Denise Elia is a native of Long Island, New York where she was fortunate to have been surrounded by a family, community and school district that all encouraged support of the arts.

She is graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Center for the Arts, with a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance and a B.A. in Italian Language and Literature. The university program brought her varied opportunities from miming as "La Dame" in Marcel Aymé's Le Passe-Muraille (The Passer Through Walls), to playing the title role in Hamlet among Shakespeare studies, to participating in guest workshops hosted by the avant-garde Polish theatre, Gardzienice. She was trained in technical theatre, and stage-managed the run of Mrozek's Tango for the visiting Krakow Theatre of Poland. Collaborating with fellow students lead to the production of On Being Woman: Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s Female Parts, a play featuring three 30-minute monologues and dance.

Denise represented the United States in two consecutive festivals with the International Artistic and Cultural Exchange (IACE), one touring southern Spain and the other in Mexico City. She was nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship in 1998 for her roles as the sprite and mother in Federico Garcia Lorca's For the Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in Her Garden. After moving to Ontario, Canada, she coached young actors and worked as assistant director and assistant stage manager for Whitby Courthouse Theatre in conjunction with Theatre Ontario. She soon returned to New York and taught acting with Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

A resident of northern California for the past ten years, Denise has worked with companies including the 6th Street Playhouse, Pacific Alliance Stage Co. at Spreckels, The Ross Valley Players, The Mountain Play, and the Sonoma County Repertory Theater. From musicals and comedies, to contemporary dramas and Shakespeare, Denise’s versatility as a performer culminated in her portrayal of nine Iraqi women in 9 Parts of Desire, the haunting one-woman show for which she garnered two Bay Area Theater Critics Circle award nominations.

Denise continues to perform on stage as well as doing voiceover, print, television and film work. She founded her own theater company, Riot Theater, and made her professional directorial debut with Stalag 17 which enjoyed a successful run at Spreckels and earned a spot on David Templeton’s Top Ten Torn Tickets of 2011! Denise teaches acting privately and also teaches drama at local schools, directing, choreographing, and mentoring fall, spring and summer productions in Sonoma and Marin counties.

About Denise

photo by Gabriela Hasbun, CRAFT magazine, Nov. 2007


“Maybe This Time” from Cabaret