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Behind The Scenes
With...Bernie Caprera


STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theatre?
I started in theatre in 1993. While attending a performance by the Ivy Lane Group at the Levittown Library, their Executive Producer, the late Linda Rosenthal, asked for volunteers for behind the scenes jobs. I thought about it and found it to be a fascinating idea and called Linda. We talked and decided that I would be the lighting and sound person and a techie was born!

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
I majored in communications at Queens College and wanted to concentrate on movie directing, but, unfortunately all the courses for directing were given in the day time. Since I was attending evenings with a full time job, I never had the opportunity to take that track. I always had a fascination with theatre and movies, in fact, when I was young the typical family vacation consisted of day trips into Manhattan where we would see two or three first run movies each day for the entire week. The daily schedule was a movie in the morning, lunch, movie in the afternoon, dinner, movie at night, and back on the subway and home to Brooklyn. For a change of pace, we might spend one day in downtown Brooklyn at the Fox, Albee, and Brooklyn Paramount Theatres.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
The first show I did for Ivy Lane was "Children" by A. R. Gurney and was directed by Pat Mitnick. My debut was on November 12, 1993. The program credits me for Lights/Sound and Assistant Stage Manager. I think I missed one or two cues over the six night run, but, neither one was major and I was able to react quick enough so the audience wouldn't realize that I blew it, but, the actors knew.

What was the first show you ever saw?
That's easy, the first show I ever saw was "My Three Angels" circa 1955 when I was about 11 years old. My father had a barber shop in the theatre district and he was the barber for many great stars including: Red Buttons, Henry Fonda, John Forsythe, Charlton Heston (he asked me to call him Chuck), Jean Arthur (when she did Peter Pan on Broadway after Mary Martin) and, numerous other stars. Well, Darren McGavin, another one of my fathers customers was appearing in "My Three Angels" and invited the family, my mother, father, sister and me to be his guest and we accepted. With all the movies I had seen by this time, I never realized that you can see people perform live until that night. We loved it.


WHAT I DO

What is your position on a production?
I do lights and sound for Ivy Lane/Universal Players at most of the shows which are held at the Levittown Library. Our group does three shows a year and each one runs for six performances over a three weekend period on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Describe what your job entails.
My responsibility in the production is to set up the lighting system, be sure the lights are functioning properly and learn my cues with some input as to lighting design. The sound portion of my job can be a little more complicated. The director will spend some time with me setting up the sound cues. Normally, the music is recorded in sequence on a CD and I will be responsible for setting up my cues and knowing the rhythm of the actors and the play while following my cues. There are times when I feel that I am playing an instrument as I use both hands to set up a music cue and lighting cue followed closely by other music or lighting cues, or, by other sound cues like doorbells or telephone rings. My rehearsal period must include getting myself into a fluid system whereby my hands almost react without my thinking. This is why I attend plenty of rehearsals.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
Everything I learned, I learned by the seat of my pants on the job. The late Linda Rosenthal was very instrumental in giving me the confidence to do this job.


MY THEATRE EXPERIENCE

What has been your favorite show to work on?
Some of the more enjoyable shows I have done were Cheaters, Twilight of the Golds, Nuts, and Waiting in the Wings. The two most favorite shows were Dangerous Obsession and Agnes of God. The most fulfilling show I have done was Agnes of God because the director, Ray Scheele decided early on that he would use the lighting as another character in the play. The lighting cues were many and the lighting followed the actors around the stage. The play was about eighty pages long, and, I would say, I averaged, at least, two cues per page. It was the hardest most fulfilling play I have done to date.

What motivates you to keep doing what your doing?
My motivation to continue is the enjoyment I get being involved with each production and hearing the audience's reactions after the performance. I am probably one of the few in Long Island Community Theatre who has no desire to act, but, want to be involved in another manner, and, lighting and sound seem to be what I am good at doing and what I enjoy.

How do you feel about pre-casting?
Pre-casting is a double edged sword. There are times when an actor is perfect for a role and deserves to be pre-cast and there are times when someone comes into a cast call and knocks your socks off. If I were directing, I would probably pre-cast infrequently and give all the actors a chance at each role at the cast calls. There are a lot of good actors on the Island.

What was your worst theatre experience?
My worst theatre experience was when three actors in a production (which  will remain nameless) totally ignored me. They refused to return any of my hellos at the rehearsals and, if I said anything else to them, they would turn around and walk away. Since I did not know any of them personally, I assume they were ignoring the lighting and sound guy who seemed to be beneath them. To date, I have not seen any of them on Broadway or heard of any of them signing for $20 million per movie. In fact, two of them are still working on the Island and the other moved out of state.

What was your best theatre experience?
I am happy to say that I have many best theater experiences because I work with a lot of super nice people. Even if I am doing a play that I do not like, I get through it because of the other people involved.

If you could give one message to ALL actors, producers and directors, what would it be?
A message I have for actors, producers and directors is to respect the work of the techies. Most of them do, but for the handful that don't, they should realize that behind the scenes personnel are critical to any shows success. This is not an egotistical statement but a statement of fact. The techies are needed to make every show run smoothly. They are an important cog in the wheel. Picture in your mind a group of actors ready to perform with no lights, no sound, no stage manager, no ushers, no props, no one selling tickets, etc. sound scary? You bet.

If you could give a message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
A message to the techies is simple, thanks for the time, energy, sweat and tears you put into each rehearsal and performance.

Why do you work at the theatre that you do?
I work with Ivy Lane/Universal Players at the Levittown Library because its my home. I have been approached about doing some shows elsewhere, but, if I have the time to do a show, it's at the Levittown Library. Our group is a close knit family.


FUN

Do you think Long Island theatre will continue to grow?
I don't know how many groups presently put on shows on the Island, but, I think we will reach a point where a thinning of the herd by merger or disbanding will occur. It seems that the costs of putting on a show are getting steep and, unless we can get more people to come to community theatre we will reach a point of diminishing returns if we haven't reached it already. We must find ways to get the word out to the public that we are here and that we are damn good at what we do. Maybe your web site can create a think tank to find ways to get more people aware of community theatre and get them to our productions. We are the best kept secret on the Island.

What brings you your greatest joy?
My greatest joy is my wife of twenty eight years, Roseann.

What irks you?
What irks me? Cigarette smoke, tailgaters, people who drinking and driving, and government ineptness.

If you won the lottery tomorrow you would...
If I won the lottery tomorrow (which my wife and I have discussed) we would build a community theatre in the Levittown area which would include area for classes to be held, rehearsal rooms, not to mention a first class stage and comfortable seating with no obstructed views.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
I would rather be rich than good looking. If you do it right, rich is forever but looks fade. Besides, think of all you can do with money!

What is your favorite word?
My favorite word is team   

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
When I get to heaven, I'd like to hear: You done good!


THE FUTURE

Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
Our next production is "West Side Waltz" in March, 2002. It sound like it's going to rival "Agnes of God" as far as my involvement. This time, instead of the lighting, the sound effects get star billing.

What is your dream theatrical project?
My dream theatrical project is the theatre my wife and I will build when we hit the lottery. Gotta go now and check my tickets.