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Students’ play is only one from Rhode Island selected for FringeNYC festival
Aug. 4, 2015
Two CCRI students are taking their show – and many of their friends in the Performing Arts Department – on the road this summer as they prepare to make their off-Broadway debut in the annual New York International Fringe Festival this month.
“It feels like everything I’ve done so far has been working up to this point,” said Alexander Rotella, who co-wrote the play – the only entry from Rhode Island to make the cut in the juried 200-show festival – with his girlfriend and fellow CCRI student Laura Minadeo.
Rotella was speaking about all the hard work it takes to make gains as a theater artist, but there’s a deeper meaning to that sentiment, too: Without CCRI, the two never would have met, much less collaborated. Rotella and Minadeo, who have been together for about four years, first met in Associate Professor Ted Clement’s Acting I class at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
While they both had had performing backgrounds – Rotella performed in high school and Minadeo moved closer to home to save money after a stint at Berklee College of Music in Boston – it was in the department at CCRI where their relationship, acting and, eventually, writing talents blossomed.
“It’s because of the professors at CCRI. They really pushed us to be where we are today,” said Minadeo, who credited writing influences such as independent study with Professor Jeff Butterworth and classes with Associate Professor Luke Sutherland, as well as Professor Bert Silverberg’s guidance navigating the FringeNYC application process.
“All of the professors have been amazing. Without them, I don’t think we would have had the ability or confidence to go ahead and write our own show and submit it to the festival.”
The pair also will act in the show, titled “PICKLES,” at Flamboyan Theatre at the Clemente Aug. 20 to 29. The show will have a two-night-only run in the Room 0540 at the Knight Campus in Warwick at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6 and 7, with tickets available at the door for $10.
Rotella said the plot of the show, an action-packed comedy that turns the superhero tale on its head, focusing instead on the hero’s other half, came from a “silly” discussion they were having one night at their shared home in Warwick. They had both just returned from work – Minadeo works in retail at Ten Thousand Villages in Boston – and Rotella wondered what her opinion would be if he had “started to fight crime in real life and came home beat up.
“Her response was that she would beat me up again, because that would be a silly idea,” he said.
This thought experiment birthed Everyman, played by Rotella. Minadeo plays the superhero’s girlfriend, Annie – in this case, the focus of the play; the couple has turned the stereotypical superhero story on its head by seeing it through Annie’s eyes. They are joined by a cast of archetypical characters such as the villain (The Decafinator, played by CCRI student Erin Archer, who would hope to rob the world of its caffeine) and the sidekick (a dog), along with other CCRI students and alumni including: Mark Carter ’86 (Frank/Henchman), Jeff Ararat (Zack/Yeta’s Crew), Lauren Ferreira ’15 (Citizen/Zombie) and CCRI students Matthew Parker (Businessman/Todd/Yeta’s Crew) and Sam Ojih (Willie/Henchman), along with scenic, lighting and sound design from Branigan Duguay ’13.
Their CCRI contingent makes up a good chunk of the 16-person cast and crew, said Minadeo. The group rehearses three times a week in Warwick at the Center Stage Dance Company, where Minadeo used to work, meeting for four- or five-hour blocks to go over fight choreography, blocking, lines and so on.
“It’s really an ensemble effort,” she said. “We were trained very well by our CCRI professors, so they’ve paved the way for us to be prepared for this. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Faculty members have been equally impressed with the work ethic and drive of the two students, who were co-presidents of the CCRI Players Club. “We are extremely fortunate to have had Alex and Laura as students in the CCRI Theatre program, to which both have made major contributions through their outstanding performances on our stages, and their service to the CCRI Players,” said Silverberg. “Throughout their tenure here, they were extremely serious about working in theater and always conducted themselves with true professionalism. Having Alex and Laura now bringing their own original play to FringeNYC completes a circle and is especially exciting and gratifying.”
After all the rehearsing and the shuttling back and forth to New York City is done, Rotella and Minadeo plan to continue fitting in classes when they can to help hone their craft between acting jobs. “As an actor, you can’t take time off; if you do, people forget about you,” said Alex.
“The ultimate goal is to finish our degrees at CCRI, but it’s kind of different with an arts degree – you go to college so you can prepare to be out in the world, and that’s what we’re doing right now. That’s what we were taught to do,” Minadeo added. “Thankfully, we got that education from CCRI and would love to continue fostering the ideas that were instilled in us and get out there and do what we want to do instead of just reading about it. That’s what is so important about the program at CCRI: It’s more than just a diploma.”
Show times, tickets ($18) and more information on “PICKLES” at FringeNYC are available online.