Few things are more exhilarating or nerve-wracking for actors than an opening night, and according to Casey Cieszynski the same holds true for stage managers.
After working at Curtain Call Theatre for two 2007 productions as the stage manager, Cieszynski will be out in front of the audience Friday night when the Latham theater begins its month-long run of “A Few Good Men.” A Shaker High alum who graduated from Nazareth College in Rochester last May, Cieszynski is playing Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway in the Aaron Sorkin drama that ran on Broadway from 1989 to 1991 and became a Hollywood movie starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson in 1992.
“The stage manager is really at the center of the show, and it’s a real cool feeling being up there in the booth and knowing the whole show is in your hands,” said Cieszynski, who handled the Curtain Call productions of “Sylvia” and “Sunshine Boys” last year. “Opening night can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also kind of a rush. You’re always on your toes up in the booth. But as time goes on, the show gets a little ingrained into your system. Things get a little easier.”
The story of a court-martial and the two military lawyers who battle a high-level conspiracy, “A Few Good Men” is being directed by Steve Fletcher. It stars Richard Mathiasen and John Philip Cromie in the two male lead roles, along with Cieszynski, the only female in the cast of 12.
“I really like the character of Joanne and how she’s very smart and always on top of her game,” said Cieszynski. “It’s difficult for her because she’s a woman in a man’s world, and she has to overcome a lot simply because she’s a woman. But she’s a very strong individual, and she’s the only female in the play. So that’s kind of neat.”
Cieszynski remembers seeing the 1992 movie and enjoying it, but didn’t go out and watch it again because she wanted her portrayal of Lt. Galloway to be her own, not Demi Moore’s.
“I’ve never seen a stage version and all my friends relate to the movie and Demi Moore’s performance,” said Cieszynski. “I can remember seeing the movie and enjoying it, but I don’t want to watch it again. I don’t want to get that close to Demi’s performance. I’m trying to find things out about the character on my own.”
This performance will be Cieszynski’s first on stage since graduating from college. Originally, she was planning on once again serving as stage manager until the actress who had won the role had to pass on the opportunity.
“The actress we had couldn’t do it because of some other obligation. So while we were searching for somebody knew, I was filling in reading the parts,” said Cieszynski. “During rehearsal, everyone was telling me, ‘you know, you would be very good at this part.’ So then I officially auditioned and Steve said it was mine,” said Cieszynski.
“I still love primarily doing stage managing, but I love every now and then to get involved in the acting. After having all this experience behind the scenes, it’s fun and it’s a great experience to get out there on stage.”
Cieszynski got involved in the theater while in high school, but back then the prospect of landing a lead role didn’t figure prominently in her plans.
“I started off just doing props at Shaker, and I only did it because a friend of mine was doing it,” she remembered. “It was strictly just a hobby. Then when one of the girls graduated they needed somebody else. So it just sort of happened that I became stage manager. I did three or four shows in high school, and then I did four or five more in college, and it was at Nazareth that I actually started performing.”
Cieszynski, who turns 23 next week, called Curtain Call founder and artistic producer Carol Max after graduating from Nazareth hoping to get a foot in the door of show business.
“I called Carol and asked her if she needed any help and when I told her I had stage manager experience, she told me to come on in and I ended up doing ‘Sunshine Boys’ for them,” said Cieszynski. “I do really love it. You’re a part of the whole process, and you have to be in touch with everything and everyone. You’re the connection between the actors on stage; you connect the director to the set designer; you’re working the lights and the sound. You’re involved in everything.”
It was Fletcher who directed the two productions Cieszynski worked at Curtain Call as a stage manager, and she feels very comfortable working with Fletcher in this new capacity.
“He gives you a lot of freedom, and at just the right time he’ll step in and say maybe we should try it this way or that way,” said Cieszynski. “He has this way of creating a great balance between letting you come up with things on your own and then offering his ideas and directions. It’s a lot of fun working with him as an actor, just like it was as a stage manager.”
During much of the rehearsal time for “A Few Good Men,” Cieszynski was still working as stage manager, an example of multi-tasking that amazed her fellow actors.
“Anybody that can do that job on their own is something special, let alone do that and star in one of the biggest parts, is incredible,” said Mathiasen. “Casey has that amazing quality of being easy-going and very approachable, but then always being very organized and right on the spot ready to go. Her character is a tough one because it’s somebody who’s up tight and awkward, but also funny and warm. It’s a difficult part but I think she nails it.”
“She’s been a stage manager extraordinaire for us for quite a while now, and she’s also a fine young actress,” said Fletcher. “We have a great cast, and I’m always amazed at the local talent we have that comes out to audition.”
‘A Few Good Men’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 215 Old Loudon Road., Latham
WHEN: 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, through Feb. 9
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 877-7529
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Categories: Life and Arts