100 Creatives

Duane Daniels of Space 55 on Why There's No Substitute for Experience

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 29. Duane Daniels.

Duane Daniels became an acting coach because it was the next logical step.

"I was an actor for a long time, then became a director and producer," the 56-year-old says. "I learned how to help actors excel during those years. "

It's a practice to which he's devoted days, months, and summers. Based in Phoenix, Daniels runs acting studio The Actors WorkHouse, and serves as the artistic director at the neighboring theater, Space 55, located just south of Roosevelt Row in a stretch he calls "SoRo." During summers, he teaches acting at the Berridge Conservatory in France and calls it "one of the best things I've ever had the opportunity to do." 

Surrounding himself with people inspires Daniels, who finds joy in seeing actors achieve their goals and "figuring out how to take a scene or a line of dialogue and make it as powerful and impactful as possible."

However, that old dis about teachers being "those who can't do" doesn't apply here. Daniels is one to practice what he teaches. Veronica Mars fans might recognize him as Principal Van Clemmons from both the TV show and the movie. He was in more than 2,000 performances of Triple Espresso, which toured stages across the states and did a turn in Dublin. "There have been a lot of highlights," he says. "That’s what’s so great about being in this business!"

Now, he's at work prepping for the launch of Space 55's upcoming season with a staged and interactive political convention called SpaceCon '16 on September 14. Also slated for this year are productions of Wendy Warwick White's DemDike's Devils and A Bloody Mary Christmas.

The opportunity to share these stories keeps Daniels motivated. "So many people without a voice that we must give a voice to," he says, "that’s the responsibility and life of an artist."

It's a busy one, as Daniels well knows. "I am trying to finish an acting book I’ve been writing," he says of his other current projects. "I am also very busy being 'the mayor of SoRo.'”

I came to Phoenix with only one friend here: Kim Porter, the writer. I had had a lot of success with her play Munched in Los Angeles. My dad had passed away, and I was coming here to be near my mom. Kim was working at Space 55, where they had scheduled Munched and needed a director. I arrived at the airport with a directing gig! A couple years later, and I get to be artistic director there!

I make art because I don’t have any idea how to do anything else. Since I could talk, I’ve been performing. I have almost never taken a day off.

I'm most productive when I’ve had coffee. I have always been proud that in rehearsal I could incorporate a cup of coffee into almost any scene. I could be playing Hamlet, but in rehearsal I’ll be holding a mug.

My inspiration wall is full of the successes of my friends and students. Lots of my best friends in this business are doing very well in TV and movies. That inspires me. The successes of the actors I work with are very gratifying. Their victories are my victories too.

I've learned most from staying in it. There is no substitute for experience.

Good work should always change the world. Art is protest. The audience should leave the performance changed in some way.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more training. For this city’s acting reputation to become more viable from a national perspective, we all have to do whatever it takes to raise the bar on the quality of our work. And keep raising it.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski