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FACES OF TWIN CITIES THEATRE: Multidisciplinary Theatre Artist Denzel Belin

Multidisciplinary theatre artist Denzel Belin (he/him).

How do you describe the theatre work that you do?

I am a Black bisexual Minneapolis-based writer, director, actor, producer, and improviser. I am drawn to work that explores the various ways we communicate and the impact that has in our stories and lives. I develop in a intersectional conscious process that highlights and honors the many identities we hold.

Where and how did you train for what you do today?

I attended St. Olaf College and got a B.A. in Theater, B.A. American Studies, with a concentration in Media Studies. I also took classes at HUGE Theater. I have learned the most about my craft and my voice as a writer by working at The Brave New Workshop – sketch comedy tends to make you think critically about your life and the world that surrounds it.

What are 3 words that describe you as an artist?

Smart, sexy, and silly.

One of the many faces of Denzel Belin.

What’s the last performance that you were in/worked on/wrote/etc?

I directed Othello: The Remix, produced by Minneapolis Musical Theatre.

How did you become involved in theatre?

I started doing theater in part because I was the loud Black kid, and part because my class took a field trip to see classmates in a production of High School Musical and I wanted that kind of attention.

My spark was lit by an amazing high school theater teacher, Paul Fleming, who just retired this year from an over 40 year teaching career. Particularly, playing Angel in RENT my senior year was a pivotal moment in my love of theater.

In college, I got to learn about all the different sides of theater and deepened my love for it. In my proper adult life, I have met some of the most amazing people doing theater and have found many ways theater and performance can be a part of my life. What keeps me doing theater is a combination of joy, community, and the fact that I’m damn good at it.

Multidisciplinary theatre artist Denzel Belin with a basket of flowers.

What does theatre mean to you?

Theatre, for me, has been driven by my desire and intrigue in the ways we communicate with each other and experience life and other people. The experience of being able to witness an event with others, watching it in real time with community, changes and enhances an experience, and understanding that makes it unique and something I return to often.

Tell us about a favorite experience in the performing arts. Why was it meaningful?

Coming back from The Great Shutdown of 2020 to doing a sketch show at The Brave New Workshop in 2022 was… a weird experience to say the least. There was so much to mine and yet, what exactly did I want to talk about in the frame of sketch comedy. So I pitched something that was intrinsically me in that moment: an epic part-standup, part-puppet show, part-musical saga that explored myself as a Black queer man in Minneapolis and boiled down to, “If you laugh, you cannot cry”.

It was my most complex and vulnerable piece that had a sense of humor I usually shared offstage – dark, cynical, and deadly sharp. I wasn’t even certain it would make the show, but I had to write it. Caleb McEwan, who is a genius artist and director everyone should know, worked with me and helped me shape it and we presented it on stage – mixed reception, maximal undeniable impact. It showed me the unique way of presenting my voice and allowed myself to really bring all of me to the stage and to this day, I always bring all of me to my art.

Another side of Denzel Belin.

Tell us about someone who had a profound impact on you as the artist that you are today.

Shalee Mae Cole Mauleón and I met when I directed for the first time in Minneapolis and we were working on the same festival, and now is one of my dearest friends and artistic confidants. I am so grateful for our conversations and having someone I can trust with so many aspects of my life, both artistic and personal, has been so instrumental navigating live as a theater artist.

Community is key, and Shalee is a key member of my community.

What is an upcoming performance that excites you, with which you are NOT involved?

The Kung Fu Zombies Saga: Shaman Warrior & Cannibals by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, directed by Lily Tung Crystal, produced by Theater Mu.

What’s up next for you, creatively?

I’ll be directing Shadows Under Wabasha (produced by Hot Chocolate Media) for the 2023 Twin Cities Horror Festival. I’ve also been awarded an MRAC FY23 Arts Impact for Individuals Grant to develop a pilot episode of a Minnesota-based Late Night show with Live and Digital components.

Follow Denzel Belin Online

Twin Cities Arts Reader