I’ve always considered myself an actor and a writer. At 11 years old I was penning such works as “The Christmas Ornament” which had a full-on nativity scene, a cop, a fire escape, 26 lines and a cast of 13. Even back then fairness and equity were important to me. Playing all the parts I would sign the dialog to my Deaf mother as she typed it. I could often complete an entire work in under an hour because she used a manual typewriter and liquid paper was deemed to too expensive so there was no going back.
My Father started my love affair with books. The public “liberry” on 21st Ave in Paterson, New Jersey was a beat up one-room storefront that sometimes smelled like salami from the butcher shop next door. I did my first book report on “The Dancing Star” by Gladys Malvern. It was the story of Anna Pavlova, who was determined to dance with the famous Russian ballet. Although she was too poor for lessons and considered frail and unattractive she got a scholarship and practiced until her feet bled to become a premier ballerina. That book became my childhood totem and gave me a glimpse into the person I could become in this world if I too, worked hard.
For many years I worked as a teacher, counselor, and college administrator with both disabled and non-disabled people and it’s where I learned that everyone has a story that will stop your heart. In 1998 I did my first solo piece in a small theater in LA on the existing set of a play about the war in the Middle East. I’m sure audiences were confused why there was so much sand in a one-woman show about growing up in a Deaf family and culture but there I was. I had found my voice as an artist.
All of these experiences have gifted me with perspectives, beliefs and stories that shaped my understanding of how art can renew your soul and can be important mechanisms of change and social justice. Through my writing, performance, coaching and community outreach I want to create connections that transform how we relate to each other.
The Fancy Bio
As actor and playwright, Arlene views her solo work as an artistic extension of the social justice work she has been committed to for the last twenty-five years. She has been performing her five critically acclaimed solo shows across the country: including “What Does the Sun Sound Like”. Aiming for Sainthood” and “Kicking the Habit” at Millennium Park, Pritzker Pavilion, St Louis Center of Contemporary Art, National Center on Deafness, Minneapolis Arts Center, Palmdale Arts Centre, Ojai Solo Series, HBO Workspace, Victory Gardens, and colleges nationwide. These works are an exploration of disability in our culture through the lens of her family’s and her own disability. She believes that these experiences have allowed her a view of a culture and ethnocentrism from a unique perspective. Her short plays have been produced at the United Kingdom’s UK-60 Festival, NY Playsmiths Theater, and Chicago One Minute Play Festival several years running. Silenced was produced by Collaboration 2016.
She is the recipient of Fellowship-3Arts/UIC Department of Disability in the Arts and Culture. Nominee for 3Arts Award Award. Recipient of Millennium Park’s In the Works program, sponsored by The Boeing Company Charitable Trust. Her solo work has been honored with an LA Theater Ovations Award, LA Garland Award, and LA Weekly Award. Her plays have been a finalist in the Heartland Competition, a Semifinalist for the Blue Ink Award from American Blues Theater, and a Semi-finalist for the O'Neill Playwrights Conference.
As an actor, she has appeared in “Love Person” at Victory Gardens, “The Music of the Spheres” at the Goodman Theatre, Pancake Breakfast with the New Colony and Erasing the Distance in Chicago. Favorite roles in LA include “The Crucible”, “Lovers and Other Strangers”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” with Deaf West, and the critically acclaimed “Solos in Harmony” and “In A Different Voice”. Her work was named among the 5 best solo shows in Chicago by Windy City. Her Television credits include guest starring on CSI, ER, The Practice, The X Files, Any Day Now, The Division, Diagnosis Murder, and the CBS movie, Sweet Nothing in My Ear.
She is Artist in Residence- 16th Street Theater, Berwyn Illinois and Quad Cities Arts Program, Rock. Associate Artist-16th Street Theater 16th Street Theater, Berwyn, Illinois Resident Playwright- Chicago Dramatists.
As a Live Lit artist she has performed for WBEZ, for National Public Radio, Story Sessions, Victory Gardens, Speakeasy- Speakhard, Tellabration,This Much Is True, Louder than a Mom, Between the Spaces, Here’s the Story, 2nd Story, You’re Being Ridiculous, That’s All She Wrote, Story Club, Chicago Solo Theater, Second Hand Stories, The Moth, Pour One Out, Intuit: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Filet of Solo Festival, Chicago Writers Conference, DePaul University and Theater 150 and Tasty Words in LA.
She is a contributing writer to the Huffington Post, More Magazine, The Week Behind, Paramanu Pentaquark, and En Posse Review. Her short story “Moment the Lights Came On published in as part of the anthology “Women of Letters” by Penguin. She has been Artist in Residence Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists.
As a teaching artist, Arlene has taught acting and solo writing/ performing at Chicago Dramatist, Victory Gardens, the College of the Canyons and in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco as well as in theaters and colleges nationwide. She is on Faculty at Chicago Dramatists and developed the Solo show & Storytelling curriculum at Chicago Dramatists theater which includes Fundamentals Classes, Work in Progress classes, Page to Stage, Producing and Advertising Solo show & Live-Lit event and Performing Skills for Solo & Storytellers. She teaches private classes in “Writing Rooms” and coaches writers and performers across the country.
Her solo students have performed on small stages & large performance venues both here and abroad. They have been honored with Garland Awards, special recognition at Edinburgh Fringe, NY Fringe, Atlanta, Minnesota, Elgin, Chicago Fringe, LA Weekly Nominations, FEM Finalists, Windy City’s Best Solo Works, and numerous Jeff recommended and “Critics picks.” Her writers have published books, and their work has been included in anthologies, magazines, podcasts, anthologies, online and featured at Live-Lit events.
Arlene’s new solo show “A Little Bit Not Normal” chronicling her journey through depression and naming it, claiming it and standing to be counted, was commissioned by 16th Street Theater was produced at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. A Little Bit Not Normal is the cornerstone for her 5-year plan to become part of the National conversation around the stigma of mental illness.