In 1984, as an acclaimed young actor, José Angel Santana recognized pervasive media violence's destructive influence on young people's lives. Rather than continue making such programs, in 1987 he set out to work full-time to help young people.
Over his 35 years of working with teenagers and young adults, first as Drama Director of Jane Fonda's Laurel Springs Performing Arts Ranch, then as co-founder and Drama Director of Santa Barbara's award-winning City At Peace Youth Program, Dr. Santana combined professional actor training with the openhearted methods of conflict resolution/mediation to create a unique approach to reaching and teaching "empathy" to young people, who otherwise might have fallen through society's cracks.
For his work with City At Peace, he was recognized as a Santa Barbara "Local Hero" in 1999.
Today, José Angel Santana, Ph.D. is an award-winning teacher, mentor, actor, director, photographer, and innovator in the field of interpersonal communications. He is the creator of "You, and..." that combines techniques from The Meisner Technique and Viola Spolin Improvisation with best practices from the field of conflict resolution and mediation, including Non-Violent Communication. This combination, he calls the "Performance of Mutual Understanding."
He has been the exclusive provider of Customized InterActive Video Tele-Training services to the Force Modernization Division of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM,2000-2007).
Presently, he serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Film at the Columbia University Graduate Film School.
He teaches his course, The Art of Connecting (You, and...) to artists and creative media executives in the division of Professional Development at the School of Visual Arts (NYC), since 2007.
From 2008-2012, he was the Area Head of the Directing Actors Department of the Tisch School of the Arts, Kanbar Institute, Film & Television Graduate Film School, an association that began in 1980. He continues to mentor some of the most promising filmmakers working today.
He is an Artist in Residents who teaches Theater & Film to teachers and students for the Union City, NJ Board of Education, and collaborates with TESOL DRAMA INTERNATIONAL, teaching teachers how to use Drama in Education to enhance teacher-student engagement and improve mutual understanding.
Santana received his B.A. in Mass Communications from The University of Vermont. He is a graduate of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater, training under Sanford Meisner. He has an M.A. and Ph.D. in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute, home of the Joseph Campbell Library.
He is a lifetime member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre.