ROSEANNE CIPARICK ALMANZAR, H.H.C.
Born and raised on the island of Manhattan, the only child of a former Jesuit priest and an appellate court judge, I was bound to have an eclectic mix of interests and pursuits. I'm a 2nd-generation Native New Yorker, my mom being the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants and my dad, born in Yonkers, the son of a mother from Austria and a father with Carpatho-Ruthenian ancestry. In the 6 years right before my parents met, my dad was living in Lagos, Nigeria teaching chemistry and physics and defending the rights of native Nigerians, while my mom was pursuing her legal career in New York as one of three women in her law school's graduating class.
At a very early age, I was navigating the streets, subways, buses, and even taxis of New York, whether it was down to rehearsal for an Off-Off-Broadway show at age 11 or exploring all the hot spots (tourist spots, just-for-locals, and everything in between) with my friends. I've always been incredibly proud of my city and it's only natural that I gravitated toward a day job in tour guiding. In fact, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs lists me as one of the top sightseeing guides in New York City!
Music was also an early love of mine. My dad used to keep Nigerian talking drums around the house that he picked up during his travels, my grandfather was an award-winning salsero and my mom would ooh and ahh as I sang along with her Gilbert & Sillivan records. I dove into piano, theory and ear-training at age 6 and was the only student at my first piano recital to have a memorized speech (about Beethoven's development of the symphony and the sonata...)!
This speech, no doubt, planted the early seeds of what would eventually become my acting career. Inspired at an early age by theater on and off (and off-off) Broadway, I was often found singing and acting out entire Broadway shows in my parents' kitchen; and after spending a couple of years singing and traveling with the National Children's Choir, I was finally ready for the big stage. I begged my mom to let me audition for The Village Light Opera Group at age 11 and the rest is history.
Around the same time, I picked up the French horn in my junior high school band. I chose the French horn only because I had heard it was the most difficult instrument to play and thought I needed a challenge, being an accomplished musician at such an early age. As much as I loved music and performing, I was still focused on academics and chose not to audition for a performing arts high school; I was accepted to Stuyvesant High School, arguably the best high school in the country, and for a science and math school, I was pleased to find such a rich music and drama department.
While at Stuyvesant, my orchestra conductor encouraged me to take private French horn lessons. He sent me to The Mannes College of Music, where I promptly enrolled in their prep division. This involved a full day of music school (lessons, orchestra rehearsals, theory, ear training, music history) every Saturday throughout high school...how I still found the time to do Off-Off-Broadway musicals, I will never know...
While at Mannes, I discovered a love for vocal chamber music. Being an excellent sight-reader, I was able to use my voice as an instrument in an ensemble. The vocal chamber music teacher encouraged me to pursue a double major at Mannes in horn and voice.
And that's exactly what I did! I'll never forget my horn teacher telling me I have the personality of a horn player, not a singer, and my voice teacher telling me the exact opposite (never mind my talent, it was all about the personality...!). Funny thing is, I totally agreed with them both; I could hang with the brass players, playing professional French horn gigs all around NYC throughout high school, and I could just as easily hang with the opera singer types and feel like part of that elite club as well.
I decided to audition on both horn and voice for all my college applications. I chose only schools with exemplary music programs and I let my intellectual elitism choose my fate: I would go to the best school I was accepted at for whichever instrument they took me for. Some accepted me for one and not the other, some both, some neither, but Northwestern University, one of the best colleges in the country, accepted me for voice and so voice it was going to be (and as much as I love New York, I knew if I didn't leave then, I would never know what it was to not live in the greatest city in the world, I had to have some means of comparison, right?).
While at Northwestern, I focused mainly on opera with kind of a closeted, unexpressed love for musical theater. I also became a DJ on the school radio station, spinning mostly hip-hop, funk and acid jazz (it was the 90's...) for WNUR's "Streetbeat" show. I eventually took my DJ-ing off campus and started playing parties all around the Chicagoland area.
Four years and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance later, I had also discovered a love for interpreting contemporary vocal music and found myself working with many renowned composers both at Northwestern and around the city of Chicago. My gift of sight-singing and theatrical interpretation made for a perfect combination for this pursuit. After graduation, I moved into the city of Chicago and sang two seasons with The Chicago Symphony Chorus under the baton of Daniel Barenboim .
