"We are delighted to have acclaimed director Giovanna Sardelli leading our New Works Initiative," said TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelley in a press release. "Nationally known as a director and developer of new works, she has already brought us two brilliant main stage productions, with more to come. Under her leadership, I predict an even greater commitment to new works here at TheatreWorks."
Said Sardelli, in the same press release, "I am beyond thrilled to become part of the Theatreworks team. To be in a position where I can take my passion for play development and storytelling, and connect artists I respect with a theater company I so deeply admire, is one of the things that excites me the most."
John Orr interviewed Sardelli for Regarding Arts in early 2013 and thought very highly of her, so we are updating that interview here.
Produced by: TheatreWorks
Directed by: Giovanna Sardelli
Featuring: Priscilla Lopez, Michael Rosen, Eddie Gutierrez, Michelle Cabinian and Leo Ash Evens
When: January 16 through February 10, 2013. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets: $23-$73 (savings available for students, educators, and seniors). Call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org. Read John Orr's review of "Somewhere."
like show-biz families
"I love this play. It makes my heart open up," said Giovanna Sardelli, who is directing "Somewhere," which opens up at TheatreWorks on Saturday. "I feel like I know this family, that I'd be lucky if they invited me to dinner."
Sardelli does know the show-biz-loving Candelaria family. For one thing, she directed the delightful, dance-filled play for its world premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego, in 2011.
For another, she grew up in her own show-biz family.
In "Somewhere," Inez Candelaria pines for her husband, who has been in Cuba, trying to make it as an entertainer. It's 1959, and Inez works as an usher in the theater where "West Side Story" is playing, and tries to keep her children - Alejandro, Francisco and Rebecca - believing in their own talents. Puerto Rican immigrants, they live in a tenement that is going to be razed so the city can build Lincoln Center.
The play drips with irony. The Candelarias are all great dancers, are all Puerto Rican, but couldn't get cast in "West Side Story," where the Puerto Ricans are played by "Gene Gavin, Noel Schwartz, Jack Murray! Those are your Sharks? That ain't a Puerto Rican street gang, that's a law firm!" says one of the Candelarias. And, of course ... they are theater people being displaced so a theater can be built.
But still, this play is build around the love of entertainment, of entertaining people. It is ideal for TheatreWorks, which has always celebrated creativity.
"I come from a show business family," Sardelli said during a recent phone interview. "I have an immigrant father who was a performer. So the story spoke to me on that level. But the show affects you even if that's not your experience. ... it is filled with love, love of family. Anybody with a family can appreciate this show."
Her father "is now retired," she said, "but still does benefits in Las Vegas. He is an immigrant from Brazil, full Italian blood, came to America to become an entertainer in Las Vegas. ... He did a variety act, the kind that doesn't exist anymore. He told jokes, sang, twirled guns. My mom was a ballroom dancer who became a housewife. I grew up in a family that performed."
(Nelson Sardelli is part of FIORE in Las Vegas - Fun Italians Organizing Ridiculous Events. There are photos of the group at lasvegasatitsbest.com.)
Giovanna Sardelli is appreciative of the childhood she had, growing up with all those Las Vegas entertainers. "Marty Allen, Pat Cooper, Shecky Green - it was extraordinary for me ... When they die, it will be gone. People don't go to clubs like they used to, don't get dressed up to see variety acts."
But, Giovanna's had her own very impressive career. She was a theater major in college, received her MFA in acting from NYU, then went off and worked as an actress in Hollywood. She told Laura Deni of www.broadwaytovegas.com that she was working as an "under-five" (five lines or fewer per appearance) on a soap opera. She didn't find it fulfilling.
She went back to NYU, where the great theater maven Zelda Fichandler was running a very exclusive Director's Lab. Since she graduated from that program, Sardelli has had a remarkable string of successes.
She's become something of a known quantity for brilliantly directing new plays - she said "I'm one of the luckiest directors I know," because she gets to work with "incredibly talented playwrights" - but the playwrights seem to think they are pretty lucky to get to work with Giovanna Sardelli.
She's done a lot of work, for instance, with Rajiv Joseph, including directing his "North Pool" in its world premiere at TheatreWorks in 2011. She also directed his "Animals Out of Paper" in 2008. The New York Times said, "Giovanna Sardelli's masterly direction follows through, pinning down the laughs as well as the emotional anguish." That gig also won Sardelli the Joe A. Callaway Award for directing from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation.
She seems to be always working - directing plays in New York, where she lives, and around the nation, serving as artistic associate at the Lark Play Development Center, and teaching.
She is also a playwright - she and sister Pietra wrote "Basking in the Neon," about growing up in Las Vegas.
"I love storytelling," she said. "I can't write -- I wish I could ... This is the closest I come to helping write a story, to help from the ground up."
She helped Matthew Lopez with "Somewhere," when it premiered at the Old Globe. But that production is much different than what she's been developing for TheatreWorks.
"The show was written for a proscenium theater," she said, but, "The Old Globe is in the round -- that was fun an challenging ... and I think we succeeded."
But TheatreWorks is staging "Somewhere" at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts - a proscenium stage - which should allow Lopez vision to form as imagined.
"Now we can see how the Candelarias lived," Sardelli said. "And, the play has changed significantly. We kept what we liked from the first show, but figured out ways to make the story better and stronger. It is, in some ways, like a new play."
She speaks very highly of Lopez: "It's wonderful to be in the room with him - he is smart and precise and works fast, working at a level that makes it exciting. ... He uses dance as an integral part of the story. I think there's something magical in that."
"Somewhere" is about a family that dances at the drop of a hat - literally - which made casting a special challenge.
"It is tricky," said Sardelli. "If they can act but can't dance, you can't cast them. If they can dance, but can't act, you can't cast them."
But, Sardelli says she thanks God every day that Priscilla Lopez - who plays Inez Candelaria in the play - came with the project. Lopez is, Sardelli says, astounding. Matthew Lopez wrote the part of Inez for Priscilla Lopez, who, in addition to being a Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran, is his aunt. She is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents. Her mother's maiden name was Candelaria.
All family, all show-biz, all the time.