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STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
My introduction into the world of theatre began at 6
yrs.old. I was in the Buster Browns shoe store, and
the salesman told my mother I had dancer's feet,
(something about arches.)  She enrolled me in
Eafim Geershs' School of  Ballet in New York City.
After training for 8 years as a classical ballerina, I
developed poise, grace, confidence, and the
squarest toes ever seen on a human foot.

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today?
I was very fortunate to have three teachers who saw a special talent in me, and encouraged me to develop it, (probably my big mouth). One, of course, was Mr.Geersh.  However,at that point, I only thought of myself only as a ballerina. As I developed in my teens, and kept developing it became obvious I would never be willowy, delicate, and swanlike . So much for being a Prima Ballerina.  Fortunately my 10th grade English teacher, Miss Ozias, entered me into a Monologue showcase for an "all School" presentational event.  I was to recite this Scarlet O'Hara type thing, with a thick southern drawl.  I still cannot fathom why she picked me to do this particular monologue. I had more ethnic Italian characteristics at 15, then I do now!  But when it was over, and I stood at the podium, basking in the euphoria of applause, I was hooked.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
Aside from seeing my high school's production of Pygmalion, the first  play I performed in actually lead to the first Broadway show I ever saw.  I  don't recall the name the play, but I was in High School.  I remember it  being a drama, and my character's name was Jackie. After the show, Dr.  Shinneman, one of the teachers, told me how much he enjoyed my performance.  (The perfunctory phrase "good job" was not "in"then.  One actually had to say something about the show). He told me I should consider studying theatre.
The drama club was going to see My Fair Lady on Broadway that spring.  I
wasn't in the drama club, but someone anonymously purchased a ticket for
me(Dr. Shinneman). I hadn't realized what a gift he'd given me until years
later.  The magic of Broadway, the orchestra, seeing  Julie Andrews and Rex
Harrison in the Original Broadway production of My Fair Lady, were the seeds
for the inspiration that brought me to where I am today.
  
Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
No. Well, yes, if you can consider "studying acting", me - alone in the den of Dr.and Mrs. Weisman's house.  The Weisman's were a couple I babysat for every Saturday night for .50 cents an hour.  My real pay came after they pulled away from the driveway. They had a wall of bookshelves filled with theatre literature and original cast albums of Broadway musicals.  I read, danced, sang, and acted the night away, starring in every one of those musicals.  I was a member of the A Cappella Choir, so with my song and dance background, every Saturday night I became Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Mary Martin, Chita Rivera, and Ezio Pinza (I loved Some Enchanted Evening).  Every Saturday night, I was a star!   God only knows how those kids ever got to sleep!


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
After graduating from High School, I hoofed and sang in church and local
charity productions. My first real audition was for The Pajama Game at
Playcrafters of Bellport. I performed in many productions for Playcrafters
and Sayville Musical Workshop, but it wasn't until 1987 when I auditioned for
Man of LaMancha at Airport Playhouse that I landed my first Regional theatre role.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
I would have to say, a combination of all.  The piece itself is what would first attract me to the show.  The theatre and director would follow.   If a theatre has a good reputation for production quality and support, I would audition whether I knew the director or not.  However, if the theatre has a poor reputation for sets, costumes, and support of its  actors, I may pass if I don't know the director. A good director will attract a fine cast  and  both can overcome many production obstacles.  It would really depend on the
combination. If I was pre-cast, and both the director and theatre had a poor
reputation, I wouldn't accept the role.
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Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I would prefer if a director kept his mind open and gave those interested in a role equal opportunity to compete for the part.  But I know that is being unrealistic. There are too many theatres competing for talent and pre-casting has become necessary in some cases.  As long as it is posted in the audition notice, pre-casting is something we'll have to accept.  I certainly have not objected when I have been on the receiving end of that honor. 

However, I wonder if ultimately, we as a theatre community, are not "shooting ourselves in the foot" by supporting that practice.  I once stage-managed a production where the director made up his mind on an actor for a particular role, after the first audition.  I agreed - there was no contest. We both had first-hand past experiences with the actors' superb skills. He asked me to make the call and not wait. At the second audition date, an actor not part the theatres' regular network, showed up who was physically better suited for the part, and gave an outstanding audition.  The director admitted that he was sorry he'd cast it already. As far as I know, the second person never came back to audition for that theatre.  

Many actors/actresses will not come out to audition for a director or theatre that has a reputation for pre-casting, or consistently favoring a select team of actors. In time, less people attend their auditions.  A director could miss seeing some very talented people, resulting in uneven casting. By not pre-casting, a director may run the risk that his favored actor is unavailable for the show; however, gaps in the L.I. theatre network have closed considerably.   Deb's Web provides an invaluable tool for disseminating theatre news. Actors are crossing their geographic territories to audition, and providing the director with a fine choice of talent to cast his show. Being required to compete and win a role forces actors to stay "on top of their game", assures a tighter cast and may prevent our audiences from
becoming bored - key to survival of theatre. (I've overhead conversations
from the general public about how they don't go to this theatre or that
because they are "tired of seeing the same faces all the time".)

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
Varied, although I prefer to portray characters with some vulnerability, I'm primarily cast in the roles of strong, authoritative, outspoken, & fiery characters. I look for the vulnerability in that character and bring it out.  
Initially a director may typecast me because of my ethnic characteristics, however, after working together, the nuances of my acting skills come through and I have had the opportunity to play a wide range of roles.   

CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
I read the script through to get a feel for the character and the piece.  I try to grasp the authors' sense for the character. Then I go back and memorize the lines. I can't tap into my emotions and give the character life, until the words become mine, with my voice and inflections. I get the lines down very early in the rehearsal process, so I can focus on feelings instead of thinking about lines.  As I absorb each page, the character evolves out of the dialogue, my feelings and body language. With guidance from my director, I keep fine tuning my portrayal throughout the rehearsal process and into performances.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Doris - Same Time Next Year    playing her felt like slipping into and old shoe. I related to her character and felt totally at ease in that role.    
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What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
My best - Doris - Same Time Next year.  Suzie - Wait Until Dark Clara/ Mrs. Fremus/Mrs.Warren-Boy's Next Door, and my work in The Dining Room.
In "Wait Until Dark", playing an unsighted person and conveying the terror
in the last scene was technically challenging and artistically fulfilling for me.  In Boy's Next Door, the scene in particular that gave me great fulfillment as an actress was the one in which I play Clara, who is mentally challenged and can only communicate with one word  "no".  I received valuable insight for playing that scene from the director, Jeffrey Sanzel.  Performing in that play was a moving, and a humbling experience.  In The Dining Room, I was part of a talented cast of 6 actors who played a myriad of roles.  My favorite in that show was the "Old Woman" describing her fine pieces of china and silverware to her nephew.   My worst?  Maggie "Fatal Attraction".  I played the love interest of the lead actress.  Just not a good choice of roles. 


What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
All of the above as stated.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I believe I got it right the first time, but I would love to revisit the role of Doris  Same Time Next Year. As the play opens, Doris is in her twenties and at its close; she's 25 years older. I was in my thirties at the time I played the part and life was moving along according to my naive "plan." Now that I'm closer to her age at the play's close, and hit several personal stumbling blocks and crossroads, I think it would be interesting to see how Doris' character would evolve.


What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I would like to focus more on dramatic roles.  I find they give me a better opportunity to explore and share my emotions. 
 

MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
Complete.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
When I'm not performing, I feel a void.  When a special piece dovetails with a special cast, as in Man of LaMancha,(Airport 1987); Zorba and  Boys Next Door, Theatre Three ('92&'91), the pride and exhilaration I feel as the audience rises from their seats to applaud, keeps me motivated to go on for a long time.     
During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this
to myself?" Why do you do it?
I don't really get opening night jitters.


SHARING

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crackup on stage?
No. I try to stay pretty focused. However, in the two-character play, Owl and the Pussycat, there is a block offast paced dialogue containing three long paragraphs with redundant phrasing. Halfway through, I realized we had
juxtaposed the first half of the 2nd paragraph with the second half of the
3rd paragraph, leaving out information that was pertinent to the plot.  We
maneuvered the exchange to go back and cover the lost dialogue without
repeating anything.  Afterwards in the dressing room, I commented to my
leading man on how well we pulled it off.  He had no idea what I was talking
about. Scary.
  
What was your worst theater experience?
Performing a "stage" kiss opposite an actor with big spaces in his
teeth, who ate a mushy tuna fish sandwiches before every rehearsal.  I
deserved an award for giving him a kiss every night instead of a toothpick.

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
During the "Take Back your Mink" number at Airport's Guys and
Dolls.  As we sang "take back your pearls", we removed our pearls and threw
them on the stage floor.  At which point, I stepped and slipped on my pearls.
With legs flying up and out in front of me, I landed on my..well, you know.  
The reviewer was in the audience that night, but was kind enough to not print
anything about the klutz on the front line.


OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Quality of the theatre -  proximity to my workplace and home. Having a full time job that is pretty demanding and stressful, I usually go directly to the theatre from work when rehearsing a show.  Traveling long distances for rehearsals would leave me with little energy to perform well in either.


Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
I'm sure regional theatre will be around for along time.  However, those that survive will be ones with the ability to attract and keep their audiences.   In addition to the related comments I made on pre-casting, I feel there are too many theatres competing for the same audience.  The theatre companies with high production values, will attract a loyal audience base and insure their survival.

 
Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
I've admired the work of many of my fellow LI actors. However,  the experience of performing with Phyllis March, Jack Howell, Claire Parrella-Curran, and Jack Green have been particularly rewarding for
me.  And, I always enjoy working with my friend, Jim Colavecchio.


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
Vitamin pills.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Sure, kind of like  "Oh, Amelia's doing another show, isn't that nice".  They think it's something I do to keep busy.  They're just not theatre people. Go figure.

How has performing enriched your life?
I've formed lasting relationships with many special people.  Through the process of character development, I have gained empathy for people in
situations that I may have been judgmental about in the past. I'd like to
think that my involvement in theatre has made me a better person.
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What brings you the greatest joy?
Knowing when I've succeeded with my characterization. Feeling that
connection with another actor.  Reaching the audience.

What really irks you?
People who consistently interrupt.
Colleagues in theatre who can't get over themselves enough to be gracious.
   


If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Stop worrying about the aging of my family.  It would be a relief to know we can all afford to be senior citizens.


Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
No -  and thank you

What's your favorite word?
Oxymoron                                   

When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
"PLACES!"


FUTURE PLANS

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Linda Loman  Death of a Salesman and Madame Hortense - Zorba
An Interview with...Amelia Chiaramonte
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