This edition of the Exchange features Victor Capecce, assistant professor of communication and theatre.
Q: Where did you go to college? What did you major in?
A: I went to Ithaca College as an undergraduate, majoring in drama; then Yale School of Drama for an MFA in design.
Q: What do you love most about Millersville University?
A: The dynamic energies of the students/faculty/staff and facilities combined.
Q: How long have you been a professor?
A: This is my seventh year at Millersville, and I was an adjunct at HACC for several years while continuing my design/artist career.
Q: As a Communication and Theatre professor what is your favorite class to teach? Why?
A: How can one choose a favorite child? I do enjoy COMM100 because I get to meet students from diverse disciplines.
Q: You recently started teaching a new Entrepreneurship course on campus. What do you enjoy about teaching that class and what have been some challenges with teaching that class?
A: I love sharing all the hard lessons I learned from being in the business of the arts for many years. The biggest challenge is gaining enough time for experiential learning opportunities. But that will be resolved as we function with the new Entrepreneurial Leadership Center (ELC) and classes devoted to experience.
Q: What is your theatre background?
A: I started as a puppeteer, and then became a magician, appearing on TV’s “Wonderama” and “Gene London Show.” I went to college as an actor, and then started designing all the student productions (16 shows in my sophomore year) and went on to stock and regional theatres—on to graduate school—then to NYC as a scenic and costume designer /scenic artist member of United Scenic Artists, the professional trade union.
Q: Do you prefer to work behind the scenes or perform onstage?
A: I’ve been behind the scenes for many years. The last role I did was the Emcee in “Cabaret”…a role I performed at Clinton (New Jersey) Summer Theatre and at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. It is the only role for which I would dig up my tap shoes.
Q: You have been involved in the set design of many University theater productions. What were some of your favorite sets to work on?
A: Choosing another favorite child? I could describe a sense of fulfillment from each. One that might surprise is “Hair”…first of all, it is a much better show than I originally thought, and I loved working with the “tribe” to create the walls of graffiti that encompassed the theater. But each production has been a unique experience.
Q: What are some challenges that usually come up when working on set design? What do you enjoy about it?
A: Time as a precious and spendable resource always presents a challenge, despite an abundance of organization. Coordinating student hours with trucking and building with rehearsal schedules, with show openings, with props/lighting/sound, etc.
Q: You worked in New York. What shows were you involved with?
A: I worked on “Working” and “I Remember Mama” (Richard Rodgers’ last show), “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” “ Moon Cries,” “Baker’s Wife,” “The Would-Be Gentleman,” “The Prince of Grand Street,” “My Astonishing Self,” “Golden Boy” and “The Human Voice” and dozens of shows off and off-off Broadway…in many capacities. I designed an average of between eight to 15 shows a year, all over the country as well as in NYC.
Q: What were some of your favorite shows to work on in New York?
A: Actually, it was designing a commercial for Jordache Jeans produced by Macy’s – “Jordache on Broadway.” But, I always had a blast, and it gave me fodder for an endless catalogue of stories and anecdotes. And I loved the excitement of “L’Histoire du Soldat” for NYC Opera because I designed both scenery and costumes and created giant puppets. It was an extravaganza at Lincoln Center.
Q: What was it like working for “Saturday Night Live”? How long did you work there and who were some of your favorite guest hosts?
A: I worked at SNL on and off for three years, as well as the “Tomorrow” show, the “Today” Show and “Another World.” What I loved most was that the longest part of the commute was the elevator ride to the eighth floor. (I would go home for lunch.) SNL is very exciting, fun and well paying!
Q: What is your favorite Broadway show?
A: As an audience, the original productions of “Cabaret” and “Follies” remain tied in the experience I had with each, and the subsequent “Follies in Concert.” Both spoke to me in very profound and special ways.
Q: What was your experience working on the film “Ghostbusters” like? How is film production design different from theatre production design?
A: More fodder for stories: I had a blast, except for the days we spent painting the jail cells in the basement abandoned police station. It was not special at the time, just one of many projects. But the wrap party was at a club on the East Side, and there was a platter of caviar enough to fill a Jacuzzi. Movies vs. theatre: movies pay more, and feed you fabulously. Even NBC only had bagels and coffee. First film I worked on, “Night of the Juggler,” was like a cruise ship every morning.
Q: How many years have you been involved as director of Millersville’s Four Corners Festival?
A: This summer is the fifth year, thanks to the support of the University. This year it is scheduled through June 30.
Q: What time (month) do you usually start planning for the Four Corners Festival? How do you decide what events to include each summer?
A: Planning starts while the festival is still in progress. We strive to have events that will appeal to a wide audience, and performed or art contributed by those who seek to build their audience. We also poll the attendees.
Q: As a member of the OperaLancaster Education Committee, what does your job usually involve?
A: My biggest job is to create and perform the “Exploring Opera” presentations. The sessions are offered free before performances to offer some background or insight into the opera that the audience is about to see. It has been a very valuable and well-attended series. I had an opportunity to present the “Amahl” session to the Boys/Girls Club of Lancaster this past December. Bringing new audiences to the world of traditional and modern opera is a major part of the mission.
Q: What other theater companies have you been involved in? What shows have you worked on?
A: In the immediate region, I’ve worked with Ephrata Performing Arts Center extensively—first was “The Mousetrap,” “1776,” “Follies,” South Pacific,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and several others; most recently—“Blithe Spirit.” At Sight and Sound I painted Noah twice. At American Music Theatre I was a designer and promoted to producing director. At Theatre of the Seventh Sister I worked on “The Winters Tale” and “Macbeth.” I also worked at Theatre Harrisburg, Rainbow Dinner Theatre, Freedom Chapel Theatre and with the Actors Company at the Fulton Theatre. I also created the first rose ascending Lancaster on New Year’s Eve—as much of a show as anything else.
Q: How many shows have you been involved in, both in acting and behind the scenes?
A: I honestly have lost count. Someday I will. Start with seven seasons of summer stock at an average of 10 shows each.
Q: Besides theater, what other hobbies do you have?
A: I garden a bit…but there is little distinction between work and hobby when you love what you do.
Q: What is an interesting fact about yourself that most people do not know?
A: I am inherently shy.
Q: Is there any other information that would be useful for the article?
A: In its earliest months, I ran the French Quarter Night Club upstairs at 335 N. Queen St, now the Center for American Craft.
My miniature Dachshund, Mitzi, appeared in the Millersville productions of “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Disenchanted” and ACMO’s production of “Legally Blonde.”