An Interview With...
Tricia (DeSimone) Panasci
How did you get started in theater?
5th grade, I was Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore
at Miller Ave. Elementary School
What hooked you? Was it your first school
play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway
Show? What inspired you to be where you
As a child, my Mom always took me to the Sachem H.S. plays and musicals. I always loved them. In 5th grade I saw my first Broadway play (see below).
That was great too, but my love of Broadway truly began when I went to see
Robert Lindsay in "Me and My Girl" at the Marriott Marquis. My parents and I were in the front row and the two things that I distinctly remember were 1)
staring at the faces of the chorus members in awe (it was the first time I
saw them close up) and 2) Mr. Lindsay came out into the audience and sat in my lap.
What was the first play you ever saw? Ever performed in?
"Pinafore" was the first Operetta, "Annie" (what else) was the first musical, and aside from two one-acts I did in college, "Sylvia" was my first experience with straight theatre. "42nd Street" at the Majestic Theatre starring Ron Holgate, Anne Rogers and Karen Ziemba as Peggy was my first Broadway show. I went with my elementary school chorus teacher and we sat in the back row of the Majestic! I don't have that great of a memory, I still have the Playbill. (Interesting tidbit, I collect playbills- even have them in those cool black binders you can buy!)
Did you study acting? If not, how did you get into it?
I took "Acting I" my Senior year of H.S., I took "Performing in the Musical
Theatre" in college for one semester, and the rest (there was much to be
covered) I've learned from my L.I. directors. I've been very fortunate (Jeff Sanzel, Gene Durney, Scott Hofer & Sue Jeffares). I also took the adult acting class at Theatre Three for several years and have learned an
ENORMOUS amount from Stage Managing (Again, I've worked with incredible directors).
What was your first audition?
In Community/Regional theatre (I'm sure your sick of hearing about my
school days) My first audition was for "Joseph..." at Theatre Three.
Actually, I was a first year teacher at the time and one of my Middle School
students told me he was auditioning for the children's chorus when I
mentioned that I loved that show- it would be fun to do...long story short,
the kid actually talked me into auditioning and, here's the kicker... I show
up on the day they are only auditioning children's chorus! Luckily Jeff,
Ellen, and Jean took a minute to hear me and I got to be a wife!
How do you choose what play you will audition for? The piece itself, the
director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
Usually I go by the play. I did once, however accept a role without knowing anything about it- that was Italian American Reconciliation at Airport and I did it because Gene Durney asked me to- that's enough for me!
Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
Having never been on the receiving side of pre-casting, it would be very easy for me to say it stinks. Some of my favorite roles have been lost to pre-casting. HOWEVER, I can see the director's side in this argument and honestly feel that if they have that person in mind, they're better off being honest about it and saving everyone's time. (Side-note- almost every time I've been upset about not having the ability to audition for a role, I see the show and admire the wonderful performer who was pre-cast, that helps to ease the pain!)
What types of parts do you normally play? Do you feel typecast?
I don't really have a type. I guess I'm always cast much younger than I am. Other than that, I've been fortunate enough to play many different "types"
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 "Tricia Panasci" type?
I don't believe there is one. I've run the gamut with the few featured roles I've had.
What is your approach to developing your character?
Reading as much as I can regarding the time and place of the play- research. Re-reading the script. and VOTE (from Jeff's acting class).
Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Probably Sylvia, the dog. I got to curse. A lot. : )
What do you think were your best roles? your worst?
The best, I've felt, were the aforementioned "Sylvia", "Theresa" in Italian American (I had so much fun- and I feel I exceeded some expectations there), also "Sunny" in Last Night at Ballyhoo and "Chava" in Fiddler, both at Theatre Three. As you can see, heavily loaded with straight plays (my voice is a constant source of insecurity.) On the other end is "Polly" in Crazy for You, Although I will always treasure the show, I don't think I was ready to handle it and finished the run feeling as if I had let some people- who took a big chance on me- down.
What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why? How well do you
think you met the challenge?
"Sylvia"- obviously, the dog bit is a fine line to walk. and "Sunny"- I was totally intimidated by the cast at first- but I felt I grew tremendously as a result.
What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
Definitely "Polly"- I feel much better equipped to handle it now.
