Column: Writing on the Wall

Civilians find the whole thing quite bizarre - Award-winning column

Community theater an outlet for local residents


Well, here I go again. Life is just not busy enough for me, what with writing, reporting, editing, teenagers, curfews, mortgage and such — but I am honing my thespian chops now in “On Broadway — A Musical Revue” with the Island Park Theatre Group.

After weeks (months really) of rehearsals, and the cancellation of the first show due to a monster storm, power outages and a small fire (are they trying to tell us something?) — 70 of us are about to put on three performances of a 29-song cavalcade of musical Broadway selections.
What would possess me to do this — over and over? I really don’t know. I do know that taking a process from beginning to end, like a good news story (or a pregnancy, for that matter) is heady. Watching it evolved, making it your own, reading lines, singing, dancing, the stage lights, the costumes — it’s my skydiving, my adventure, my thrill.

Which made me think: “Why do my friends in the cast do this?” They are made up of attorneys, teachers, stay-at-home moms, counselors and students — an assortment of people whose lives, like mine, are pretty full as it is.
The show’s finale is a song from the play “Curtains” called “Show People,” which has a line that goes, “Did you know your dentist longs to be in show business? Your window washer wants to be a star!”
Well, Sima Casillo, 50, of Valley Stream, deputy director of the personnel management division for the NYC department of sanitation, doesn’t wash windows, but she is nevertheless living a dream.

“When I heard this was a Broadway revue, I though it was right up my alley,” said Casillo, who loves to act but hasn’t done a show since high school. Also in the revue with her are daughters Christina and Nicole. “It’s a great way to connect with my children and have real quality time together,” she said. “We are all so busy all the time, we might as well be busy together, right?’

Dana Feminella, 39, of Island Park, is also in the show with Marissa, one of her two children.
“I have been dreaming of returning to the stage for years,” said Feminella. “I was involved in musical theater from grade school through high school and then life happened. I am thrilled to be a part of this.” Feminella is a bodily injury claims adjuster by day. “It’s been 22 years since I’ve been on the stage. Auditioning for this show was very difficult because it had been so long. I was shaking like a leaf after my audition!”

Alana Ayala, 21, of Franklin Square, a young mother of a three-year-old and an infant, said that this is her first venture into community theater. “The assistant director, Barbra, was my Girl Scout troop leader, and her niece is my best friend,” said Ayala. “I decided to audition the day before they held [the auditions] and I’m glad I did.” Ayala works the midnight to 8 a.m. shift as a security guard for maximum security in Melville. “This show is a big deal for me because I sing alone and dance quite a bit,” she said, “but there’s so much support from IPTG that I know we’ll all be fantastic!”

Julie DiDesidero, 43, of East Meadow, has a musical family: her husband plays and builds guitars and her 8-year-old daughter is starting to sing and play the piano. The stay-at-home mom is part of a group called the LI Cabaret Theatre, and is doing this show as a creative outlet. “Since my parents are ill, and I help care for them and the rest of my family ... I also love to sing and dance and enjoy broadening my theatrical skills.” DiDesidero was a music teacher for 16 years. She currently sings for the mentally ill, the elderly, and is networking with many Jazz musicians at open mic nights.

Lillian Baum, 50, of Long Beach, is in “On Broadway” with her husband, Lloyd. She is an experienced community theater player, having just finished playing the role of Jessica Crenshaw — the diva to end all divas — in Theater Box’s production of “Curtains.”

“Although I love all music,” Baum said, “Broadway music has always held the greatest attraction to me.” During the day, Baum is an accountant, a Chartered financial consultant, a Chartered Life underwriter and a certified senior advisor.
Renee Rasulo-Hugues, 30, of Island Park, has worked as a secretary at Long Beach Medical Center’s Addiction Treatment Services Department for the past 18 years. She happened upon “On Broadway” when her daughter brought a flyer home from school. “I thought, now is the time to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing, but would never have done without having to take my kids to the auditions,” she said. Her son, Justin, 10, and daughter Jordan Paige, 8, are also in the show. “Doing this show with my children has been terrific. It has allowed me to see how talented they truly are and the learning experience has been incredible for all of us. Watching them grow into little actors and singers has been quite a joy.”

 “Being a part of a show has been a goal I’ve always wanted to reach, but never quite accomplished since I feared not being as good an actress as I was a singer,” said Rasulo-Hugues. “However, I have my children to thank for giving me the courage I have been searching for for a very long time. If it weren’t for them, I would still be looking at those audition signs and wondering what if?”

Yes, what if. Many of us up on that stage, whatever our level of talent, will never have to wonder “What if?” That’s a good thing, I think. As the song goes,

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