Campbell North ’17
Calm, cool and collected, Danielle ‘Danee’ Conley has redefined what being an artist at Trinity can mean. As a senior, Danee’s understanding of her work and her role in it has evolved with graceful ease. While her main focus is in the theatrical arts, she has grown to understand that preforming on stage is just as important as working behind it as a dramaturge, director and writer.
As a child, Conley was always the girl who “wanted to play pretend” and was constantly choosing one of her four brothers as her next victim to play dress up with. Around the age of five or six Conley had her first foray into the world of performance as an orphan in her camp’s production of “Annie.” After her brief and shining moment in the limelight, she quickly fell in love with drama. Her formative years were spent preforming on stage whenever she got the chance. Conley’s love of theater stemmed from its ability to let her be whoever she wanted. Performing provided an outlet through which she could escape the rowdy and hectic atmosphere that came naturally with living with four adolescent boys.
Conley notes that there was “definitely a conscious switch” made from seeing theater as just a fun creative outlet to a serious commitment and something she wanted to pursue.
Her “Arts in the Community” class completely changed her idea of the meaning of theater and the potential it possesses. Through this class Conley was able to volunteer at an after school arts program with kids from the Hartford community. She worked with them for the whole semester. Everyday she volunteered she noticed a patter of behavior in the kids who, “came in really rowdy but when it got down to doing what they had to do, whether it be yoga or drawing, they became 100 percent focused.” Experiencing the transformative effects of theater that she loved so much on a larger scale helped her see the real power that theater has in a community and on the lives of people who are struggling. Being able to see the spark of creativity in the kids and understanding the therapeutic nature of theater solidified her choice to pursue it at Trinity.
During her junior year Conley had the opportunity to participate in the La MaMa program in New York City. It was at this time where she was able to really focus on writing and opening up as an artist. After overcoming the challenge of exposing herself by writing and preforming a personal monologue Conley realized the huge difference and power of creating art on her own terms and in her own words.
After returning from New York and coming back on to campus for senior year, Conley has a full plate. However, her strong support systems have been keystones in construction of her theatrical career. Conley has four tattoos that each symbolizes as integral parts of her support system. One of them has a phrase her mom used to tell her when she was younger. Conley contributes a large part of her love playwriting to the support her mom gave her in her youth. Her mother was a frequent consumer of the short stories and plays that she used to write. This encouragement from her youth has perpetuated into present to help her combine a love of acting with a love of writing.
Though her personal style is still taking shape, Conley draws from her other major, American Studies, to help shape parts of her playwriting. She has a deep interest in the connection between theater and politics and how certain trends in drama can mirror current political circumstances.
Currently the main plan for after graduation this year is to get a PhD in theater criticism and dramaturgy with the hope of teaching at a collegiate level. Conleys’ ambitions extend far past degrees and PhD’s though. Her ideal goal would be to open a non-profit preforming and visual arts camp for disadvantaged youth. It is her dream to be able to run an entire camp and have the fortune to first-hand see how art can positively impact the youth of America.
Conley’s self-proclaimed “shameless plug” to the Trinity community is to come out and see what the preforming arts program has to offer. “No matter what major you’re in, what sports you play, what clubs you’ve joined” she says, “it’s always good to experience on-campus theater because a lot of it is informed by the shared experience we are having as Trinity students.”
Conley’s genuine warmth and friendlies are just a few of many reasons to go talk to her when you see her on campus. So go see one of her performances here at Trinity before the year is up, there is no doubt her name will be on the covers of plays or up in lights soon.