Marni Penning (’92)

Acting out a dream


“I am fully visible for a full two seconds in my big-screen debut,” laughs Marni Penning (’92) about her background appearance in the movie, A Beautiful Mind.

Penning has also appeared in the background of NBC-TV’s Ed and Law & Order, HBO’s Sex & the City and FOX’s The $treet. She also appeared in the background of the film I’m With Lucy and worked with director Penny Marshall as Drew Barrymore’s stand-in for Riding in Cars with Boys. “I’m having a ball,” Penning says.

The busy actress graduated from JMU with a theater degree and just three credits shy of a double major in graphic design. “I’ve been in theater since I was 8 years old,” says Penning, who toured for three years with Shenandoah Shakespeare Express while she was a JMU student.

After graduation, Penning moved to Washington, D.C., and performed locally before moving to Cincinnati in 1994. Making good on plans hashed out in the Waffle House in the ’Burg, Penning joined fellow alumni, Nick Rose (’93) and Jasson Minadakis (’92), to establish the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival.

In 2000, Penning left CSF and moved to New York to expand her “circle of opportunity.” Since then, she’s appeared in several off-off-Broadway shows and a few short films, including Just Reward for Myriad Arts in New York City. Last spring she finished portraying Rosalind in the CSF production of As You Like It. She won a 2001 Cincinnati Entertainment Award from Cincinnati City Beat Arts and Entertainment magazine for her role as Julie in John Strand’s Lovers & Executioners.

During the summer 2001 theater season, Penning played Hermia in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Maryland Stage Co. at CenterStage in Baltimore. After that, “more auditioning,” says an optimistic Penning. “Who knows what my next project will be?”

Keep a sharp eye out for this Duke, who’s just as comfortable in background and starring roles.

Story by Janelle DiOrio (’03)


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