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