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STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
I was born this way. I started out putting
on puppet shows with my kindergarten
buddy. Another example is that I would use my Mickey Mouse
Magician set, make my sister the assistant and force my family to watch my shows. I dressed up as Robin, the Boy Wonder, by wrapping a towel around my neck and I made everyone call me by that name for awhile. Definitely inborn.

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 used to watch the TV show Romper Room and beg my mom to get me on there.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
First play I saw...don't remember. First I remember :"The Wiz."
First I performed in: "Becky the Half Witch." I put that on in elementary
school. I found it in the library and cast it, and got a big project going
with the teacher and the class to perform it for my whole grade. I got mad
when one girl dropped a line and kicked her. I am a lot better to work with
now, I hope.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
My first formal training was at a summer camp when I was 13. Windhover
Performing Arts camp in Massachucetts. Then I studied from 13-17 with John Monteleone here on Long Island. Then I went to NYU for it and got a BFA.


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
For a high school play.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the
director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
Usually I consider all of the above. The piece is very important though. I am not into doing big parts in crappy plays. I am more apt to do a teensy weensy part in a terrific play.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
It's not my concern. That's the director's call, outta my control. I prefer
an open mind and I like to be pleasantly surprised, personally. Why would a director limit his/her choices? I believe in the actor's ability to transform.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
I am a character actress. I don't feel typecast. I am good at playing quirky
and finding the comedy in any part I am doing. I LIKE playing bitches, but I have a big range. I did sketch comedy for 5 years and you really have to be able to jump from one role to another with ease. HOWEVER, I can definitely say I never felt like an "ingenue." I feel more castable now than I did in college.

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a
certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a
certain role, what do you think they see as a "Claudine Coffaro" type?
I have been lucky because I have been able to explore a wide range of
characters.

Roles that require risk-taking.  When I audition,I choose monologues that are a little off-the-wall or absurd.  I like getting laughs or stunning people. I don't feel as comfortable doing overly emotional monologues even though I can.I enjoy over-the-top,  experimental stuff. Even with dramatic pieces, I look for a slightly askew point of view, not overly naturalistic or realistic. I don't know what other people see, I only know how I present myself.

CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
Lots of script analysis first. I look for speech patterns and backround
clues. Then imagery work, I try to envision the look of the person, I use my imagination to fill in the blanks of what is not immediately apparent in the script.I review my own personal experiences for any connections I can make, such as if I know anyone that would say or do these things or who had a similar backround etc...I look around me and make observations that may inspire me.  In rehearsal I experiment with physicality and I try things out
.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Probably Charlotte, the therapist in Beyond Therapy. Whatta trip!

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you
think you met the challenge?
The Fool in King Lear is extremely complex and challenging. I played it in
college , when I wasnt seasoned enough.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I would like to do The Fool in King Lear. I think I would do it REALLY well
at this time

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I would like to do a Moliere and The Importance of Being Earnest. I love
period pieces. I also have learned American Sign Language, I plan to perform and interpret theatre in this language.   I was really trained in these styles at Stella Adler Conservatory, I feel at home doing those. I also have had it in my mind to do Sylvia as a fundraiser for animal rescue (which I'm involved in -Nassau County SPCA).

MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
Hopefully however the character feels at the moment, if all is going well.
Ideally , I feel focused and relaxed.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
I like communicating ideas to other people. I have alot of energy to spare
too.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to
myself?"  Why do you do it?
Because I want to. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I add a credit I am proud of to my resume. I learn from the plays I do, it helps me grow
personally.


SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
When I did Godspell and a member of the cast got in a minor car accident
after the cast party. He was dazed, and so we wanted another actor to
accompany him to the hospital. As the EMT loaded him in to the ambulance he was saying ,"Where's Jesus? Jesus is coming.." referring to the ACTOR who was PLAYING Jesus which, of course, the EMT did not grasp.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
Yes. In Bermuda Avenue triangle I missed an entrance for a "phone call." we pretended I had just got home and Amy Goldman was brilliant in covering up for what seemed like forever! She pretended the phone was ringing , saying "Where ARE you?" I cracked up onstage in Romeo and Juliet. I was Lady Capulet, by my daughter's dead body mourning. But as a joke, the sound guy repalaced the Gregorian Chants with the beginning of The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What you Want." Juliet was laughing and I was pretending to sob.

What was your worst theater experience?
I was a road manager on tour. I was in charge of the actor's paychecks. It
was lunch time..... need I say more?

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
My slip was showing once. I had lipstick on my teeth once. My wig looked
horrible.  I don't like when things go wrong with costumes or makeup. Runs in stockings, that sorta thing.  

OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
They are producing a cool play.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Unsure

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been
particularly rewarding to work with?
I admire Bette Davis.

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Wendy Hoopes, a girl from NYU that went on to do SUBURBIA at Lincoln Center and doing Daria's voice on MTV. She was the real deal, very intense actor.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
I drew a blank on this line of questioning


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
I work in the family biz so it's flexible. I am studying to become an
Interpreter for the Deaf, I will freelance so it's flexible as well.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
I only do 2-3 shows a year . I believe in the power of live performance and
hope to affect the audience emotionally, intellectually, somehow. It is a
unique form of interaction that can't be experienced any other way. I am into the powerful charge I get out of it too.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
yes, they are used to it. they tried the "something to fall back on" speech
my senior year of high school, but I only"Fell Back On" ASL Interpreting 2
years ago.

How has performing enriched your life?
I need to creatively express myself. Peforming is the outlet I love. I backup
sing in a band , 223 Park. This is another way to celebrate life and share
with an audience. I feel so alive and connected with others when I'm onstage. It is a heightened experience, I need that because I get bored without it.


FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
laughter. learning something new.

What really irks you?
"Group Think." Power Trips. Know it Alls. I could go on, but why be a
downer?:)  

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
If I won Lotto  I wouldn't have a day job ever again. I would be travelling,
creating art, and helping animals 24-7. I would have a masseur on call and a big ranch out west.

What's your favorite word?
It changes all the time, I have a fickle vocabulary.

When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
Good job, you can stay!


FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be
aware of? Please give details)
223 Park is playing at The Elbow Room on Bleeker Street in the Village on September 20 at 9PM. We broke the Top 40 on New Music Weekly's A/C Music Charts!

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's
desire?
Eventually, Lady MacBeth in That Darn Scottish Play!
An Interview With...Claudine Coffaro