, and provided vox-pops (audio clips) for Weekend America on NPR.
In 2007, Deanna co-founded The Ecoseekers, which aims to engage kids with nature through the power of story, and is currently writing the company’s Book Collection. Her Yellowstone Trilogy, The Land of Curiosities, is geared toward ages 8-14 and centers around a family that goes to Yellowstone in the early 1870s, when it's turned into the world's first national park. The series has won 9 awards including "Best First Book" and a Mom's Choice Award (see full list under awards/press). A separate title, Time for National Parks, released in the spring of 2010, is geared toward ages 3 and up and portrays families traveling through various national parks.
Her books have been endorsed by a range of political and environmental leaders including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Senator Dick Durbin, Nell Newman, Richard Louv, The National Association of Park Rangers, Republicans for the Protection of the Environment, the NRDC, the World Wildlife Federation. Visit www.theecoseekers.com for a full list. She and her brother, David, have appeared on ABC News, Good Morning America Now, and in 2008 Deanna was named a "hero of the planet" by Time Magazine for Kids.
Deanna has written two plays. Fracturing, an adaptation of Ibsen's Enemy of the People focused on a family torn apart by hydraulic fracturing in upstate New York, played for two weeks at the Flamboyan Theater in New York City. The production was awarded a Pepsi Grant, was featured on Science Friday for its green initiative, and garnered a nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role by the New York Independent Theatre Awards. Deanna was a playwright-in-Residence for the Northwoods Ramah, creating the one act How Do We Get Out of Here?, and was also a playwright-in-Residence of the Off Square Theatre Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
She's written for KCET, Zocalo Public Square, the Huffington Post, and performs at live storytelling events across Los Angeles.
SINGER AND ACTOR
Deanna began her performance career at the age of 5, singing “the Cubs’ song" (aka The Star Spangled Banner) from the top of the stairs in her house in the Chicago suburbs. By the age of 18 she played Ruby in a workshop of The Night of the Hunter (dir: Robert Falls) at the Goodman Theater, then appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show as an overachiever. The label has been hard to shake ever since.
College was a time for exploration--she played “Estelle" in No Exit, “Betty" in Sure Thing/All in the Timing, “Mrs. Gibbs" in Our Town, and various opera scenes including Dido and Aneas and Die Fledermaus. She won 1st Prize for the Wesleyan University Concerto Competition and received an IES vocal scholarship for study in Milan, Italy, where she studied abroad. After Milan, she spent two consecutive summers with Centro Studi Italiani, learning Italian and participating in exclusive opera programs through Millikin University and the Manhattan School of Music. She performed weekly concerts, scenes and a full production of Le Nozze di Figaro (dir: Lorna Haywood), performed in the medieval town of Urbino.
Deanna moved to New York in 2003. Her first project was a 24 person play, created from scratch in a month, called Hidden Voices (Dir: Terrance Mann), which played at the Minetta Lane Theater. She subsequently starred in Starshine, a children’s musical about prejudice performed on the Summerstage in Central Park, and Uncle Jeb’s farm. In her first independent film, Cardinal Directions (Dir: Nathan Summerlin), the two person cast shot an entirely improvised script in which she played an angel visiting earth to take land measurements. In 2006 she created a solo show Enter Night: An Exploration of Bedtime, which she performed (in various incarnations) at Don’t Tell Mama’s in NYC, The Tank, and on The Battersey Barge in London.
When she first arrived in New York Deanna was also encouraged to audition for Storahtelling. Now a resident actor of this Jewish ritual theater company, Deanna has written, created and performed in over a dozen shows across the country, including: The Birth of Laughter (Chicago, IL); Field of Dreams (Jacksonville, FL); Sacred Spectacle (Leesburg, FL); Cowboy Jews Get the Blues (Pinemere, PA); If These Walls Could Talk (Arlington, VA), Cooking with Cohen (Atlanta, GA); Future, Present, Passed Over (Queens, NY), I Need a Hero (New York, NY), Just for the Record (Riverdale, NY), Promises, Promises (Richboro, PA), Face Off (Albany, NY). Face to Face (Manalapan, NJ), Go Down Moses (Richboro, PA), and Babble (Stamford, CT). She was faculty for Storahtelling, teaching the art of “Maven" and translation, at Brandeis University in the summer of 2008, and for rabbis and cantors at HUC in January 2009. In 2009 she was a Maven Mentor, providing year-long guidance for a congregation in Riverdale New York, helping kids and adults translate biblical text from Hebrew using theater.
Before moving to Los Angeles, she performed for 3 years as a vocalist with the jazz performance piece Mayim Rabim/Great Waters, an original song cycle by Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, at BRIC studios/BRIC lab, P.S. 122 in NYC, at the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Wexner Center in Ohio. For 7 years, Deanna performed and recorded for composer Jason Cady in his operatic rock band Jason Cady and the Artificials, and his experimental operas, including A Post Madonna Prima Donna, original recording now available from Peacock (http://www.amazon.com/Post-Madonna-Prima-Donna-Jason-Cady/dp/B001C4FBHA), and Happiness is the Problem: A Phono-graphic Novel, with sections previously performed at The Stone in NYC, the Issue Project in Brooklyn, and the Wilmette Theater in Chicago. She has also work-shopped various versions of director Annie Levy's Six Seeds: The Persephone Project, a feminist examination of the myth of Persephone. In 2009, Deanna appeared in Mombo(Dir: Bernie Kukoff) in Chatham, NY. She has served as as High Holiday Cantor and service leader for 8 years, singing at Yale, NYU, University of Vermont and Am Shalom in Glencoe.
You can catch her singing with her Ukulele around Los Angeles. She's appeared at Busby's East, El Sid, Taix, the Bronson Bar, and Comedy Central stages, and in various religious contexts including East Side Jews and Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
Deanna studied voice with Joan Patanaude-Yarnell and Bill Zeffiro. She studied acting under Matt Bennett, The Barrow Group (Seth Barrish and Lee Brock), Act I Studios, June Stein, and UCB Theatre in Los Angeles.
Deanna has taught every age group from three-year-olds to seniors. She has worked as a storyteller, discussion facilitator, substitute teacher, and visiting scholar. She is currently the Director of the Jewish Learning Center at the Silverlake Independent JCC, and a mentor and ritual facilitator through Hebrew Helpers, ushering unaffiliated and interfaith families through the bar and bat mitzvah process. She was an artist-in-residence in Brooklyn with Opening Act, a nonprofit that provides arts education to underprivileged New York City teens, and for East LA Classic Theater. She previously interned for Students Live, Inc. providing educational packages, including award winning study guides and discounted tickets to Broadway shows. She also worked as an intern and later as an assistant for Richenthal Productions, Inc, producing Broadway shows.
Deanna Neil is a writer, producer, singer, actor and educator.