Dan Ventresca likes to think he can handle just about any aspect of the film and theater industry -- except one.
"Acting? I am really awful," said Ventresca, a 1999 Guilderland High graduate who's back in the Capital Region directing Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues" at Curtain Call in Latham after spending more than a decade in California. "I was just not good at all. I was always on the directing/writing track."
Ventresca's directing debut at Curtain Call is actually the first time he's been in charge of a stage production. He has directed, produced and written short films, and while he's still an independent filmmaker, he couldn't resist the temptation to do live theater. Curtain Call Theatre founder and artistic director Carol Max has given him that opportunity.
"This is my first one," said Ventresca of his directorial stage debut. "So no pressure, right? I was looking to do my own one-act show, but there are so many great theaters out here I thought I'd reach out and see who might want to collaborate with me. Carol responded, we seemed to hit it off pretty well and fortunately she was willing to take a chance on me."
"Biloxi Blues" stars Matthew Reddick as Eugene Morris Jerome, Ed McMullen as Sgt. Toomey and Giordano Macini as Arnold Epstein. The Broadway show made its debut in March of 1985 and ran for more than a year, winning three Tony Awards, including Best Play. It is a loose autobiography of a time in Simon's life and is the second of the Eugene Trilogy, following "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and preceding "Broadway Bound." Mathew Broderick played Eugene in both the original Broadway production and the Hollywood film.
Ventresca and Max oversaw the casting process for the Curtain Call production.
"The auditions went very well and I had seen a few shows leading up to it, so I had my eye on some people," said Ventresca. "Instead of trying to cast for character, we wanted to find the best actor we could. And Carol is very good at matching people up."
Like most avid theatergoers, Ventresca says he's a Simon fan.
"This play is a coming-of-age story set at the tail end of World War II on an Army barracks in Biloxi, Mississippi," he said. "It's about a kid who never left the neighborhood trying to gain some life experience to help him become a better writer. It's about all the strange things and people he encounters, and how that helps him become a better person and a better writer."
After graduating from Guilderland, Ventresca attended a couple of different colleges before heading west to film school at the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco. After that, he headed down the coast to Los Angeles,.
"The idea was to get my foot in the door in Hollywood, so I did some writing and was an intern at Warner Bros. for a big producer," said Ventresca. "I did some screenwriting, made some short movies and it was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot and really developed my tastes, because I was reading 10 screenplays a week."
Along with directing for Curtain Call, Ventresca is working on another film project. He is writing and producing it, but won't be acting in it.
"I took some acting classes and some improv classes, but you really don't want to see me onstage," he said. "When I was in middle school I was selected to go onstage for a school play. But I was more enamored by what was going on behind the scenes. The backstage area was what fascinated me."
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Oct. 13; performances are at 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: Visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com, or call (518) 877-7529