Debra De Liso has been a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts since 2002. She is a critically acclaimed and award-winning actor, writer and director, and the recipient of the Rainbow Award from the L.A. Women’s Theatre Festival for her decades of work in forgotten communities, including artists with disabilities, institutionalized teens and incarcerated women. She has guided the presentation of over 700 original solo plays and remains passionate about supporting playwrights in developing new works. Her solo play collaborations have premiered in festivals in NYC, Europe and the U.K.
After receiving three California Arts Council Grants to teach acting and playwriting in a medium security prison, she continues to elevate the art in the individual. De Liso delights in providing a supportive and nourishing environment to cultivate the highest potential in each artist.
Her own writing into performance work includes the solo plays Isadora’s Dream, as Isadora Duncan in the last years of her life, The Nurse June Show, re-creating her disabled mom, and Beautiful, Terrifying, Love, scenes about the struggle to forgive and love amidst family addiction and mental illness.
She has taught many courses and aspects in theatre and film including: “Movement for Actors,” “Scene Study,” “Creating Characters,” “Improvisation,” “Emotion in Theatre and Film,” “Solo Performance” and “Directing Actors,” encouraging new filmmakers to collaborate with actors.
Debra has a broad theatre and film background. She has been fortunate to work alongside greats activists like James Cromwell, Donald Freed and Alfred Molina. She passes along performance skills to her students by helping develop web series, launching solo plays into festivals and creating film projects.
De Liso studied at the Royal National Theatre in London and won a fellowship to earn her MFA at UCLA. She delights in learning from her students at USC, and at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She employs a variety of acting techniques including her own master’s thesis, “The Physicalization of a Role,” based on her approach to finding grounded and specific characterization, and listening with the body. Debra believes the actor should cultivate the mindset of an athlete. A former competitive gymnast and the Chair of the LACHSA Physical Education department for eight years, she continues to practice yoga and meditation.