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Spotlight on Greg Cicchino, Director of The Secret Theatre’s Upcoming As You Like It

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Greg Cicchino is a graduate of Syracuse University with a B.F.A. in acting with an additional concentration in Directing. He has trained in many styles of theater, from ancient Greek through Shakespeare to the clowning styles of Jacque Lacocque. He has directed dramas and has extensive experience with musicals as well, including The Unusual Suspects, which enjoyed a successful run in the New York International Fringe Festival and is now being licensed for a South Korean production as well as optioned for a tour of Japan. His latest work is a revival of the William Shakespeare fantasy/comedy As You Like It, which opens at Queens, NY’s The Secret Theatre on August 20th.

The story revolves around Rosalind (Claire Morrison), daughter of the recently banished Duke Senior (Timothy J. Cox), and Orlando (Anthony Martinez), the man she falls in love with, who is the son of her father's deceased friend. Unbeknownst to each other, both must flee the volatile Duke Frederick (also Cox) and do so by entering the Forest of Arden. Rosalind disguises herself as a man and travels with her cousin Celia (Melisa Breiner-Sanders) and servant Touchstone (Daniel Smith) into the forest. While incognito, she befriends the lovesick Orlando in order to determine if his love is true.

The tagline for Mr. Cicchino's revival is “Magic happens in the forest.” It is hard not to be swept away with a line like that.

According to the press release, “Shakespeare's characters journey from present day fast paced city life into the Forest of Arden, an untouched place that harkens back to fantastic worlds like Sherwood Forest, or even The Garden of Eden. Melding contemporary practices with a classical approach, the actors will invite audiences to share in the adventure of this beloved comedy.”

It sounds positively magical to me.

In addition to the aforementioned actors, the production will also feature Jason Basso (Adam), Matt Cardenes (Dennis/Forrester/Jacque the Son), Griffin DuBois (Silvius), Harrison Gibbons (Corin), Michael Henrici (Oliver), Jonathan Hinman (Charles/William), Chris Kateff (Jacques), Larissa Laurel (Phebe), Amy Newhall (Audrey) and Louis Tullo (Le Beau/Amiens).

Mr. Cicchino took a few moments to answer a few questions for Blogcritics:

If you would, please give our readers a brief history of how you became involved with The Secret Theatre.

We met as many great romances begin – on Craigslist. I applied to direct a one-act for them about two years ago. They asked me back to direct another one, after which I joined the company. I have since become great friends with many members of the company. This is my second main stage with the company, my first being Antigone in March.

What drew you to directing As You Like It?

I am admittedly a bit of a Shakespeare snob. I am in love with heightened language and the power of words. The Secret Theatre had been doing a string of classical tragedies, which we eventually coined "The Dark Ages," and were looking to brighten it up. This play is essentially a wonderful series of vignettes, with some great verbal sparring between some incredibly diverse characters. Shakespeare sets it up with just the right amount of tension. But boiled down, it is about people escaping into the woods and finding love. How great is that?

What is your own “take” on the play?

I find myself drawn to plays (specifically comedies) with stories that call for a simpler frame of mind. (Not that I don't love your old fashioned elitist comedy!!) As I said, there is quite a bit of linguistic swordplay going on in this play – and everything is about sex. So these are obviously not stupid characters.

By simple I mean the characters don't need to be drinking Red Bull to get through the day. (Though the actors might!) The heroes of the play in the first act plot to escape the court – which I have equated essentially to modern life. Everything is a catastrophe. OH NO! I MISSED MY TRAIN! MY WEEK IS RUINED! As soon as they enter the woods, all that conflict seems to vanish. The first lines you hear when they enter the woods create an entirely different tone, one of communion with all that is around you…and of course a whole new set of problems set in. But I feel these are the problems more worth investigating – the question of finding simple happiness.

At the end, even after they are given permission to return, many opt to stay, and all bring this new philosophy with them. I actually write this in my director's note. Maybe we need to start thinking of life a little more in that way – rather than faster faster, we need to slow down and enjoy.

What do you think the play has to say that will draw a modern audience?

Hopefully the fact that it’s gonna be awesome!!! What I said above I think says it all. People need to be able to shut off their blackberries and iPhones and iPods and cell phones and laptops and schedules and breathe for a few minutes. I think that is what this play offers.

As You Like It opens on August 20th and will run until September 5th.

For information on tickets and performance dates, please visit The Secret Theatre online.


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