Rising Tides: Clara Costello

We are extra excited about the person featured in this post: Clara Costello is our newest company member! Clara is a hot commodity in town; in addition to jumping in our boat, Clara has also recently joined the company over at Theatre Pro Rata and is currently working on their production of The Illusion. Clara is an incredible stage manager with great attention to detail. We can say from experience that Clara always brings detailed research, insight and ideas to the table.  Her answers to our questions were just as delightful as the energy she’s brought to rehearsals and reports over the years.

Clara HeadshotThe Illusion by Tony Kushner is the tale of a  father and his wayward son and is adapted from the 17th Century play L’illusion Comique by Pierre Cornielle in which Pridamante seeks out the help of an illusionist, Alcandre, to help find his son. While this The Illusion marks Theatre Pro Rata’s debut in their partnership with Park Square at the new Any Boss Stage, Theatre Pro Rata has a history of churning out deep and complex work. The Illusion runs through June 28th.

Tickets available at Park Square.


Since some people might not know, could you tell us the  duties of stage manager? 

A stage manager’s duties will vary by company, show and director. It usually boils down to handling communication and coordination- figuring out schedules, making sure the cast and crew are all on the same page, and running the show’s technical elements. I’ve also done a lot of floor maintenance, prop tracking, and miscellaneous things that pop up unexpectedly.

What’s your favorite part about stage managing?

I like helping build tiny worlds. A play is something that is large enough to be deeply complex and fascinating, but small enough to keep a handle on, unlike real life. Watching the practical and artistic aspects of a show work together is pretty cool as well, especially when you can find ways to make the constraints of one improve the other.

What has been the best part about the process working on The Illusion?
Getting to laugh through every stage of putting it together in a roomful of amazing people. This one has been a lot of fun.
 This show is about a magician; did anyone learn close up magic? Disappearing bunnies? Sawing ladies in half?
Sadly, no one learned any sleight of hand- this show features a different type of magic. The actor playing the magician did look to stage magic for movement inspiration though, and I learned that the first ever sawing in half trick was performed by P.T Selbit in 1921, and that Alexander Hermann (1844-1896) was one of the very few magicians to actually produce rabbits from hats.
What do you hope audiences will walk away talking about?
The power of all different kinds of magic.
A show like this has a ton of moving parts: effects, actors, lights and sound in addition to the new space.  How does one prepare for this kind of experience?
Take time early on to earn everything you can about the things that aren’t going to change, so that you don’t have to worry about them when things get crazy. I made sure I was familiar with the script before rehearsals started, and took the opportunity to walk around the space a little when I went to events there. Other than that, keep up with everything that’s going on, and trust your team.

What’s one thing you wish more actors/directors knew to make you use your poking stick less?

Lately I’ve been working with some lovely people, so I haven’t had to use the poking stick too much. But in general, everyone should always remember that they are a small but important part of something larger and more wonderful than they are, and trying to make it all about you might make you more impressive, but the project as a whole is going to be smaller and dimmer. Also no one can read minds, so please find more transparent forms of communication.

What has been influential to your artistic path over the years?

People being willing to give me a chance.

What draws you to work on certain projects?

Getting the chance to work with talented people, do interesting research, and being excited about what I think the final product could be.

Where do you want to be a fly on the wall?

I think I would be entirely too busy testing my new found powers of flight to hang out on any walls.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

Hmm, I’m not much for spontaneity, unless I’m inadvertently blurting stupid things. Maybe immediately agreeing to be an ASM in college when I had no idea what that meant?

What’s your theatre horror story? (the one you take out at parties when swapping war stories)

During a scene change, a stagehand started pulling a scrim down instead of up. Fortunately, he quickly realized his mistake and switched directions. Unfortunately, there was a wagon on top of it at the time. We hastily sorted everything out, but not before there was a yards long tear in the scrim. When the lights went up on the next scene, there were shredded pieces of netting dangling halfway down the back wall, even though the batten was all the way up. We had to lower it back down next scene change so we could tie it up.

Somehow, these stories never seem as awful when they’re written down.

What have you seen in the past year that has inspired you?

I liked Love and Information- I was impressed by how much story they built with so little dialogue, and by the amount of furniture tetris that must have been going on backstage. The rehearsal process is usually inspiring to me- being in it from the very first production meeting to the final curtain, you really get to see that it is a process, for everyone, no matter how talented, and that you really can work wonders in just a few weeks.

If you could go back and give your younger self a piece of advice what would it be?

Get out of your box more often. Yes, there be monsters out there, but there are some pretty amazing people, places and opportunities as well.

If you were stuck in a lifeboat what would you have with you?  (you’ve got food and fresh water)

All the sunscreen. My pile of unfinished craft projects, a nice stack of books, and, eventually, a motor.

