Alumni Profile: DeLance Minefee

DeLance Minefee was a high school athlete in Jacksonville who had no interest in theatre until his senior year. He didn’t discover the stage until a girl he liked asked him to be her dance partner for a school project.

“My teacher asked me to audition for the school play Fame,” he said. “I did, and I got the part. When I said my first line, the audience erupted in laughter. It felt like a touchdown and I never looked back.

“The girl broke my heart. But the stage fixed it and filled it. I’ve known since that moment that I was meant to entertain.”

Today, Minefee is an entertainer and educator who works primarily as a regional theatre actor, traveling from theatre to theatre, usually for 8-10 weeks at a time. He also works in film and television. In his “down time,” Minefee teaches acting and storytelling in Brooklyn, New York, middle schools.

Even though he had good test scores and a high GPA, Minefee was afraid he couldn’t afford college and didn’t apply to any schools. But his high school drama teacher, Patricia Stiles, brought him to the Henderson campus where he was offered a small scholarship.

“That short meeting and seeing the campus made me realize I needed to be there,” Minefee said. “So I went home and applied for every scholarship available and arrive as a freshman with 100 percent of my tuition and fees covered.

“I didn’t consider another school until I thought about transferring, but the price, the individual attention of the program, and proximity to home kept me at Henderson.”

After graduating from Henderson in 1998, Minefee moved to Little Rock and joined the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s “Young Company” where he performed for nearly every middle and high school in Arkansas. He also performed in three main stage shows at the Rep.

Minefee started working for the Historic Arkansas Museum as a living history actor before becoming the assistant director of the Living History Program. He then auditioned at the Unified Professional Theatre Auditions in Memphis where he booked almost two years of work.

“I hit the road and did shows all over the country, and later moved to Chicago where I continued to act,” he said. “In 2004, I was cast at the Rep in Dreamgirls where 90 percent of the cast was from New York. After the show, I moved to Harlem.”

Minefee said he soon realized that he needed more training.

“Henderson had given me a great foundation, but I needed and wanted to know more,” he said. “I applied, auditioned and was accepted to the American Repertory Theatre/Moscow Art Theatre – Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University.

“The intense conservatory schedule was exactly what I wanted and I learned to control my voice and body with a specificity I hadn’t known possible. Since graduating in 2008, I have been working and living in Brooklyn.”

Minefee said he is most interested in theatre that challenges the audience to see things differently.

“I enjoy the energy of the audience,” he said. “There is nothing that compares to the feeling of having hundreds of people waiting for your next word, next action, next breath.”

Minefee fondly recalls his days as a student at Henderson.

“The time I spent in the Arkansas Hall shop learning how to drive a nail, how to hang and focus a fresnel, and the time I spent on the marley floor practicing until I perfected my triple pirouette means so much to me,” he said. “The degree helps open the door to opportunity, but it’s up to the individual to stand in success.”

Minefee advises current students to learn everything they can.

“A cliché? Yes, but true,” he said. “If you are an actor, learn lighting. If you are a dancer, learn carpentry. Theatre takes a team and a team works best when everyone knows and respects the roles the others play.

“In this field, you never know when you may be asked to do something new. Don’t let yourself get bored with any one thing. There is more than one path to success.”

Minefee was recently awarded Best Supporting Actor at the Syracuse Area Live Theater Association. He was also featured on NBC’s Shades of Blue. His film The Three Way won Best Comedy at the Manhattan Film Festival several years ago.

“But I guess getting to perform on the stage at the world-renowned Moscow Art Theatre is the most memorable event of my career.”

• This alumni feature is part of an ongoing project featuring Henderson's outstanding undergraduate and graduate academic programs.