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Alumni Theatre Company Returns to the Stage

Alumni Theatre Company Returns to the Stage
By Rachel Buttner

A scene from Once There Was a Boy: Max, played by Ian Quinlan (left), FCLC ’09, grows up literally attached to the leg of his father, George, played by Christopher Tramantana, FCLC ’00. In the forest Max develops a magical connection to the winged Josey, animated by Maria McConville, FCLC ’04, and the two young lovers form a plan to escape society’s shackles.
Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Cue the lights, music, curtain—and puppets—for the Fordham University Alumni Theatre Company.

Once There Was a Boy, a new play by Jason Pizzarello, FCLC ’04, is a collaboration of 30 Fordham College at Lincoln Center graduates and current students, including Pizzarello and director and video designer Aaron Rhyne, FCLC ’02. The play takes the stage at Lincoln Center’s Pope Auditorium from August 1 to 11.

Once There Was a Boy tells the story of a young boy growing up attached to his father—literally. When the young outcast develops a magical connection with a witch’s daughter, the young lovers hatch a plan to free themselves from society’s shackles. Mixing various forms of puppetry and media, the play is a modern absurdist fairytale, sprinkled with moments of comedy, about the culture of fear and the boundaries of acceptance.

“It’s about the relationship between children and parents, how the needs ebb and flow,” said Pizzarello. “And the false reality we put on ourselves about image,” added Rhyne, who collaborated with Pizzarello on the script. “How do ‘different people’ fit into American society?”

Pizzarello and Rhyne are the co-founders of Live Project, a mixed media performance group, which serves as the associate producer of Once There Was a Boy, the second production for the Fordham Alumni Theatre Company.

Founded in 2008 by the Fordham Theatre Program, the alumni company brings together graduates from all disciplines—including actors, playwrights, directors, set and costume designers—to create an annual summer production. The company’s first show, a musical adaptation of the Ray Bradbury’s 1950s science fiction novel The Martian Chronicles, also featured puppets. It was written by Elizabeth Margid, assistant professor, head of the directing program and chair of the Department of Theatre and Visual Arts at Fordham. She said the return of puppets to the company is “sheer coincidence.” Pizzarello’s play, selected by a board of four alumni and three faculty members, including Margid, simply “had the most theatrically interesting subject,” she said.

A few of the characters in Once There Was a Boy are represented as puppets, which are either strapped to the actor or to another cast member. Working with puppets is a new challenge for many involved in the show, but it’s a welcome addition. “It’s a mixture of the fun of playing with dolls and the feeling of being upstaged by them,” joked Maria McConville, FCLC ’04, who plays Josey, the witch’s daughter. “It’s a new way of communicating the feelings of the character.”

Maria Teresa Creasey, FCLC ’02, as Edith (right), a woman falling victim to society’s pressure for beauty, shows the results of her recent extreme cosmetic procedures to Carol, portrayed by Frances Mercanti-Anthony, FCLC ’00.
Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Once There Was a Boy features an accomplished cast, including McConville, who earned a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Actress in 2005; Frances Mercanti-Anthony, FCLC ’00, from the Broadway cast of Spring Awakening; and Ian Quinlan, FCLC ’09, from the Broadway cast of The Lion King. Two Fordham College at Lincoln Center seniors also have a hand in the play, working with alumni on different aspects of the production. Tara Devincenzo is the costume designer, while Stacey Weingarten plays the role of Bebel and is co-puppet designer with Pizzarello.

The cast and crew represent a decade of Fordham Theatre graduates—some of whom met for the first time during the play’s reading, but quickly bonded. “When we were students here, there were no boundaries when it came to creativity,” said McConville. “This is still very much alive, as we reunite for this play.”

“It’s alumni-driven,” Margid said about the Fordham Alumni Theatre Company. “It’s a highly trained group of actors and they are coming out in droves, generating a lot of excitement.”

The company focuses on the development of new work and offers alumni actors, directors, writers, designers, technicians, stage managers and administrative professionals an opportunity to practice and hone their respective crafts in an encouraging environment.

“With the things Fordham provides—theatre space, equipment, et cetera—we can challenge ourselves more than we can accomplish outside these walls,” said Rhyne. “It gives artists a chance to try out daring and exciting things.”

Upcoming performances are scheduled for Aug. 4, 5, 6 and 7, at 8 p.m.; Aug. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m.; Aug. 10, at 7 p.m.; and Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors) and can be purchased at or by phone at (212) 636-6340.

—Rachel Buttner is the assistant editor of FORDHAM magazine.

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