Two things that ground Danielle Faitelson are her love for theater and her connection to her Jewish heritage. “It’s part of some bigger purpose,” she says of her Jewish roots. “It feels like a responsibility for generations past, not just two generations ago. I’d be ungrateful to drop Judaism, not pass it on or find the joy in it.”
Maximizing that joy is why she is heading to Israel next month. “I haven’t been in 10 years, and always wanted to go for the High Holidays,” she says. She also plans to connect with family there she has yet to meet.
Approaching age 30, Faitelson, the daughter of Karen and Lionel Faitelson, spent nearly a decade in New York, on the Broadway stage and the small screen. Graduating from Catalina Foothills High School, where she was active in the drama department, she completed her bachelor degree in theater arts at the University of Southern California. Singing and dancing on Broadway and later touring with a children’s musical theater, she also appeared in television series roles — in “Pzazz 101,” “Tales of Toverud,” and “ThirtyNothings,” among others.
Drawn mostly to theater, she completed classic training at Columbia University, earning a master’s of fine arts in acting. Thereafter, she acted in new Off Broadway plays, working with the scripts’ first directors, casts and playwrights. She calls it a collaborative experience in which she had a chance to influence the outcome of creating a role and have a place in the storytelling.
For seven years, she’s taught with the Classic Stage Company, where young actors serve as teaching artists, bringing Shakespeare to life and making it accessible to 90 New York City schools. In multiple workshops, the program explores language, sonnet structure, stage direction, scene and character development for high school students. In the end, the students see a live professional performance. “This is the coolest experience,” she says. “Many kids have never seen theater before, especially Shakespeare.” Between January and April this year alone, she conducted 40 workshops. She also works with a top New York casting director.
Faitelson has branched out into corporate workshops, most recently for Expedia. As a performer, she customizes the workshops with acting games and exercises. “There’s a big shift in corporate culture toward caring for employee well-being, making it fun to go to work. It’s really fun and true to what I like to do,” she says. “It’s still storytelling.”