Once Upon a Time in New Jersey
Time: March 10, 2004Place: Las Positas CollegeRole: Vinnie LobiancoDirector: Ken Ross
Once upon a time at Las Positas college…
The email came on December 17th. Ken, the director, stated that he had a part in a show that needed an actor. My curiosity piqued, I traveled to the college and read through the script. I liked it. I liked it a lot! It was new. It was different.
The audition was next. Well, this was sort of a surprise. I was under the impression that I was the only person called for the role and it would be handed to me on a silver platter with a note saying THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US!!! Not so. Another local actor was called and he also had an interest in the role. Thus, we both needed to audition for the part of “Rocco.”
Auditioning went well. I was content with my song and reading. In the end, that’s all an actor can really do –just give his best and hope for good results. I waited for the news. When the news came, it wasn’t good. At least it wasn’t good at the time. It would later turn out to be great. Perhaps, I should explain.
I was auditioning for Rocco because I really liked the role. It was the “bad boy” type role. It was a not-so-nice Fonzie part. Having played the Ritchie Cunningham roles, I had yearned to be the cool stud. Still, the other actor Mike fit the character better and was therefore cast as Rocco. Ken did ask if I would be interested in playing “Vinnie.” I thought about it, and quickly acquiesced. I hadn’t done a show in a while and my last show at Las Positas College had been many years prior. Plus, Ken was directing and Jim Heiner was music directing. I couldn’t pass up a chance to work with these insightful people once again. They had been directing when I performed in my first musical many years ago.
So even though I declined the role of Vinnie during auditions, I happily accepted the role and awaited the first day of rehearsal which would take place a month later. Truth be told, I was hoping it’d start sooner as I was looking forward to having something fun to do and meeting new people. But the time passed, the holidays came and went. Soon it was time to begin a brand new production.
The first day was around January 20th. The cast assembled in the theatre, on chairs in a circle around the stage. Since I’ve been there, this is how we’ve always started. Nearly all of the faces around me were unfamiliar. During background introductions, one lady, Judy Gilmer, informed us all that she babysat me many years ago. Okay, this was something I wasn’t aware of. But how much does one remember from being six?
The cast was friendly and welcoming. I anticipated no problems for the length of the show. It didn’t take long to get to know the cast members, especially the gals. I also ran into an old friend from school there. She had gone on to get a degree. Though she appeared worn out somewhat. I missed the spirit that she had exuded in past years. But alas, I guess time does that to most of us. It’s something that’s hard to fight. I keep in touch with some of the cast members even today. One gal and I spent a lot of time hanging out as friends, but eventually she went her own way.
The set building took place on Saturdays. I also had my Mythology class on Saturdays. I wasn’t sure I’d have enough energy to spend 8:30am to 12pm in class on Saturday morning and then go build sets for a few hours, but somehow I found the strength to make it out there a few times and help produce a usable set. I did enjoy watching things come together. Soon we had a great working set to hop around on.
The rehearsals took place most weeknights. I’d bring my homework and try to get some of it done. It was easier during music rehearsals, but tough during blocking nights. Still, I got a little done.
The role was excellent. I really appreciated the clever writing that was put into the characters. A couple of the songs were tough in some places, but most of it went alright. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of hours practicing in the car. What was nice was how much territory the part covered. Sure, it was musical comedy but it lightly covered some serious moments too. Vinnie also got to be “cool” as he portrayed Rocco at times.
The opening went great. It was hard to believe how many years it had been since I first leaped onto that stage and starting spouting lines. We opened with almost our entire original cast. The houses sold well and were soon selling out. I was happy enough to have family and some good friends attend the show.
The backstage is where most of the fun took place. The inside jokes were plenty from the Pirate always messing with my stuff to me trying to take video of all the action. I must say there’s always an ample amount of energy during an LPC show.
The parties occurred about once a weekend. To ensure we started off with a bang, I volunteered to host the first party. It went well with some heavy amounts of karaoke. After that, I made sure to attend every party. And I have some good memories from them. Due to the size of my role, I had to keep the alcohol consumption down to a minimum. Plus, I was driving most of the time too.
The closing happened three weeks after opening. We finished on a Sunday afternoon. Our final performance went smooth and received great response from the audience. As usual, it was bittersweet: I would miss the performances and the comradery, but having my time back would be pleasant. After the crowds departed, we began dismantling the sets. Little by little, the deli shop was torn down and several hours later, the stage was once again bare—awaiting the arrival of another great show.
I was a little bummed to leave it all behind, but there was another big role awaiting me. This wouldn’t be my largest role to date, but the deepest one.