Three very different students came to Barry University in the late 1980s. Each left with a theater degree and a lifelong passion for acting instilled by a legendary theater professor.
Paul Tei, John Manzelli and Chaz Mena have each enjoyed considerable success in acting, directing and writing. The three alums recently earned coveted Carbonell Award nominations.
The 40-year-old Carbonell Awards honor excellence in theater in South Florida, and are among the nation’s senior regional arts awards. Of nine honorees this year, these three classmates were nominated - Manzelli, best actor for Fully Committed at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Mena, best actor for Betrayal at Zoetic Stage and Tei, best supporting actor for Buried Child at Palm Beach Dramaworks.
All three actors credit Patricia Minnaugh, then director of Barry’s theater department, for drilling into them a work ethic and respect for craft that has underscored everything they’ve done since graduating.
“She was the catalyst,” said Manzelli, a 1993 graduate (BA in Theater and Political Science) and now associate professor of theater at Barry. “She had an ability to inspire and demand at the same time.”
“She was a mother to us all,” agreed Mena, a 1992 graduate (BA in Theater and English Literature). “She taught us how to make a living in an ethical way and to be humbled by the craft.”
Mena and Manzelli spent several years working on stage and television in New York and elsewhere. Tei worked in Los Angeles, among other cities. Each of them have previously won a Carbonell or two, among numerous other recognitions of their work in acting or directing.
The three Barry alums also have often crossed paths in productions – appearing on shows such as Bloodline and Burn Notice, among others. They also have worked together in various stage productions over the years.
Mena is currently a company member of Zoetic Stage and developing a script for production in Puerto Rico. Manzelli, besides his duties at Barry, is currently theater director for the award winning City Theatre-Miami. Tei is the founder and director of Mad Cat Theatre Company.
The Carbonell Awards will be announced during their annual ceremony April 4, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale.