Atlanta-based actor Brandon Deen has been in love with theater since high school. Now, he gets to share his artistic gifts with the students in North Gwinnett High School’s theater department.
Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Deen grew up in St. Mary’s, Georgia, and graduated from Camden County High School in 2013. When Deen was a freshman, he decided to try out for baseball. He made the varsity team as a catcher that spring of his ninth grade year. About the same time, he auditioned for the school’s spring musical, “All Shook Up,” a high-energy review of the hits of Elvis Presley. Deen was cast as the character “Dean’’ in the jukebox musical whose schedule conflicted with the baseball schedule. After giving it some thought, he decided to wait on baseball and try out a new role.
“That’s what started all this,” Deen said. “I fell in love with theater and acting and had great mentors who encouraged me like Dr. Dean Slusser, who was our fine arts administrator in Camden. Dr. Slusser was such a natural and inspired great leadership. He catered to everyone really well … really knew how to play to people’s strengths. Every second in the theater was used to its fullest potential. I learned so much from him.”
Deen made the move to the opposite corner of the state, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in theater arts in 2017 at Piedmont University.
“I always wanted to be a teacher and knew that was the path I’d be taking,” Deen said. “Right out of college, I felt a strong urge to try to understand the life of an actor and performer, so I decided to perform professionally before starting my career in education.”
Deen moved to Atlanta and began acting professionally, taking a yearlong internship with Actor’s Express, then performing with various playhouses in the city like Out of the Box Theater, Legacy Theater, Out Front Theater and others. He also began auditioning for TV and film roles and landed a part as an extra in a Spider-Man movie.
During that time, he began working on his teacher certification through Piedmont’s online program, which he finished in June 2020.
When the job at North Gwinnett High came open during the first semester of 2021, Deen decided it was time to launch his teaching career. He was hired in December and began in the new position in January.
Two student-led shows were already in the works and have been presented this semester, and Deen is looking forward to his directing debut in March. The musical theater production “Bring It On” will be presented Thursday, March 17, through Saturday, March 19, at the school’s theater.
Excited about the upcoming performance, Deen said, “These kids are great. I’m lucky to have some cheerleaders in my program who are teaching the others how to do stunts properly, and they are so excited. They wanted something high energy and challenging, and this show is definitely that. They’re eager, and I feel very blessed to have come into such a positive situation.”
In all, Deen teaches five theater courses and has between 60 to 70 students in his program. Along with two musical theater classes is a film class.
Reflecting on the difference his own high school experience had on him, Deen looked toward the future, saying, “I want to build a culture in this theater program where everyone is safe and welcome and everyone can achieve beyond their expectations.”