Shana Dowdeswell

This actress looks like Addison Timlin, and I often wonder if any casting directors would have exploited this had Shana Dowdeswell not died in 2012. In the below photo, she was visiting the set of Scrubs as a tourist instead of an actress. This was when Scrubs was going to have a spin-off series which instead became known as the final season of the original series. The below photo is eerie when you consider where she ended up. Shana Dowdeswell fell into a coma following a night of heavy drinking at Greenwich Village bars which began on the night of December 6 and finished at 2 a.m. on December 7. The 5-foot-2, 115-pound woman’s blood alcohol content registered at 0.39, meaning she must have consumed about 10 drinks in an hour (according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data). The last New York bar that she went to was called The Basement, which she visited around midnight. She then stumbled home two and a half hours later but only got as far as the doorstep of her home where she passed out. She was still living with her parents, it appeared. However, it was a dog walker who discovered Shana, who was rushed to Beth Israel Medical Center.

The 0.39 blood alcohol content, nearly five times the state’s legal limit for driving, stunned the doctors who tried to revive her. Shana’s mother, Laurie Smith (owner of the Smith Talent Group), recalled an emergency room doctor telling her and her husband, Roger Dowdeswell, that he couldn’t understood the blood alcohol level. After five days of medical supervision, Shana died of acute and chronic alcoholism. Laurie told DNA Info (an online newspaper focused on New York and Chicago) that her daughter began visiting neighbourhood bars when she was just a teen. Laurie, who managed her daughter’s career, is quoted as saying: She probably had issues around alcohol that we weren’t aware of.”

Laurie knew enough about Shana’s social life to know that she began frequenting bars on Bleecker Street, MacDougal Street and West Eighth Street as a teen. When recalling the morning of December 7 at her Minetta Street home, Laurie recalled that her husband looked out the window and saw them putting Shana in the ambulance. Roger then woke Laurie up. When Laurie later confronted the staff at The Basement, she was told that Shana had consumed four shots of whiskey along with some water.

The manager of The Basement, Ronnie Mejia, denied that Shana was served too much. He said: “I never saw her drunk. Wasted? No. The time she was here, she had two or three drinks and a glass of water. As far as I know, she never got more than three drinks.”

This particular establishment was not only a bar but a recording studio that can be found on West 8th Street. If you do a Google search, you can visualize the walking distance from the bar to the home. With the level of alcohol intake, you would think that she would have been sick and passed out in the bar. Also, it was never revealed in any of the articles as to how Laurie knew that Shana was at the bar. Was it Shana’s friends or her boyfriend? Why didn’t any of them tell her to stop?

What adds to the mystery of her death is that a couple of the earliest reports were that she was hit by a car. This was reported on two sites about actors who perform in the theater – Playbill (December 27) and Theater Mania (December 31). Ironically, a December 17 article by John Moore (“Denver Center Theatre Company mourns death of Shana Dowdeswell”) for the CultureWest site was the only one to report the alcoholic nature of her death. I sometimes wonder if her drinking began because of the devastation that came from being replaced in a film because of a test screening. Before Christa B. Allen took the role, Shana was meant to play the teen version of Jennifer Garner’s character in 13 Going on 30.

When you look at the original scenes on the DVD or Blu-ray release, it would appear that the acting wasn’t so much to blame as the overall effort put into the filming, clothing and scoring. 13 Going on 30 was released in U.S. cinemas on April 23, 2004. Despite being replaced, she was still credited in a April 23 review by Christopher Lloyd for the New York Times which was then reposted in a Utah newspaper called Herald-Journal. When I was browsing Google Groups (the archived version of Usenet), I was surprised to see her being namechecked in an April 16 review by Steve Rhodes, an April 26 review by Laura Clifford and a February 13, 2005 review for an Indian newspaper called The Pioneer.

John Hartl also referenced her in his April 21 review for NBC’s Today site. She was still referenced in a collection of short reviews of films in Pennsylvania’s newspaper, The Morning Call (June 10, 2004). As easy as it would be to assume that the film’s publicity department didn’t send out the correct cast list in time, they clearly had time to change the closing credits for the released film. A 2004 review by Mark Walters makes me think that the test screening can’t have been all that negatively received. “Played extremely well” is how he refers to Shana’s portrayal of the young Jenna Rink. Mark later wrote: “Shana Dowdeswell is great as young Jenna, and her relationship with young Matt is sweet and innocent, begging us to enjoy those moments.”

Speaking of romance, she was in a relationship with Cameron Moneo when she died. In 2012, they had travelled to his home country – Canada. Cameron’s acting career ended in 2013. Shana could have gone really far with her acting career. Two years after 13 Going on 30 (January 30, 2006), Bob Rendell submitted a review of her stage performance in The Diary of Anne Frank. He said: “Shana Dowdeswell, although only 16, somehow appears too mature for Anne (especially at age 13). However, Dowdeswell is appealing, lively, sympathetic, and believable through all Anne’s changing moods and behaviors.”

