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By Madelaine Barry - Photographs by Deana Culp
Although Deana grew up on a South Dakota farm and got her lessons in a one-room schoolhouse, her family and school mates were often entertained by her dancing and singing “shows.” Halloween was an annual favorite time when dressing up as an alter ego was encouraged and she relished it. High school and college offered more organized instruction, though she formally studied math and Spanish education.
Flash forward to Deana’s four years teaching in two schools in Costa Rica, starting in 1990, where she directed middle and high school productions. Outside of school, she played Dulcinea and was the music director for eleven performances of “Man of La Mancha” as part of the Little Theater Group in San Jose.
1994 brought her to the Colegio Americano de Quito. There she wanted to delve into drama once again. She asked the principal to take a chance on her to write a script for high schoolers based on the newly released movie “Aladdin.” The principal agreed, the musical play was a rousing success and thus she kept her feet in theatre in Ecuador.
The American Embassy School of Delhi, India was her home from 2000-2012. While teaching there, a friend asked her to read a play called “Seven.” This documentary theatre piece was written by seven playwrights who collaborated with seven women from seven countries who fought for the rights of women and children. It evidently struck a chord in Deana. Little did she know at that first reading that she would direct and perform this play—ten times to date!
When life took her to the closest she has been to retirement in Cuenca, she looked for a community theatre group to join but found none for English speakers. Starting small, the Azuay Community Theater, A.C.T., was born in February 2014 with an invitation to the community from Juanita Ruth One. Hoping to recreate the success of “Seven”, Deana found Cuencanos and Expats who dedicated three months to rehearsals in her living room until they found venues to perform for sold out audiences in both Spanish and English in March of 2015. Proceeds of this particular show have always gone to support The Casa Maria Amor Women’s Shelter in Cuenca.
A.C.T. currently has a board of seven members, who oversee the financial side of the organization, with committee for all areas of production. All are voluntary labors of love. What keeps Deana here is the talent she works with. Yes, the stars on the stage amaze her but the passion of the back stage workers do as well. She says the key to casting roles is to know the story inside and out and to have the final vision in mind even before auditions. She watches for the chemistry between the characters, which she learned from working with great directors.
A challenge that Deana faces in Cuenca is the lack of a theatre that A.C.T. can call its own. Where to build and store the sets? Where can they practice whenever they want, versus the constraints that restaurant and theatre venues give them? Would anyone in town want to leave a legacy and donate space and/or money for a theatre? Deana promises she’ll name it after you!
To contact Deana, receive direct emails about upcoming A.C.T. events, or to volunteer to be a part of theater productions, drop a note to email@example.com
- CITIZEN JOURNALISM – Azuay Community Theater’s Deana Culp - September 7, 2020
- CITIZEN JOURNALISM – Clairvoyant and Psychic at Large - May 26, 2020