Hello again, Theatre People!
I'm thrilled this week that I get to introduce you to Ed Reggi. I met Ed through the Teaching Artist Alliance and I know you'll love reading stories from his eclectic journey through the world of theatre—as a performer, artist, speaker and teacher.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ed Reggi...
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
Oh wow! That’s a hard one for sure! I have so many shows that inspire me. Currently, I have been revisiting classics like Oedipus Rex, Rashomon, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. I love to explore classics like these in new ways. I am also rereading August Wilson’s Fences, and I feel it resonates and supports the Black Lives Matter movement’s current strength.
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
Several years ago, I enjoyed being selected to direct Aspergers: The Highly Functional Musical for the Saint Louis Fringe Festival. It marked its world debut. Not only was I super proud of the entire cast and crew, but I was also super proud of the material written by Adam and Dean Rosen. A local father and son who poured much of their autobiographical lives out in this Broadway-style musical. The musical was packed with personal stories and reflections about growing up with Aspergers. The musical addressed mental health, stigma, and the maneuvering in and out of society why not considered “normal.” We sold-out our entire run at the Fringe Festival by opening night, and we did so well I managed to extend our stage run beyond the Fringe Festival. It was a huge success, and it made an impact. Every evening, I had audience members thank me for bringing something to a stage that reflected their lives.
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
Well, I am not sure if this is meant to be my most significant ‘fail’ or goof or someone else’s where I happened to be around to watch? I am going to share a big personal fail. It was early on in my acting career, and I was working for a summer stock outdoor venue. The venue space was small and quaint. The actors toughed it out doing musicals while cicadas would often fly into us at warp speed. Working outdoors is always a risk because of the natural elements always surprising the cast and crew. Now, this particular outdoor stage was not near an airport. It was rare to hear jets or planes fly overheard during a production. One night, while performing as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, I was wrapping up the last scene in this fantastic musical. In this production, magical choreography created an effect where Tevye’s family, luggage, small pieces of furniture, and the milk cart all had to rotate on this giant turntable on stage. The revolving effect allowed us to seem like we were walking an endless journey toward the inevitable. There are these lines where my youngest daughter keeps asking, “How will we get there, Papa?” And Tevye barks with a list of different modes of transportation, “We will walk, take a train, and board a boat to America.” As we are moving, the turntable decides to go slower and slower. It became clear, Tevye and his family are stuck in Anatevka—we are going nowhere. I am leading this, and the ensemble is starting to pile up on me like something out of three stooges. At that very moment, the Blue Angels have a sequence of fighter jets fly right over our outdoor venue. So in my listing of modes of transportation, I say, “you see, they have come to pick us up.” Blackout.
Why do you love theatre?
I love theatre because it’s an art that deliberately encourages us to reform ourselves over and over. All art is a copy of life. Artists are challenged to take something in the real world and recreate it on: canvas; in clay; out of stone; or in the theatre, on a stage. I love that as an actor, director, stage manager, designer, or writer; we are called to work together to create life itself. We are not mere recordings or imprints of an artist’s fingerprint or fleeting thoughts. Theatre is a fierce act of defiance to what the Greek’s said only gods could do—breathe life into an empty dark space. In this act of creation, a constant act, where I find my love of theatre.
Theatre is for...
When we watch a live theatrical performance, there is something so counter to our human conditioning. We are sitting. We are still. We are spectators. And we are consuming a story that begs us to practice everything we know about the humanity taking place on the stage. We are invited to empathize or sympathize with the characters. We are invited to trust or distrust the situations playing out before our eyes. We are invited to challenge our beliefs. These make up our experience watching theatre. And I feel like it’s our duty when we leave the theatre to either take something with us or leave something behind. This cycle of giving or taking allows the audience (and actors) to practice, if not in our bodies—then in our minds. Theatre is a recipe for practicing this thing called humanity!
More Incredible Theatre People!
Ed Reggi originally hails from New York City but somehow ended up at Chicago's Second City--the birthplace of American Improvisational Theater. He apprenticed with its founder Paul Sills, the son of Viola Spolin. In 2005, Ed shifted his attention away from scripted theater and began performing exclusively in devised corporate productions around the globe. His clients include AARP, Special Olympics, SONY, Google, FedEx, Southwest Airlines, and MasterCard. When not performing Reggi remains adjunct faculty at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) and Southern Illinois University both near St.Louis, Missouri. Ed holds a BFA in Studio Design and Performance. And he's currently a proud MFA Graduate Student at Mississippi University for Women.
Ed Reggi is considered a scholar on Viola Spolin's Theater Games and featured on the Oprah Winfrey, PBS, and MTV Networks.
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