Wednesday
Nov182015

An interview with Director David Ronis

David Ronis is the director of FST’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Although I’m in Madison as the Interim Director of Opera at UW-Madison, I’m a bona fide New Yorker. I grew up on Long Island, did my undergraduate degree at Purchase College/SUNY, and lived in Manhattan ever since. But I love being here! I’m very impressed with so much about Madison, not in the least the sheer volume of cultural events always going on, and the engaged, enthusiastic audiences for the arts. The short version of my bio: my original training is as a classical singer. After singing for years in opera productions in the US and abroad, I got cast in the L.A. production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. That started me on the road to becoming an actor and director. Eventually, I put it all together and now direct and teach acting skills to singers. Musical theatre occupies a special place in my heart and I’m thrilled to be working on THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA with FST.

What training, teachers, or experiences helped you to develop as a director?

My background as a performer has very much influenced who I am as a director. I really get what performers go through and how they need to work. It’s a joy to be able to get in there with talented actors and singers, like those in the PIAZZA cast, and dig into good material. Of the many wonderful teachers and mentors with whom I’ve worked, the voice of Caymichael Patten, my acting teacher in New York, is one that I hear most often in my head. Cay is one of those brilliant, intuitive, compassionate souls who is very dear to me. The other voice I hear a lot is that of Edward Beck, my diction teacher at Purchase. I absolutely love languages. Edward encouraged me to develop my language skills and I’m having a blast using that knowledge with PIAZZA.

What attracted you to THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

I saw the original production of PIAZZA at the Beaumont Theatre in New York and was blown away—with the score, with the story, with the performances, with the production. For my money, it’s definitely one of the best, if not THE best musical theatre piece written in the last 15 years. Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas hit a home run in terms of marrying text, story, and music. Have you ever been away from home (Europe always does it for me) and felt that rush of romantic possibility? That’s exactly what they capture from the moment the first chords are sounded. We are transported to a very beautiful, sensitive, yet imperfect world and swept up into Margaret and Clara’s nuanced, moving story. It’s magic.

Can you share a story about your best moment on stage?

I have lots of stories about things that have happened on stage—many of them funny, some not quite so suitable for print (!), and all from the performer’s perspective. Once I began directing, though, my experience of opera and theatre changed significantly. Now, there’s nothing quite like the feeling I get when I’m able to sit back and watch singers and actors fully embody and own their roles, and the storytelling just rolls out. As I write this, we’re still a few weeks out from the opening of PIAZZA, but that’s already happening in rehearsal. At times, I find myself not taking notes and just being caught up in the story, and, yup—weeping.

Wednesday
Nov182015

An Interview with Wendy Jones Hill, our Signora Naccarelli

Wendy Jones Hill portrays Signora Naccarelli in FST’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Although my interest and heart has always centered around music, I became a Registered Nurse because my wise mother told me that nursing is a respected profession and that nurses can always find a job. I feel so fortunate to live in this theater community where it is possible to work as a nurse and still pursue work in music and theater.

What training, teachers, or experiences helped you to develop as a performer?

My first audition in Madison was for Nancy Thurow with Children’s Theater of Madison. I went into that first show with a desire to sing but soon realized that I wanted to become a student of the art and discipline of acting. Nancy was a wonderful and exacting teacher and I am grateful for her influence that helped me begin my development as a performer.

Tell us a bit about your character.

I play Signora Naccarelli, the mother of Fabrizio and Giuseppe and wife of Signor Naccarelli. She appears to be a dutiful, traditional wife and mother, but she is a passionate woman with her own ideas on everything.

Why should we come to see THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA is a six-time Tony Award-winning musical that has never been produced in Madison before. The music and lyrics were written by Adam Guettel, the grandson of composer Richard Rodgers. The characters are written with passion and honesty and the score is particularly intricate with unexpected changes in harmony and melodies. Audiences should experience this wonderful show in the intimate Playhouse at Overture.

Wednesday
Nov182015

An Interview with Tony Reitano, our Signor Naccarelli

Tony Reitano portrays Signor Naccarelli in FST’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in Newburgh, NY (yes, where the lobsters come from). I went to school in upstate NY where I was a bio-chem major, but then tried out for a play on a dare and…bye-bye microscope! I moved to NYC and played lots of theatres around the country. I won some money on a game show and moved to sunny Southern California where I met my wife in a production of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE – THE MUSICAL. We got married and moved long ago with our infant daughter to the frozen wasteland of Wisconsin. (It’s the law—my wife is from here.) I am a professional playwright, screenwriter, actor and stage manager, and I write and produce along with my wife, Leslie. I wrote and am currently mounting a production of a live radio play, LEGENDS OF THE LEPRECHAUNS—TALL TALES OF THE EMERALD ISLE, which can be seen at area libraries in March 2016. Union affiliations: Actor’s Equity, Screen Actors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild of America, and BMI. http://heartlinetheatricals.com/

What attracted you to THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

Due to a last-minute cast change, I was invited to step into rehearsals to play Signor Naccarelli, the family patriarch. Not having been in a stage play for years, I was a bit nervous, but was interested in working again with Sarah Marty. Besides, after getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and asking, “Who is that old guy and why is he in my bathroom?” I felt I was finally the right age for that kind of role. I also wanted to work with the rest of the incredibly talented cast.

