ROSEANNE CIPARICK ALMANZAR
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 only three women in her law school's graduating class.
At a very early age, I was navigating the streets, subways, buses and taxis of New York, whether it was downtown to rehearse for an Off-Off-Broadway show, 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 licensed 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 all of 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 also have a memorized speech!
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 was cast in my first major production, "The Pirates of Penzance," complete with full orchestra.
Around the same time, I picked up the French horn in my junior high school band, but 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. Instead, I was accepted at Stuyvesant High School, and for a science and math school, I was quite pleased to find such a rich music and drama department. While in high school (and still regularly performing Off-Off Broadway), I also enrolled in the Mannes College of Music Prep Division, which involved a full day of music school (lessons, orchestra rehearsals, theory, ear training, music history) every Saturday throughout high school. While at Mannes, I also discovered a love for vocal chamber music, the teacher for which 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 the 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 as well.
I let the horn go when I was accepted at Northwestern University for voice. 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 and I eventually took my DJ-ing off campus, 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 (Tobias Picker, Amnon Wolman) and pianists (Ursula Oppens) both at Northwestern and around the city of Chicago. After graduation, I sang two seasons with The Chicago Symphony Chorus under the baton of Daniel Barenboim and was cast in several productions with Light Opera Works. I was also dayjobbing as a piano teacher and DJ-ing the occasional party. 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.
But 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!
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 began development of what would eventually become my one-person gender-bending "hip-hopera." It was then that I also planted myself in the Professional Training Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. 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, I eventually found myself with a performing day job 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 11 years later, I 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 commercial hand model!
TV and webcast hosting is also something I eventually got into. 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 The Urban Post. And, adding some comedy into the online mix, I booked a gig on the Onion News Network.
After my son was born had a huge shake-up of my career life, but I was determined to keep working as an actor. I spent 3 years touring (back and forth, with my little one at home, sometimes with me on the road) 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). Then my daughter was born in 2013, and a life on the road with 2 kids, was not what I wanted.
My new objective is to be the best mom that I can be while still pursuing my dreams at home, in new York City. Things are always moving and shaking, and updates will, of course, be posted. And I am so very grateful for every opportunity that comes my way!
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!