What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I love character roles. I yearn to be the "sidekick". A few exceptions are those in which the heroine is quite "spunky" for lack of a better word (i.e. Winifred in Mattress, Leonide in Triumph of Love). I'm also dying to do Shakespeare. I have Kate's final speech from "Shrew" committed to memory, I also love the cross dressing roles in "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It". Also roles like Isabelle in "Crossing Delancey" and the like. Also, I want to perform "If Love Were All" with Steve Corbellini when we are old enough.
How do you feel when you perform?
What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to
myself?" Why do you do it?
I have no words to answer that with. I have no choice. I love it.
What is your favorite theater story?
The first one that comes to mind was in "Moon Over Buffalo" at Airport. Diana Heinlein would change out of costume and into a dress on stage. One night, the dress was not pre-set in the "closet" (which was, of course, just a door which opened onto backstage) seeing this, Diana turned back to Jim Redding, who is in the middle of a scene with her, says "I'll be right back", and exits through the closet door. She ran through the hallway, into the dressing room, retrieved the dress, and ran back on stage- all the while Jim is improving lines about God knows what. The running joke for the remainder of the run was that that was the damned largest walk-in closet we'd ever seen.
Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
If I did, you will never get me to admit it.
What was your worst theater experience?
Best kept to myself.
What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
During the child's play scene of "Blood Brothers"- also at Airport, Brian McCready always came on stage with a pocket full of "worms" and spilled a load of dirt on the stage. One matinee day, I'm running around the set, "playing cops & robbers" with the rest of the cast. I hit the dirt patch with my saddle shoes on and... next thing I remember, I'm looking up at the cast, not knowing where I am and the scene is still in full swing. My feet had flown out from under me and I hit the stage in a dive position. I believe Ed Brennan later described it as that moment when you're watching the olympic ice skater land on her rear and skid across the rink and everyone goes "ooooohhhh".
Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Certain theatre(s) are like a second home to me.
Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
God I hope so!
Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been
particularly rewarding to work with?
The cast of "Sylvia" and the cast of "Ballyhoo" both scared the jeepers out of me because I admired them before I even worked with them. Also Diana Heinlein and Jim Redding and everyone knows I adore working with Steve Corbellini and would go to the ends of the earth to play opposite him again.
Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Too many to list.
Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
Audrey Hepburn. Jessica Lange. On L.I., there are so many I will go specifically to see. At the expense of offending the more experienced people whom I admire so greatly, and probably because I just saw her recently in "Guys and Dolls" I have to say, I'm a huge Julie Stiso fan.
How do you maintain your career and do theater?
Very carefully. Admittedly, teaching is one of the easiest careers to have in conjunction with L.I. theatre. Matinees are a killer, but otherwise, not bad. As a chorus teacher I often cannot audition for shows because I have a concert during the run (I have 6 per year), also I have had to learn over the years not to abuse my voice either at work or at the theatre. A lesson I've learned the hard way.
Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
I dunno. Once again, I must admit, I spend less time than most- and MUCH less time than I used to.
Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
They acknowledge that it's one of my joys in life. I have made adjustments to my theatre schedule since getting married (my choice) and foresee a big hiatus coming up this year (for those of you who don't know, there's a new Panasci coming in December). But I always knew this time would come, and will definitely return full-force in the future.
How has performing enriched your life?
Performing and being a member of L.I. theatre has taught me so much (good and bad) about life. I feel I am a different person from the one who walked into the Joseph audition six years ago- theatrically, socially, emotionally. I hold the true friends that I have made very dear to my heart. When I reflect back on my laughter and tears over the past 6 years, it is mostly from my experiences on stage and back stage.
What brings you the greatest joy?
A lazy morning with my husband and dog. Or a night at the Duplex and Marie's Crisis.
What really irks you?
If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Send my parents to Italy for vacation so my father could visit the town he came from. "Keep" an apartment in NYC. Travel. Become a producer. Keep my job.
Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Absolutely not. I'd much rather have the body of a ballerina and Audrey Hepburn's almond eyes!
What's your favorite word?
kvetching (2 syllables, not 3)
When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be
Well, my last stage appearance for a while will be "Pinocchio" w/ Theatre Three's children's theatre this summer. I LOVE doing children's theatre- what a blast.
Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's
Probably Winifred. I've always wanted to play "Anne" in Anne of Green Gables, too, but I've never seen a production of it- I'm afraid that time may be gone. : )