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"Getting to Know You" with Alyssa Manzanares

WESTMINSTER, CA - "My family's support of my dreams motivate me as a performer. Although it is a big dream, I have always wanted to perform on a Broadway stage and that dream motivates me to work hard to take advantage of all the opportunities I get," Alyssa Manzanares says about what motivates her to pursue a career as an actor. Making her Rose Center Theater debut, Alyssa is a junior at Los Alamitos High School where she earned two MACY Bright Spot Awards for her roles in Hello Dolly and Bye Bye Birdie.

More from our chat:

What attracted you to being a performer? The first time I saw Wicked I was 7 years old. That set me off on a performing craze. From that moment, I would always make up little shows with my friends and family members to show our parents. Since then, it has been my dream to be a performer.

Is there an actor or performer you look up to or aspire to be?

My favorite actor has to be Kristin Chenoweth because of Wicked which will always be my first Broadway love. Being 4'6" as a 17 year old, I look up to her and relate to her because she is short like I am. I have idolized her for as long as I can remember. I always remember thinking, if she's about my size and can make it, then so can I!

What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor? My greatest accomplishment as an actor is getting my first nomination for a JRAY award in 2019 for Featured Actress in a Musical. At the time, I was in a production of Bye Bye Birdie in the Teen's chorus but I also had a small part as the Sad Girl in Put on a Happy Face which allowed me to be nominated with others in much bigger roles than my own. Being remembered by the judges with such a wide variety of actors was so surreal to me at the time.

How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals? I prepare for my auditions by making sure I know the material I am auditioning with thoroughly and by drinking lots of water. Although I do not have a set of good luck rituals I always try and turn my nerves into excitement.

What do you find to be frustrating being a performer? The most frustrating part is trying to balance school and work with rehearsal schedules especially during stressful times like tech week or finals week.

How do you handle rejection? I use the 24 hour rule. I only give myself 24 hours to be mad or cry and then afterward I do not allow myself to think about it anymore. I then take a deep breath and keep going. Last thing I do is I will ask for notes to see what I can work on for my next audition.

What is your dream role? Some of my dream roles are Anna from Frozen, Nina from In the Heights, or Zoe from Dear Evan Hansen. One that I connect to the most would be Nina from In the Heights. As a Latina struggling with my own identity I feel as if I can bring my own experiences into my performance and play her authentically.

What would be your process like in preparing for such a role? I like to read the entire script and use the magic 'if.' I think about how I would react 'if' I was in that same situation and from there can prepare an authentic performance by connecting my own life with the character's.

How important do you think training is as a performer? I think training and always working on improving is very important for a performer. No one is perfect, Broadway stars still take singing lessons to perfect and protect their voices. Currently, I have been trained in dancing, singing, and acting. Most of my acting training is done at school but I do take singing and dancing lessons outside of school and perform in shows in and out of school as well.

What is the most fun role you’ve ever played? The most fun role I have ever played was Alyssa in Godspell. Although the character's names change with every Godspell cast, I got to have my own solo song for the first time. And as I sang, I had to jump on a trampoline! Godspell is such a special show that holds a special place in my heart not only because the show was fun, but also because my cast mates became my best friends which added so much to the experience.

What is the hardest role you’ve ever played? The hardest role I have had to play was Juliet in Romeo and Juliet: Vampires vs. Werewolves because it was my first time being cast as a lead. I remember putting a lot of pressure on myself to deliver a memorable performance and how much those thoughts gave me stress. In the end, it all worked out because I know I did the best I could and was very proud of my performance which is the most important thing to me.

Is there a fun fact about you that people wouldn’t be aware of? A fun fact about me is that I am a complete Disney nerd. All. Things. Disney. I grew up watching all the movies on VHS and I've had an annual pass to Disneyland for as long as I can remember. My room is filled with Disney merchandise, artwork, and memorabilia.

Any advice to other actors or aspiring performers? Don't let your failures define you. In the words of Leslie Odom Jr., "Fail up. Every rejection is a step towards a yes, but nothing will happen if you just sit there and let the phone ring. Get up and go audition for something until you find that yes."

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