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Alana Arenas

26, McKinley Park

Real-life role: Steppenwolf ensemble member 
Starring in: Valley of the Dolls

What’s that old saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”? “That’s actually the protocol,” says Arenas, who grew up in Miami and graduated from DePaul’s Theatre School: “If you call people, you wind up pissing them off.” But after several auditions with Steppenwolf, Arenas couldn’t help herself; she called the casting director and asked what she was doing wrong. “I didn’t want something that I didn’t know about holding me back,” she says. Much to her surprise, the casting director encouraged her to keep auditioning. Arenas’s tenacity paid off: this winter she was invited to join the Steppenwolf ensemble. “It was just a wow moment,” she says.

Send Alana an e-mail

Worst advice you’ve been given? To picture people naked before I go before an audience.

In a dream world, who would you write like? Maya Angelou. Cook like? My mom and dad. Look like? Me. Dance like? Amaniyea Payne of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago. And sing like? Aretha Franklin.

Have you ever collected anything? I’m a collector of everything. I collect perfume atomizers; I collect post cards, old jazz records. I have a fascination with old stuff. 

Who are you a secret groupie for? [2004 Olympic gold and silver medalist] Shawn Crawford, the sprinter. Let’s see if we can send him a copy of this.

If you could give someone a talking-to, who would it be? Myself.

What do you do every day? Pray whenever I can, watch TV, and create impossible to-do lists.

Favorite movie hero? Pai from Whale Rider and Jaguar Paw from Apocalypto.

Most quotable movie line? “Heh-hey, hoh-ho,” from Cornbread, Earl and Me.

Last movie that made you cry? Hotel Rwanda.

Favorite blog? I have a hard time checking my e-mail, so there’s no way I’m reading blogs.

Most recommended book? Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.

Name one thing that’s overrated: Sherbet.

When you’re alone, who do you play air guitar to? Anything by Bob Marley.

What song will be played at your wedding? Alicia Myers’s I Want to Thank You.

What’s your go-to homemade meal? Fish and rice.

Fill in the blanks: Vacations are for rejuvenation, not working at having a vacation.

You pull a Ferris Bueller and call in sick on a beautiful July day. What do you do? Get some ice cream, take a walk, listen to my favorite music, paint, and watch a classic movie in Technicolor.

What Chicago neighborhoods have you lived in? Uptown, Lincoln Park, and now McKinley Park.

How long is too long to spend looking for a parking spot? Five minutes. I don’t know how to drive, so I’m always in somebody else’s car.

Childhood nickname? My brother always called me Lana D. He’d say, “Lana D.,” and I’d say, “Tony M.C.”

Name one thing you have in your house from your childhood: A sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off that says “It’s better in the Bahamas.”

And one embarrassing thing you hide when guests are coming over: Dirty clothes.

Describe the state of your closet: Organized. Dresses, pants, skirts: all in order, dark to light.

What’s your power outfit? A floor-length dress that is tight up top and free flowing from there.

How much is too much to pay for jeans? $60.

Last time you jumped up and cheered? When I successfully climbed the web at the Actors Gymnasium, probably a month ago.

Last time you told a lie? I hope a very long time.

And the last time you Googled yourself? Let’s say a month. I think somebody had asked me something about Steppenwolf, or I was looking for something about myself that someone had asked me about.

What do you do when a server at a restaurant brings you a horrible dish? If I made the choice and don’t like it, I’ll tough it out. If they messed it up, I’d politely say: “I’m sorry, but this isn’t working out. Would you mind bringing me something else?”

Gutsiest thing you’ve ever done? I was a kid when I did this, but I walked up to someone else’s boyfriend and told him he was attractive while his girl was there. It was a dare.

Do you have any tattoos? No.

But if you did? I’d probably get one on the back of my neck, and it would probably say, “Commissioned,” because I really believe in purpose. I believe in finding your purpose and fulfilling it.

What time is your alarm clock set for? Six a.m., but I will snooze it all the way until nine, if necessary.

And how many times do you hit the snooze button? Twelve, on average.

Dive bar or nightclub? Nightclub.

Drinks before 5 p.m.: always, sometimes, never? Never.

What’s your remedy for a tough day? Sitcom box sets, like That’s My Mama.

Fill in the blanks: I’d rather have a significant other who is confident than arrogant.

How do you show someone you’re not interested? Avoid eye contact.

What did you do on your best date? I got a tour of Harlem.

Where would you like to get engaged? In an intimate place. I definitely don’t want it to be in a restaurant or a place that’s really public.

What makes someone a Chicagoan? The Chicago accent, with that Chicago “a” sound, and a Cubs hat.

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