We had the good fortune of connecting with Marisa Duran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marisa, what’s your definition for success?
My definition of success has changed quite drastically over the years. For a long time I was really bothered by the fact that I didn’t complete what I originally set out to achieve. But I have learned that changing your definition of success doesn’t mean you failed. It means that you have garnered a better understanding of who you are and what you want from life. I like to think of it as “leveling up”. I’ve been involved in the performing arts since I was in second grade. Like many actors, my childhood dream was to be in a Broadway musical. As time wore on and I became more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, my plans changed. I learned that I enjoyed plays more than musicals, which meant that I probably wasn’t going to be the next Broadway star. No big deal, there were other performance avenues to explore! I decided to pursue acting in college, and, upon graduation, I set another significant goal for myself. My new definition of success sounded something like: I want to be able to financially support myself doing only performance work. Well, twenty-two year-old Marisa had no idea how difficult that would prove to be, especially in the very early stages of her professional acting career. After two years with this goal at the forefront of my mind, I became very burned out on performance work and ended up taking a year-long hiatus from theatre. It was during this time that I realized I had been saying yes to gigs for the pay rate, instead of saying yes to gigs that I truly wanted to be a part of. My happiness had become contingent on whether or not I was successful in achieving my (rather lofty) goal. Yikes! After a lot of soul-searching, I discovered my problem wasn’t so much that my happiness was dependent on my success, it was that my definition of success no longer suited me. So, I settled on my current definition: I want to leave people better than I found them. This is a fairly broad definition that encompasses more than just my performance life; in fact, it pertains to every aspect — my day job, my career, my relationships, my time, etc. There’s also no tangible way to measure it, it’s all about feeling. As long as I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal, then I have. And that’s good enough for me. At the end of the day, I just want to love others. I believe that was my goal all along. Thirteen year-old Marisa wanted to be on a Broadway stage so that she could tell stories that would positively impact others. I think she’d be proud to see how far she’s come since then.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My parents will tell you that my “inner artist” started to show when I was two years-old, dancing around the living room to the Barney theme song. As silly as it sounds, I truly believe that those moments of pure, unadulterated joy are what lit a creative fire under me. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t fueled by the incessant need to express myself creatively. I am beyond grateful to my parents for giving me the freedom to “find myself”, both as an artist and as a human being. They have always been incredibly supportive of my artistic endeavors and will forever be my number one fans. My mom is the one who signed me up for my first theatre camp. That’s when the “theatre bug” bit me, and I never looked back. All throughout grade school I auditioned for and performed in countless plays and musicals with local theaters. My parents would take turns driving me to and from my various rehearsals all over the metroplex during evening rush hour. They would run lines with me over and over again. They sacrificed so much to allow me to pursue my dreams, and I would not be where I am today without their love and encouragement. Suffice it to say, I knew early on that performing was more for me than just a hobby. I wanted to make it my career. I decided to pursue theatre in college and graduated with a BFA in Acting from Texas Christian University in 2016. I learned a lot about myself and the industry during my four years at TCU, but I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what the “real world” would bring. I was fortunate to sign with one of DFW’s top talent agencies in 2017 and, although I was being submitted for a a variety of projects on a consistent basis, I wasn’t booking any work. It was also during this time that my day job began to interfere with my performance career and I felt the need to choose between financial stability or pursuing my passion. On top of all this, my theatrical “type” was in flux, and neither I nor local directors seemed to know which roles I best fit. Eventually, I stopped being cast in shows entirely. I felt defeated. After fifteen years, my insatiable desire to perform began to dwindle and I was questioning everything I’d ever believed to be true about myself. Fortunately, my year-long hiatus from theatre ended up being a time of very necessary self-discovery. I learned that “Being an Actor” was not my end goal. Instead, what I truly wanted was to “Leave people better than I found them.” — be it through art, conversation, coffee, etc. Not only that, but my creativity did not have to suffer just because I wasn’t booking theatre gigs. I could find fulfillment through modeling, painting, film, or any number of artistic avenues. These discoveries changed my outlook on life. I became a much more upbeat, positive person, both at home and in the workplace. That optimism turned to joy, and that joy radiated throughout every audition room into which I walked. Suddenly, I began to book work again. Up until March of 2020 I was blessed to be working consistently in both theatre and film. The current state of the performance world is…difficult to navigate. The pandemic has significantly slowed production in the film industry and brought in-person theatrical productions to all but a complete halt for the foreseeable future. I had three plays lined up from mid-March through the end of summer that were cancelled within a few short weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of my friends experienced the same kind of heartbreak. Not only is this hard on the cast and crew, but it’s a huge financial blow to theatre companies who rely on ticket sales to stay afloat. It’s troubling to see our industry struggle like this at a time when art is so desperately needed. I am proud to say that we are adapting as best we can under the circumstances — from live-streaming cabaret performances and presenting original pieces drive-in movie theatre style, to speaking Shakespeare’s finest speeches over Zoom and virtually workshopping new plays by local playwrights. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that the show must go on!) That said, I also know that I, like many of my friends, miss walking into a theatre or rehearsal space and thinking, “I’m home.” But “home” is not the physical building in which we meet, it’s the people we surround ourselves with. COVID can keep us from physically gathering together, but it cannot stifle the passion we have for our art or the love we feel for one another. As humans, we are born with an innate need to belong, to connect with others. I want my art to build a bridge between us. I want my art to foster change and conversation. I want my art to remind us that, at our very core, we are all the same. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past twenty-six years, it’s that life is difficult. But life is also incredibly beautiful, and we don’t have to go through it alone.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I might work at Starbucks, but I love visiting locally owned coffeeshops on my days off, so we’d totally go on a tour of some of my favorite coffeehouses in DFW. I’d probably start us at Cultivar Coffee off of Jefferson Ave. in Dallas. Upon finishing our coffee, we could walk around the Bishop Arts District and check out all of the shops. Then we could venture up to Edison Coffee Co. in Flower Mound, grab a bite to eat, and sit outside on the square to enjoy the midday sunshine. Later, we could visit the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, stop by Sons Coffee near downtown for a quick caffeine refuel, eat dinner at Joe T Garcia’s, and finish the night off with some drinks and live music at the Scat Jazz Lounge.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Mom and Dad, you will always be my biggest fans. Thank you for wholeheartedly supporting me and my chosen career path from the time I was a little girl. I will never be able to repay what you have given me, but I sure hope I make you proud. I love you. To all of the teachers and professors who have mentored me along the way, thank you for your wisdom, patience, and understanding. You have my utmost respect and gratitude. To every director with whom I have had the pleasure of working, thank you for taking a chance on me and providing me with an opportunity for growth, both as an artist and as a human being. I would not be the person I am today without you.
Madeline Potter, Melina Molina, Jessica Elizabeth, Maddy Green, Ayden Grace, Samantha Sanguino