As an actress, acting instructor and mother to a rising star, Melissa Deschenes literally lives a life filled with drama.
Melissa received her first taste of acting during high school. Though she enjoyed the performing arts, she did not pursue it as a career. Instead, Melissa chose to work steady jobs that ensured a paycheck. But the world of performing arts did not let her go for long.
In 2015, one of Melissa’s friends contacted Sandra Detamore, owner and director of Drama Kids International in the San Antonio Metropolitan Area of Texas and told her about Melissa’s acting background. Sandra offered Melissa a job as a Drama Kids instructor, which Melissa happily accepted.
As a Drama Kids instructor, Melissa enjoys teaching her son and other elementary-age children about acting. One of Melissa’s favorite aspects of her job is guiding her students out of their shells and helping them become confident individuals and performers on stage.
“This is a way you can escape,” Melissa says. “You can be silly. You can do what you want. You can become a totally different character, person, animal, thing or idea. Whatever you think of, you can act it out. That’s what I like about drama.”
Melissa has worked with various personality types as an instructor, from extroverts to highly introverted children.
“There are kids who actually do not talk,” Melissa says. “Then I’m like, ‘OK, well, you don’t have to talk, but I think your character might talk.’ You don’t have to say a word. Just let your character talk. And they’re like, ‘Well, OK.’ Then they’ll come out as their character and start talking to you.”
One little boy in kindergarten who joined one of Melissa’s classes had a speech disorder, so he was unable to speak without stuttering. With Melissa’s help, he performed an entire play clearly without stuttering by the time of their performance at the end of the school year, and he had the leading role.
To pull children out of their shells, Melissa makes the experience fun and eliminates pressure.
“It’s kids finding something they like to do or finding something that takes them to another realm — anything they thought they would want to do,” Melissa says.
As a drama teacher, Melissa says the most challenging part is teaching her students how essential each role is to the play because most kids naturally want to play the lead.
Her primary goal is to see her students discover who they are, what they want to become and what they are capable of achieving. She does this by asking them a series of questions throughout the year: “Tell me something you do, something that you want to do and something you dream about doing.”
“I like to get people thinking about things they can do because everything’s possible,” Melissa says. “You might not be good at it, but you can still do it. And then you might find something that you’re really good at, but how are you going to know unless you try?”
After Melissa became an instructor, she enrolled her son, Devin, in the Drama Kids program. As it turned out, he enjoyed acting as much as his mother.
Since Devin enjoyed performing arts so much, Melissa decided to take his career to the next level and hired an agent to help manage his acting and modeling work.
Although Melissa focused on everyone else’s acting career but her own, Devin encouraged her to get back into it. One day Devin told her, “We need to get you an agent.” Melissa replied, “Alright, I’ll get with your agent too.”
Since then, Melissa has done various minor acting roles, including commercials. For example, she has been in three seasons of “Fear the Walking Dead,” where she played background characters and did stand-in work. Melissa also played as an extra in a few movies, including “The Tag Conspiracy,” “The Place We Hide,” “Honor Among Thieves” and “Iris,” and she played the drummer in “Janie’s Melody.”
Melissa has also helped produce fashion shows nationwide, including one for New York Fashion Week and The Industry Fashion Show, in which her son participated.
In the future, Melissa hopes to spend more time focusing on her acting career, obtain more prominent acting roles and book more commercials.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many actors must spend time making self-tapes instead of traveling to the set to audition. On top of spending a lot of time searching and applying for roles, actors also spend time waiting to hear back for a part and must cope with rejection often — a point she emphasizes and for which she prepares her students.
“In acting, you can try out or audition for 100 things, and you may get one,” Melissa says.
Once an actor gets booked for a role, they are at the mercy of the filmmakers.
“You normally get your call times to go to set the day before,” Melissa says. “And they can give it to you at 11:00 p.m., and you gotta be there at five in the morning. So, always keep a bag packed.”
It is not uncommon for adult actors to work a 10-hour shift on set, which Melissa says is a highly challenging part of the job. Melissa advises bringing something to do during the downtime because there is a lot of sitting and waiting, and you do not know when you will leave.
The most significant obstacle to overcome in acting, Melissa says, is scheduling acting jobs with other commitments and jobs. Sometimes, Melissa has to turn down acting roles because it collides with her other commitments. Still, knowing when to say “no” is what allows Melissa to balance all the facets of her life.
Because of Melissa’s experience in acting and teaching drama, many people ask her to help them prepare for auditions. So, she spends time helping others with their interviews on top of doing her own.
As more people come to Melissa for audition assistance, she is considering expanding her teaching soon. Instead of just teaching Drama Kids, Melissa wants to branch out beyond Drama Kids and create a side business for herself by helping people with audition prep.
Throughout Melissa’s experiences as a mother, drama instructor and actress, her primary source of inspiration comes from the go-getters she meets and their success stories.
“Random people — anybody I see that is going for it and living their life — they are my inspiration,” Melissa says.
Melissa’s proudest accomplishment as a drama instructor is when she sees her students go on to do amazing things. Some of her students have become actors, YouTubers and authors.
For women looking to become actors or drama instructors, Melissa encourages them to reach out and ask other people in the field for guidance because that is the best way to gain information and find opportunities. She stresses the need to overcome the fear of being told “no.”
“My theory in life is if you’ve never asked the question, the answer is no,” Melissa says. “So, just do it.”
Check out Melissa on Instagram!