From the Classroom to the Stage

Lissa Danshaw ’13 walked out of her last final exam at Loyola Marymount University and two days later took the stage of a Hollywood club to perform her standup comedy routine.

“That history exam was tough,” Danshaw said, “and I felt like I had earned my spot on the stage and the right to be a little silly.” She said it’s typical for her to go from the serious to the comedic, from structure to chaos. In fact, in the months since she finished her coursework – her plan is to walk in May – Danshaw has barely had time to sleep, moving from stages to film sets to her personal training jobs at Equinox fitness gym in Santa Monica, Calif., and Burns Recreation Center.

Her latest serious acting project is a comedy webisode called “Honorable Mention,” a short online comedy about three women in their early 20s making an extremely slow transition to adulthood. She plays “Cat,” the reasonable woman who gets enmeshed in her two partners’ antics. “It’s exciting because it’s another creative process,” she said. “My character says, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunities,’ and that’s what this feels like.”

Danshaw, whose degree is in theatre arts, is working her way into show business. Her LMU education has given her a strong foundation. For the past four years, while she was earning academic honors in her LMU studies, Danshaw put in 10 hours a week with two acting companies, appeared in five films as an extra and was in two athletic commercials. She has also been in 15 theater productions and 10 musical theater productions, on campus and off.

When she was in high school and was looking at universities, Danshaw auditioned “for a ton of schools” in the Midwest, universities not too far from her Dallas home. But when she decided to be near the film and television hub in Southern California, she auditioned for Chapman University, USC, UCLA and LMU. She was offered scholarships to two schools, but Professor Diane Benedict sold her on LMU, in particular the study abroad program. “The study abroad program was where most of my development as an actor and as a person happened,” she said. The LMU students travel to Moscow to study the Stanislavski Method of acting, and to Bonn, Germany, for further study and performances.

Danshaw also credits her parents with contributing to her success. “My mom and dad have fully supported my passion in the arts,” she said. “They even flew to Germany to see me perform. They visited me frequently in L.A. to help stock me up on food and hugs and kisses. I call them often and share my adventures as they continue to arise.”

So, the freshly minted theatre arts graduate will answer the actors’ cattle calls, drive long distances to stand in the background, and keep emailing her agent, firmly believing that the work she did at LMU will help pay off.

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