Performances of The Illusion are June 12-28, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm. Tickets available at Park Square. 


Photo Courtesy of Theatre Pro Rata Actor Pictured: Charles Hubbell Photo Credit: Charles Gorrill

Rising Tides: Erin Denman


Erin Denman Photo Credit: Dani Werner

We’re delighted to highlight Erin Denman.  Not only has she been a driving force behind many of our artistic endeavors, but she’s currently  working on a show with nimbus theatre. While rehearsing for several weeks with nimbus, she has also done so many Lifeboat activities – reading new scripts, baking delicious cannoli cupcakes and building a website to name a few.  We seriously wonder when she has time to do all of these things.

This isn’t Erin’s first time with nimbus; she has previously worked with them on Emerald and the Love Song of the Dead Fisherman, The Balcony and The Golden Ass.  The Balcony  was the first show nimbus had in their space on Central Ave, which has since become a staple in the theatre community. Over the years, nimbus has tackled story telling from many different perspectives; company created devised pieces, published scripts, new translations of classics, and new works.  We’re excited to see them tackle the intersection of art, expression, pre-history and storytelling in the devised work In the Age of Paint and Bone.

What drew you to acting (What’s your origin story)?

When I was in high school, I’d been doing tech for shows and I got recruited for the speech team by a teacher. Suddenly, I found myself onstage. I got to run off crying as the kid who doesn’t get into Fame in one show (FAME, obviously) and play a magical rhyming pirate in another. One of my first shows, Susan Lori-Parks’ Venus, exposed me to what theatre could do for me and how I could change an audience. I’ve never stopped seeking that feeling. Fun fact: Tim Daly, a fellow actor in In the Age of Paint and Bone, was also in FAME and Venus with me at DeLaSalle. Go Islanders?

This is the second devised piece you’ve worked on with nimbus and Liz Neerland.  How has the process changed from the first one to the second piece?

This show involves a focus on movement that is entirely different from what we did for The Golden Ass. That show was riffing on tales similar to Aesop’s fables that form  the basis of fairy tales we all know. In the Age of Paint and Bone features historical moments as well as speculation about why prehistoric people created art- the basis for the wordless movement pieces. It’s been a very different but rewarding process. The tech is going to be incredible. Brian Hesser deserves a lot of props for creating such integral character in the cave itself.

What gets you excited about creating devised work?


Photo Credit Mathieu Lindquist

I love playing with other actors and discovering a story rather than being handed the story. There is a sense of comfort and danger about it: you take risks knowing that you’ve built a support structure with the artists you’re working with. You really get the chance to explore what interests the group before settling on a finished product.

What have you seen/read in the past year (or so) that’s inspired you?

I’ve been particularly artistically inspired by not theatrey things this year. Books, mostly.  I’ve been reading a lot of feminist memoirs. Caitlin Moran inspires me quite a bit. Aimee Bender’s short stories. A book called Ask Me Why I Hurt about providing medical care to homeless youth. Julianne Moore in Still Alice and the National Theatre Live’s broadcast of Coriolanus both shook me. The Dick Van Dyke Show. Seriously. It’s on Netflix, watch it. The actors are so committed to the absurd happenings that it is all entirely grounded. It’s sort of a joy to watch.

After In the Age of Paint and Bone, is there anything you’ve got lined up?

Little Lifeboats business. TEASE takes up a good chunk of my spring. I’m excited to really get to work. This is the time of year I get ideas, so watch out Lifeboats! I may have some tricks up my sleeve yet!

What role have you been particularly proud of over the years?  

That’s a difficult question. Each show/role teaches you so much about yourself and your art. There are a couple more I’d like another crack at though. I’d like to play Evelyn in The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute again. I was proud of what I did there, but I think I was too young to really do it justice. I’d love to play Titania and Emelia again. I’m pretty happy any time I get to do new work.  How’s that for a non-answer?

Not a role, but I’m very proud of TEASE. I’m happy that a little idea became something people enjoy doing and that helps artists connect.

What question should I have asked you but didn’t?

Ahhh…. I don’t know. My favorite beverage is unsweetened ice tea. But not iced green tea. Because that’s super gross.

If you were stuck in a Lifeboat what do you need to have?  (you’ve got water and food)

My kindle loaded with books (new overly complicated fiction to take up a lot of time, poetry, autobiographies of comedians, and dumb fantasy novels) and a solar powered charger. And an unlimited supply of sunscreen.


Performances of In the Age of Paint and Bone will be at the nimbus space (1517 Central Ave) February 7th, 2015- March 1 2015. Matinees at 3pm, Weekend evening at 8pm weeknight evening at 7:30pm.  tickets and more information at www.nimbustheatre.com