St Vincent College’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and Assistant Director for Iolanthe
Casey Ciocco is a young music major from St Vincent College in Latrobe. She applied to direct Iolanthe for Pittsburgh Savoyards last summer, and we were impressed enough to ask her to be Assistant Director. She performed admirably.
I decided to ask about her music and theater life, as well as Gilbert & Sullivan.
I was introduced to G&S because of an act of desperation, actually. The end of my sophomore year at Saint Vincent, one of my close friends (who did theater there – I hadn’t done theater at all up to this point) told me his theater group on campus called the Gilbert & Sullivan Players desperately needed more people for a production of Princess Ida they were doing. I had a voice major in music, and an extensive musical background, so naturally, I said “sure.”
I found out they needed ensemble and small roles, so I auditioned with their student producer and was cast as Sacharissa. When the production team realized I was an actual trained singer with a lower voice, they moved me to play Cyril, one of Hilarion’s pals.
From that point, I stayed in the club and started in leadership positions the very next semester.
Note that Zach Lucchetti also went to St Vincent’s, where he helped found the Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Clearly he gave it enough push to last for years after he left. Casey didn’t know him until this fall, when he sang in Iolanthe. Zach has sung in several Savoyard productions, along with Undercroft Opera, and many other companies. (Don’t look at http:// barihunks.blogspot.com/.)
Now, about those Savoyards…. What’s not to like?? I can’t even begin to talk about how thrilled I was upon learning that there was a local G&S collective that shared one of my biggest passions.
I absolutely adore everyone who’s a part of this group, and I love that the shows are kept traditional. At Saint Vincent, we had to modernize them so they’d have a chance appealing to our audience, and so getting to be a part of the original, unedited operettas is my favorite thing.
The only grievance I have? The long drive (an hour and twenty to the church, and an hour and a half to the music hall). But hopefully that’s changing soon!
My musical training begins at the wee age of 10. I joined 4th grade concert band as a drummer, and absolutely loved it. I continued to drum all through college, and in high school, I spent 3 years on the marching band’s drumline and held leadership positions there as well.
I didn’t start singing until high school, where I was in chamber choir. Upon going to SVC, I declared a music major where I began vocal training. I still was a part of the band there, a drum major for 3 years. I also played drumset in the jazz ensemble.
This is when I began theater. I did both student group’s shows (The Company and The Gilbert & Sullivan Players) and had production roles, acting roles, and administrative roles in both groups. And I performed in the theater department’s shows as well. I worked for the professional equity Saint Vincent Summer Theater for 3 years, one as a student ASM and two as staff costumer.
My favorite G&S operetta is a tie between The Sorcerer and H.M.S. Pinafore. Both shows are very close to my heart, and the music for both is what gets me.
One of my worst shows (from a production viewpoint) was H.M.S. Pinafore. We had every lead but three drop out, and didn’t get a full run completed until opening night. One of our orchestra members had a seizure during the run the night before, and we had to call EMS. We stopped that run to stand still and sing along. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but our audiences told us the show ended up going well.
I have done many shows with Mark Harris, and probably the best thing I’ve seen happen is when he was playing Nanki-Poo in Hot Mikado. His introductory song became a jazz crooner ballad, and he had a tap break in the middle after he played his trombone.
At the end of the song, he had a high, belted note, and on Sunday’s final matinee, he cracked on that note. We still laugh about it, mainly because we think it’s hilarious to hear singers when their voices crack. It was a good time.
We hope to see much more of Casey and Mark in Pittsburgh Savoyards shows.
Interview by Eric Starbuck
All photos from Casey’s Facebook page.