Tell us about your character, Signor Naccarelli.

Signor Naccarelli is the father of Fabrizio (Clara’s love interest) and the old-school, conservative patriarch of the Italian family. He worked with Americans in some secretive fashion, most likely in some sort of black market capacity, and so he speaks fairly good English. He helps his son in his quest to love Clara, and in that capacity flirts with Clara’s mother to give the young lovers time together.

Can you share a story about your best moment on stage (or your worst)?

I was playing Motel the Tailor in a production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF at some dinner theatre in Indiana, and I guess I was adding too much shtick, since the director gave me a note that said, “Tony, this is not MOTEL ON THE ROOF.”

What inspires you?

On days that she doesn’t drive me nuts, the courage of my daughter.

Wednesday
Nov182015

An Interview with Tamara Brognano, our Margaret Johnson

Tamara Brognano portrays Margaret Johnson in FST’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m the Outreach Coordinator for Four Seasons Theatre, which means that I manage all of our outreach in the community – programs at retirement communities, senior centers, libraries, schools, etc. I’ve also had the great privilege of performing in a variety of FST shows over the years. Some of my favorite roles were Mother in RAGTIME and Amalia in SHE LOVES ME. During the day, I’m a technical writer with Philips Healthcare, where I work on a software product used in radiation treatment planning for cancer patients. And in my spare time (what little there is these days), I stay busy keeping up with my three kids: Joseph (19), Patrick (12), and Carolyn (8).

Tell us about your character, Margaret Johnson.

The year is 1953, and Margaret is a wealthy woman from North Carolina who is vacationing in Italy with her daughter, Clara. I connect with Margaret very strongly in her struggles as a mom – about the choices she makes for her daughter, the mistakes, the victories, the uncertainties, the failures, and the joys, too. There are moments in the story where I imagine Margaret feels much as I do sometimes as a parent—not knowing what the right choice is, and wishing there were someone who could just tell me what should be done. But there isn’t anyone to do that for Margaret—she sings “A mother here, in Italy/A mother here, alone” at one point—and she has to wrestle her way through some difficult choices for her daughter without guidance or support.

Why should we come to see THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

As someone who’s a huge musical theatre fan, I always treasure when I get to see a show for the first time—and since this is a lesser-known show, I imagine that for many of the folks in the audience, this will be the first time they encounter this amazing story. I remember watching the original cast perform a section of the opening sequence in the 2005 Tony awards broadcast and falling in love with the show right then—and I’m sure our audience will fall in love with it, too. It’s such a lovely and compelling story, full of regret, compassion, and hope.

Wednesday
Nov182015

An Interview with Kenneth Lyons, our Fabrizio Naccarelli

Kenneth Lyons portrays Fabrizio Naccarelli in FST’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a Madison native; I graduated from West High School in 2012, and I currently attend UW-Madison where I study vocal performance with Paul Rowe (a fellow cast member in PIAZZA).I caught the acting bug from my mom, Monica, who has long been involved in the Madison theater community, and the music bug from my dad Daniel, who among other things plays piano in the Madison Symphony.

What training, teachers, or experiences helped you to develop as a performer?

My training as a musician began at the age of four when I started playing the violin, but I started to really sing with Anthony Cao’s choir programs at West High School. I started studying privately with Professor Rowe during my sophomore year, and will graduate under his tutelage from the UW this coming May! I have also been lucky enough to study the nuances of jazz with Professor Richard Davis and the UW Black Music Ensemble. As for the theater, I am a proud product of the West High School theater program, and have been involved with Madison Opera and Four Seasons Theatre during my college years.

Why should we come to see THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA is just a really, really beautiful piece of art. The story, a fascinating examination of what shape love can take as couples travel through various stages of their relationships together, is supported by a truly gorgeous score.

Tell us a bit about your character, Fabrizio Naccarelli.

My character is, I think, a representation of the purest, most innocent love possible—he and Clara (the young female lead) really do experience love at first sight, and their relationship is this sort of unachievable perfection for the rest of the show. Fabrizio is especially interesting because he is surrounded by what I consider to be the more realistic characters in the show, like his father and brother, who are, shall we say, not the most doting of partners.

Can you share a story about your best moment on stage? (Or your worst moment?)

Worst moment onstage—I performed in a one-act my senior year of high school, with just myself and another student, which started in a blackout. Before the lights came up, we heard something go whistling by and then a sort of a “splat” sound on the stage right behind us. About five minutes in to the play, I managed to sneak a glance upstage and saw the broken remnants of an egg on the floor behind us! I had somehow managed to have food thrown at me before even offering a performance—perhaps something to be proud of.

What inspires you?

My parents inspire me! Both are extremely talented artists who managed to raise me and my siblings while managing to perform in and around Madison. They support me in everything I do and I couldn't be more thankful to them.

OK, now choose your own random question and answer it. Go!

Favorite Madison Restaurant? Favorite restaurant would probably have to be Brasserie V. I can't get enough of those frites.