Most New York actresses who do plays tend to do them either in New York or New Jersey if push comes to shove, but Shana found herself in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of Two Things You Don’t Talk About At Dinner. The below photo was taken on January 18, 2012. It’s another mystery of her life. Why would she go all the way to Denver when she could do a play in Los Angeles? She had relatives in London, so perhaps she was better off doing plays and more over there. Canada would have been another good option, especially since her boyfriend referenced her in his 2019 dissertation for York University in Toronto. Cameron said: “Thank you to Shana Dowdeswell and family, for making an impact on my life.”

She must have made one Hell of an impact in terms of acting because he didn’t do anything between 2013 and 2005, the latter being when he acted in a short film called Plastic Bitch. This was directed by his brother, Jefferson. It can be viewed on Vimeo if you click here. A month before she died, Shana was involved in the filming of Mistress America – a Noah Baumbach film that ended up getting released in 2015. Starring Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke, it’s hard to imagine why it took so long to get released. Another film of Shana’s, An Ornament of Faith (which wrapped in April 2012) was also released posthumously but in 2017. In fact, Shana set some of record for the highest number of films which were released posthumously i.e. five if you include the three 2013 films – two shorts and a feature: The Big Wedding (a feature) Wish You Were Here (a short) and Going South (another short but directed by the aforementioned brother of the boyfriend).

The feature was released on April 26 whereas the shorts were released in late May. The April 26 release date is worth singling out because that was when most articles about Shana’s death had been published. If you compare the publicity for The Big Wedding to that of Mistress America, Shana didn’t get any press for the latter. This is because the former starred Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl and Topher Grace. That would be enough star power for one film, but it also had Amanda Seyfried, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams thrown in for good measure.

On the Indiegogo page for Going South, Shana’s biography states: “Shana Dowdeswell was born in Harare, Zimbabwe where she lived for a month. Next stop, New York City where she has spent her life. Shana began performing at 5 months in a 10,000 Maniacs music video, went on hiatus from the business, then took it up again at 5 years old when she did her first play Another Kind of Hero at the Pulse Ensemble Theatre. From that point on, Shana worked in New York theatre, performing roles in such varied plays as Eva HesseThe Return of Peter GrimmI Never Saw Another Butterfly and Beyond the Horizon. She also worked with various theatre companies including Metropolitan Playhouse and the Circle Repertory Theatre Company. Once a teenager, Shana began to work more in films and television. Her film and television credits include 13 Going on 30, Garmento, Law & Order (all 3), Mercy, Body of Proof, The Winning Season, Choose, Asylum Seekers, and the upcoming film The Wedding. Shana continues to live and work in New York City.”

When you look at the above photo, it’s hard to imagine her being an alcoholic out of depression. The photo was taken in the year that she died, February 8 to be exact. The actor on the far right is Matt Stadelmann. They were in a rehearsal for Lisa Loomer’s Homefree. It was another Denver production. Speaking of Denver, the Modern Muse Theatre Company shared a Facebook video of Shana on December 10. The video was taken in March at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts where she is dancing with the daughter of Karen Pittman. The Modern Muse Theatre Company posted the video with a message: “Send prayers and light to our bright and beautiful Shana Dowdeswell, who is in a coma.”

Shana’s best friend from high school, Brian Cluney, posted on December 13: “Today, God took an angel to Heaven. She was the most caring, loving, talented, beautiful girl that I have ever met in my life. My life without her will never be the same. But I will thank God everyday for putting her in my life. Shana was one of my best friends in the world and knew everything about me. She had more confidence in me than I had in myself. She was that friend who you could tell anything to, and not only did she hear you but she truly listened because her heart of gold was so big. She cared and loved all of her friends and family. To Shana, I know you can hear me and I know you’re watching over me now. I love you with all my heart and I will never forget you. And although your not physically here with me, you will live on in my memories and in my heart. We will always be together. This isn’t a “good bye” this a “see you later” I love you eternally with all my heart. Mwah babe!!!!!”

The above photo with Brandon Espinosa was taken on April 25, 2008. The play was Anton Dudley’s Substitution. It was directed by Katherine Kovner, and performed at The Playwrights Realm. This was when Shana was still acting in New York. More photos of her can be seen on the Flickr site. The final mystery surrounds her birth. So many sites, including her obituary page, list her birth as April 1 but one of her friends had it listed as April 25 on Twitter and Tumblr. Regardless of when she was born, her mother said: “She was doing amazing things with her life. I’m devastated every single day she’s not here.”

On December 13 in 2014, Shana’s best friend had posted the following: “Two years ago, God took my best friend to Heaven. Recently I saw Rent and could think of nothing but that one day where we sang “Light my Candle” in the street and a woman came up to us and said we sang beautifully together. I remember the day you passed, I was crying in my car and a single shooting star passed over. I’d like to think that was you telling me wherever you are, you’re okay. I would give anything in this world to have you back, and although you’re gone…my love for you and our memories we shared will never be forgotten. I love you Shana Elizabeth Dowdeswell always and forever. #bestfriends #myheart #truelove”


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s