I got into the rhythm of the city of Chicago, a very different rhythm than New York City, and I began to really enjoy myself. Singing with the CSO, Light Opera Works, teaching piano lessons, DJ-ing the occasional party; I was quite content. Then musical theater came calling.
After working professionally in Chicago in the classical music and light opera world, I found myself in an Equity production of Buddy...The Buddy Holly Story as Maria Elena Santiago, Buddy's wife. I was 22-years-old, I'd never had a professional acting gig, and I had to enter one of my scenes crying! I was so intimidated!
I was also very lucky. I was working with the most amazing group of artists from The San Diego Repertory Theater (where this production originated), I learned so much and had a very successful 6-month run of the show. I was so inspired by this new acting community, I picked up and moved out west to San Diego to see if I could pursue my new connections.
I wasn't going to go without a job, so I used my opera skills and landed a position singing in the San Diego Opera Chorus. With a steady paycheck in place, this New York City girl took off for the West Coast! Mind you, my first time setting foot on the West Coast was at age 20 where, in the wilderness of Northern California, I discovered moonlight for the first time...no joke, I had never in my life experienced a night lit by only the light of the moon...shadows cast by the moon and not by a street light...no way!
Warm and sunny in The San Diego Opera Chorus, I was cast in several straight plays for the first time in my life where I was really able to hone some of those legit acting skills under the direction of some extraordinary directors. I stuck around for a couple of seasons in the opera while also pursuing theater work, musical and otherwise. Then, after traveling a bit for some theater work here and there, my native NYC was calling me back.
Once home, I had to face the reality of a day job. Now the competition was serious and it wasn't as easy to just land a job in an opera or symphony chorus, not to mention the astronomical rent I was now expected to pay. I had to suck it up and get a job in a law firm.
After about a minute of that, I was desperate, I needed out. I began development of what would eventually become my one-person "hip-hopera" and planted myself in the Professional Training Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, determined to create a day job for myself that I actually enjoyed. Angel in Between, my one-person show, previewed in NYC at the W.O.W. Café Theater and went on to receive critical acclaim at San Diego's Fritz Theater at the same time as my holistic health counseling practice took off.
Several regional theater productions later, including a favorite of mine, The Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, (and after discovering my knack for character acting, playing a boy in Angel in Between and becoming unrecognizable even to some of my former colleagues who came to see me in Sweeney Todd) I found myself with a performing day job (playing the "old" women, age makeup and all) in the Off-Broadway production of The American Girls Revue where I remained for a full 3 years (and 1,300 performances!). Of course, working 8 shows a week and having a thriving health coaching practice wasn't nearly enough, so I found myself landing another "day job" as a tour guide with On Location Tours, a TV and movie-themed tour company, and am still entertaining hundreds of tourists a week as the host and guide of On Location Tours ' New York TV & Movie Sites Tour.
I eventually discovered improv comedy and found myself performing improv and sketch comedy in various venues around town, including Carolines Comedy Club and Gotham City Improv. I made my way over to musical improv and worked for a few seasons with LMAO-Off Broadway, bringing their brand of improv and musical improv to the Times Square Comedy Club, Ha! Comedy Club, and other comedy clubs in the Times Square area.
And talk about comedy, I also often book work as a hand model! You've probably seen my hands in a number of television commercials. It can be an absurd line of work, but since I've got the "talent", I might as well use it!
TV and webcast hosting is also something I've gotten into lately. I booked some hosting work with a hip-hop/world music/holistic wellness website (talk about PERFECT for me!) and did some news anchor work for an urban news and music website. And, of course, combining two new-found loves (comedy & webcasting), I also booked a gig on the Onion News Network.
With the birth of my son, Joseph, in 2009, I of course had a huge shake-up of my career life. Now I know why people choose to stay home to raise their kids! But, of course, I am back in the game!
I have been touring with the Core Ensemble's production of Tres Vidas (a bilingual chamber music play with roots in new music as well as Spanish folk songs) and also booking an industrial here and a hand modeling job there, and going on commercial auditions every now and again. I was planning on jumping back into the Broadway game when Joseph started kindergarten, but now I am also proud mama to baby Carla! And so 8 shows/week is not calling to me right now. My next hurdle is to get some TV work, and for now, in addition to raising two amazing kids, I'm still seeing clients and doing tours (and just may go back on the road with Tres Vidas in the Spring of 2014), and we shall see what the future has in store!
Thanks for reading all the way down here! Now you know all the oddball facts that have led me to my multi-faceted career. Here's to a Life of Health and Balance!