Making history REAL with John Calabrese

John Calabrese Interview by Jen Bush

Meet John Calabrese!  He will be portraying not one but two characters in the upcoming innovative interactive musical Impossible But True.  It’s a re-telling of the tale of Rip Van Winkle from a different perspective.  While people were busy gawking at The Liberty Bell and chowing down on cheesesteaks in Philly, Mr. Calabrese was busy earning a college degree in the arts.  “My name is John Calabrese. I started performing from a young age in Erie, PA and received my BFA in Musical Theatre from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.”

This show delves into American History.  Instead of utilizing history to create a character, Mr. Calabrese created a character living in the moment of history.  “I thought of it from a bit of a different perspective. History doesn’t become history until it is in the past, so I tried to really concentrate on the real time discoveries my characters make. Specifically, how those discoveries shift their perspectives and points of view to cement them as a part of history.”

Mr. Calabrese’s creative process entails working carefully with his own dialogue as well as the dialogue of the other characters as they pertain to his character.  He has the extra work of having to distinguish the two characters he plays from each other which he seems to have a good handle on.  “I always start with the words spoken by my character and then the words said about my character. I use those as an outline and fill in the rest with work that supports what has already been laid out for my characters. Beyond that, since I play two characters, I like to make sure each has its own physical life and way of speaking. It helps me, as well as the audience, know which character I am playing.”

Impossible But True is laced with history and being performed in a historic location.  Sometimes there could be an extra sense of responsibility in representing this time in American History on the part of the cast.  Mr. Calabrese has a sound way of thinking about how he presents his characters during this historic time period.  “I don’t feel an extra responsibility necessarily, but it does add an extra layer of specificity needed in points of view. In large points of transition, not everyone is on the same page, so it allows you to play with a lot of different colors and perspectives.”

Mr. Calabrese wants the audiences to enjoy the show and to think about theatre as more of an experience than a place.  “I want the audience to have a fun time watching an adaptation of a story they probably haven’t thought about in years! Also, to be reminded that theatre can happen anywhere, not just on a stage!”  Speaking of where theatre can happen, this production is being performed in a tavern.  Mr. Calabrese’s training ground of Philadelphia has many historic taverns.  I think that’s a cool connection making Mr. Calabrese’s participation in this show meant to be.

When dealing with a play taking place during the American Revolution, the mind might fast forward to the events that took place on January 6th.  “It is an interesting perspective to think about people gaining freedom for the first time in tandem with people abusing the freedom they have. Freedom is a good thing, but can there be too much?”

Next up, Mr. Calabrese will be going from the tavern to the screen in his short film debut that is destined for the festival circuit.  “I’m making my short film debut in “Can We Be Honest?”. A funny, timely, and poignant piece by my friend Erin Lamar of Amplified Voices Productions. It will be submitted to assorted festivals with an official release to be announced soon!”

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