Do you want to know a secret about Sara Paupini? When it comes to the theater, you can ask her to take on just about any role.
When last year’s March production of “This Random World” by the Schenectady Civic Players got cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and director Cristine M. Loffredo had to switch a few things around to stage the show for 2021, Paupini was up for the challenge.
“We were in tech week ready for the premiere and then the world changed because of COVID,” said Paupini, a Shaker High grad and an attorney who works in the Office of Mental Health for the state.
“Most of the actors came back, but we had two who moved and another whose life circumstances changed, so Cristine asked me if I could switch roles. I’m like, ‘so I’m going to have to learn new lines and re-rehearse the show? Sure, I can do that.’ ”
“This Random World,” Steven Dietz’s play from 2016, opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse and will run through Nov. 21.
Loffredo, a long-time performer with Schenectady Civic, is making her directorial debut, while joining Paupini on stage will be Jason Biszick, Joanne Westervelt, Karen Kolterman, Gabriel Hage, Laura Graver and Jennifer VanIderstyne.
“It’s a play about serendipity, and how all of our lives intersect and are connected in ways we don’t even realize,” said Paupini. “The audience sees things and knows things that the characters on stage don’t know. It’s a very unique play, and very evenly balanced. There are seven cast members and each character is interesting with their own arc. That really made it easy for me to change roles.”
Paupini does admit, however, she’s an easy target.
“I love everything about the theater, so ask me to do anything and it doesn’t take much convincing,” she said, laughing. “Cristine asked me to audition, and it certainly doesn’t take much to get me to audition. I was getting ready to direct my own show for the first time later that season, and I was thinking, ‘am I doing too much. Maybe I shouldn’t audition?’ But I love the theater so much, I’m usually very open to anything.”
Paupini has been performing at Schenectady Civic since 2005 when she landed a role in Agatha Christie’s “Go Back for Murder,” directed by Debbie May. At Shaker High she was bitten by the acting bug because Phil Rice, who just recently finished up portraying George Burns in “Good Night Gracie” at Curtain Call, was one of her teachers.
“Right after I got out of law school I did my very first community theater show with Debbie May at Scheectady Civic,” said Paupini, who grew up in Loudonville and now lives in Troy. “I relish every moment. Not having those moments for almost two years now has been tough. I’m actually a bit nervous about this show, and I’m usually never nervous about acting. But I haven’t flexed those acting muscles in a while in front of an audience.”
Paupini says she has been involved in one zoom production during the pandemic, but it’s just not the same.
“Live theater is just very different,” she said. “I love the energy that comes with live theater. There is nothing like it. The first time you hear someone laugh, you’re like, ‘hey, they thought that was funny.’ Or when you hear a gasp from an audience member. There’s nothing like connecting with strangers in that way. I haven’t experienced that in almost two years so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Working with a first-time director like Loffredo has been a great experience.
“We all know what an incredible actress Cristine is, and she brings that strength to the director’s chair,” said Paupini. “Sometimes you work with people, and they don’t always give you a clear idea of what they want you to do. With Cristine, she definitely knows what she wants, and she’s able to articulate that to us. She can also pinpoint things we might be struggling with, so it’s been great being a part of this collaboration with her.”
Paupini is looking forward to her first directing experience, “The Cake,” by Bekah Brunstetter, on the SCP 2021-2022 calendar for next March. Finding the time or the motivation won’t be a problem for her.
“I don’t watch TV, and I probably don’t socialize as much as I should,” she said. “Theater is what I do. It fills my heart. I have wonderful bosses and co-workers who come and support me. They all help me make this a great hobby.”
According to Paupini, “This Random World” is part drama, part comedy and part romance.
“It celebrates life, and there are some dramatic moments that will tear your heart out, and then some very funny moments,” she said. “It’s about the intimate encounters that people have with each other, and it is so well written. The show really goes outside the box, and I love that.”
“The Glorious Ones” at SLOC
Also opening Friday night at the Schenectady Light Opera Company will be a production of “The Glorious Ones,” Lynn Ahrens’ 2007 musical set in 17th century Italy.
The story follows an acting troupe traveling around Europe during the Italian Renaissance.
Brian Clemente is directing the production, which celebrates a form of theater called Commedia Dell’Arte.
“While it may sound Shakespearean-esque, it is actually very accessible and modern,” said Clemente. “It truly shows the highs and lows of being involved in the performing arts in general, which makes its themes very relatable to theater fans and participants alike.”
James Alexander plays the lead character, Flaminio Scala, while joining him on stage will be Elizabeth Corey, Ben Hitrick, Emily Mack Hass, Elizabeth Sherwood-Mack, Kevin O’Toole and Jack Boggan. Making her SLOC debut will be Caroline Jameson.
Robert Soricelli is the musical director.
‘This Random World’
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 21; show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: Visit www.civicplayers.org or call (518) 382-2081
‘The Glorious Ones’
WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 427 Franklin St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 21; show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $32-$25
MORE INFO: Visit www.sloctheater.org or call (518) 730-7370