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Danielle Channell

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Danielle Channell is a talented actor living and working in Naples, Florida. Past credits include Mae Flynn in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for The Studio Players, trophy wife Kaitlyn Gordon, brainiac neurosurgeon Angela Saperstein-Koplan and caustic Bohemian author Brianna in Let Nothing You Dismay for Lab Theater, Beatrice Pomeroy in Don’t Talk to the Actors for The Studio Players in Naples, Sheri Steinberg-Johnes in Mitch Albom’s And the Winner Is …. for Lab Theater, producer Julia Budder in It’s Only a Play (Lab Theater), Broadway producer Elsa Von Grossenkneuten in The Musical Comedy Murders of the 1940s (Lab Theater) and the beautiful, charming and talented Meg McGrath in Beth Henley’s Southern Gothic tragi-comedy, Crimes of the Heart (Lab Theater). She also read the role of Desiree in the SoDis Theater virtual reading of The Realish Housewives of Fort Myers and plays that part in LabTV’s upcoming filmed production of that comedy.

Danielle also appeared as Christine in the short film Ordinary Story, which was written and directed by local filmmaker and photographer Tony Myles. In fact, it was Ordinary Story that led to Danielle’s re-entry into the world of theater after a nine year hiatus following her graduation from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication.

As often happens, the demands of career pre-empted acting in the years following graduation. “I moved away for a while, and when I returned, my focus was on work,” Danielle explains. “But the whole time I felt like something was missing. Then I ran into Stephanie Davis [at a business function] She looked at my name tag and said, ‘You’re an actress, aren’t you?’ I was flabbergasted. Like yeah, how did she know that? She had see Tony Myles’ short film Ordinary Story, which I’d done when I was 25.”

As it turned out, Stephanie was directing Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart for Lab Theater and had yet to cast the part of Meg MaGrath. Davis immediately asked Channell to audition for the part.

“She was SO good in that film — and as I remember it — she had no lines,” comments Stephanie Davis. “After I saw it, I wondered, ‘Whatever happened to this talented young actress?’ — then I met Danielle downtown at a Love That Dress function. I thought, ‘We’ve got to get this woman on stage!’ She’s such a talent.”

“At the time, I hadn’t really thought about getting back into acting and was actually kind of on the fence about even going to the audition.”

She’d been to shows at Lab and wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of making the drive back and forth from Naples each night for rehearsals and performances. But when she read the script, Meg resonated with her and she knew instantly she was a character she’d love doing. So she went to the audition and got the part, although it was Scott Carpenter who ended up being her director after a last minute change.

“I’m extremely grateful to Stephanie and to Annette, of course, and everyone at the Lab for being so encouraging, and to my mom, who comes to all my shows,” Danielle says, her trademark throaty laugh underscoring her marvel over the happenstance to led to her return to the stage.

 

Education

Channell did not study theater in either high school or college. But both prepared her for her time on the boards.

In high school, Danielle competed through the National Forensic League, a nationwide organization that gives high school students the opportunity to polish their speaking/acting skills, compete in regulated National tournaments, and be a part of a lifelong organization that promotes solid speaking skills and intelligence..

“So my National Forensic League coach gets the blame, because he invited me to join the team as a freshman,” Danielle laughs. “It was a departure for me because as a little girl, I was the quiet one coloring in the corner. We’d go to these debate tournaments all over the state of Florida, pretty much every single weekend throughout the school year. And I kept winning trophies. I’d come home and put another trophy on the coffee table.”

In addition to debate (Lincoln/Douglas, policy and public forum), extemporaneous speaking, original oratory and storytelling, the National Forensic League offered events in dramatic and humorous interpretation.

“I started doing dramatic interpretation. It was akin to competitive acting. You’d do a 10-minute monologue and the goal was to make the person judging you cry or feel something, or you’d have to cry.”

She won the national tournament three times.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

But she didn’t major in theater at FGCU. She chose Communications as her major instead.

“Fortunately, you didn’t have to be a theater major to audition for [TheatreLab’s productions]. They held open auditions for their shows.”

So she tried out and was cast in four separate shows, including Necessary Targets [Eve Ensler’s first new work since The Vagina Monologues which tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves], Deborah Brevoort’s Women of Lockerbie [winner of the silver medal in the Onassis International Playwriting Competition and the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays award, this play tells the story of a New Jersey mom who while searching the hills of Lockerbie, Scotland for her son’s remains following the downing of Pan Am 103 by terrorists meets a group of women determined to convert an act of hatred into an act of love by obtaining and washing the clothes of the dead and returning them to the victims’ families] and Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin [a madcap comedy that follows three actresses across the footlights, down the rabbit hole, and into a strangely familiar Wonderland that looks a lot like American theater as they pursue their dream of performing Chekhov in Texas and stumble upon unique solutions to the Three Sisters’ need to have life’s deeper purpose revealed].

“So I tell people I have an unofficial minor in theater,” Danielle quips.

 

Happenstance Also Led Danielle to her Reign as Southwest Florida’s Queen of Farce

Interestingly, Channell’s experiences in both high school and college predisposed her to dramatic roles. But Cat on a Hot Tin Roof aside, Danielle has carved a reputation locally as a comedic actor.

“As I’ve gotten older and experienced dramatic moments in my life, I’ve found that comedy is indeed the best medicine,” says Danielle of her transition to comedy. “I do love being silly and goofy and things like that.”

Of course, she’s always up to the challenge of a dramatic role, and she distinguished herself with her portrayal of Mae Flynn in Studio Players’ production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. 

“It is nice to be able to change it up and have the option to do both [comedic and dramatic roles]. But in the final analysis, I’m looking more for something within me that resonates with the character. Whether its comedic or dramatic is secondary to that consideration.”

It helps, Channell professes, to have experienced many of the wry, awkward moments in real life that her characters encounter on stage. It’s that verisimilitude that unique enables her to make the facial expressions that have led to her being crowned Southwest Florida’s Queen of Farce.

“A lot of it is direction,” Danielle demurs. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some very wonderful directors.”

But some of it just comes from her uncanny understanding of basic human interactions.

“We’ve all been in awkward, extreme situations or silly situations where you have to keep a straight face when all you really want to do is bust out laughing. I just tap into that in those situations.”

Evidence some of her outtakes as Julia Budder in It’s Only a Play and brooding writer Brianna in Let Nothing You Dismay. “I was told to be brooding and dark, and we just went there.”

She nailed it, giving audiences a Halloween character smack dab in the middle of a Christmas comedy.

June 27, 2019; revised October 18, 2020.

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