Marissa Barnathan hails from the Philadelphia suburb of Havertown, Pennsylvania. She began dancing at the age of 3 at the JCC, which led to 15 years of dance lessons at Radomile Academy of Dance. Around the age of 6, Marissa also discovered she liked to sing, performing a duet of “Beauty and the Beast” in her first grade Disney Show. By 7th grade, Marissa decided: if she could dance and sing, why not be in a play?! So after auditioning for the school musical Bye Bye Birdie, Marissa landed her first role as Randolph, the ingenue’s younger brother. Yes, her quirky, open-mindedness began at a young age, willingly accepting a male role, and from here, her passion for theater began to grow.
After continuing to do musical theater in all of high school, favorite roles including Ilona Ritter in She Loves Me (directed by Matt Decker), and Lola in Damn Yankees, Marissa studied at the University of the Arts in their Pre-College Musical Theater Summer Institute. This was her first chance to really delve into the study of acting, and she fell in love. Upon graduating from Haverford High School, Marissa chose to study theater and dance at Washington University in St. Louis. She graduated with a B.A. in Drama and Psychology, with a minor in Ballet.
It was through Washington University in St. Louis that Marissa studied at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, England. This amazing educational opportunity grounded her classical acting work. This experience also led to her first Shakespearean roles, including her first professional gig, playing the role of Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor at St. Louis Shakespeare.
Currently, Marissa is back to her roots in Philadelphia, PA, where she completed the Dorothy Haas Acting Apprenticeship at the Walnut Street Theatre. In addition to performing, Marissa has been working as a teaching artist since her return to the area in 2012. Some of the companies she teaches for include: Wolf Performing Arts Center, Walnut Street Theatre, People’s Light & Theatre Company, ZoomDance, and more!
Marissa has also been working as a director and choreographer in the Philly area. She is a resident director/choreographer at Friends Select School, has led several productions at Wolf Performing Arts Center, and directs/choreographs for the Walnut Street Theatre’s education program, both for the Touring Outreach Company and the Kids Series productions on the mainstage. In 2019, Marissa took on a Part Time Lecturer position at Rutgers University - Camden, teaching dance courses, and choreographing their department musical. In 2021, Marissa moved to Tempe, AZ to begin her MFA in Directing at Arizona State University.