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Sunday, November 30, 2014

URI ALUMNI IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Introducing Dan DaCunha


URI Theatre I By Lauren Mazzola


URI Alumni, Dan DaCunha
 This week, I had the great pleasure of interviewing alumni Dan DaCunha, who graduated from URI in 2007 with an acting degree. DaCunha was thrilled to reflect on his time at URI, and to talk about his fascinating experiences working in Hollywood as a movie and television Script Coordinator/Writer.

After graduating from URI DaCunha moved to the west coast where he was able to work in writers' departments in Hollywood on shows such as Rules of Engagement, Baby Daddy, Welcome to the Family, and most recently, Entourage: The Movie where he got to write scenes for some big star cameos.

Currently, DaCunha is staying busy as a script coordinator and writer; working in the same position on season two of TNT's The Last Ship, and writing a feature length animated film that will soon be going into production. The URI alum is also finishing up a script that is being considered by a company that collaborates with Martin Scorcese.

As a script coordinator, DaCunha has opportunities to write and pitch his own material in the stories he is working on at the time, but his main role is to be a fixer. “You have to make the script production-friendly so that it can be easily worked off of for filming. You also track storylines and make sure everything lines up whether it is history, terminology, or character motivation. I'm basically the ‘script-keeper,’ nobody sees a script without my say,” he explained.

DaCunha explained that the extensive hands-on training gained from the theatre department prepared him to work in the entertainment industry, “Regardless of your major, you still get the experience working on every aspect of a production and that is so important in the outside world.” He then explained that URI prepared him for multiple fields, “URI helped prepare me in so many ways but I think what applies most directly in my current position is the work you do in analyzing plays, characters, themes and emotion. There is a lot of time spent studying the all important ‘why?’”

At the start of his URI career, the successful script coordinator was actually a mechanical engineer major, who wanted to build roller coasters. “It was then that I realized I sucked at math,” said DaCunha, “I failed out, I got F's in my major courses and one A, in Theatre 100,” where he was cast to play the lead role in their show.

Following his Theatre 100 performance, his T.A., Matt Hobin, asked him to audition for a play he was directing as part of his major requirement. After getting the part he was talked into auditioning for a main stage show, A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Bryna Wortman and received that role too.  After successfully starring in three different productions DaCunha thought, "I suck at math. I'm good at this. Everyone here is awesome. What the hell? I’ll be an acting major.” He now writes movies and television and couldn't be happier.

URI Alumni Dan DaCunha in his natural setting

DaCunha was happy to give advice to students involved with or interested in theatre. “Never hold back and never, ever grow up. Be Peter Pan but don't suppress your Captain Hook either. Just let your imagination run wild... then write it down.  As Tony Estrella so eloquently put it my junior year; acting is the art of self-humiliation. You can't be a toe in the water actor and I think that applies to every aspect of production. It's great; in what other field can you make a career of playing make-believe and making a fool of yourself? Embrace it!”



Friday, November 28, 2014

A WRAP UP OF "AVENUE Q"

A Wrap Up: 5 Reasons Why "Avenue Q" Was a Success at URI


URI Theatre I By Brianna Penta


Were you looking for some entertainment involving laughter and originality? Well if you went to URI’s 2014 fall production of Avenue Q, then that’s what you got! Viewers were knocked off their feet by the great performance that was put on by the Theatre Department at the University of Rhode Island. Avenue Q, the hilarious and ridiculous R-rated version of Sesame Street was just the refreshing touch and casual viewing that audiences needed. Don’t believe us? We can give you five, undeniable reasons as to why Avenue Q did so well at URI.

1. The Concept Brought Individuality to the Theatre


 I bet you were wondering why I talk about the uniqueness of Avenue Q when we are all familiar with Sesame Street? Good question. Despite the fact that Sesame Street, and puppets in general have been around since the late 1980s with Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebies, Avenue Q brought something quite inventive to the table. The production took the puppet concept and created an adult version of a puppet musical with the addition of a heavy dose of real life to the plot. This production took Sesame Street’s most prized message that ‘you can do anything you set your mind to and that you will rise above all others no matter what’, and argued it by revealing real life dilemmas that took place on a day to day basis in the puppet’s lives while they tried to find their place in society. These puppets were being placed in real life situations and were forced to act accordingly, or to put it simpler, they behaved as a normal human being would behave. Those real life situations were identified throughout the whole production and that concept is what set Avenue Q apart from the rest.


2. The Characters

Did you want some entertainment? Well you got it! The Avenue Q characters were “hot tickets.” You may not believe how honestly realistic they were. The Avenue Q characters took the form of the characters in Sesame Street, with replacements like the formal stockbroker Rod for the famous Bert and Ernie and also with the porn-obsessed Trekkie Monster for the legendary Cookie Monster. With other extremely likeable characters like Lucy The Slut and the Bad Idea Bears, audiences were able to enjoy them and warm up to their different and distinctive personalities.


3. What's That I Hear?

Ah and yes.... of course the music! With songs as one of the largest factors in any musical, they could either make or break a show. So what do they do for Avenue Q? The songs made an already wonderful show that much more extraordinary and why? Simply because they were just extremely catchy. Other than the fact that they were performed to perfection, they also focused on subjects that you would not hear sung on the radio or in your ordinary musical. With some of the songs titled “Everyone’s A Little Racist” and “You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want When Making Love”, they truly gave the whole musical aspect of this show a quirk, crazy, and hilarious identity. Knowing that this type of musical with these innovative songs does not come around very often, I think this worked in the URI Theatre Department’s favor.


4. The People Who Made It All Possible

I’m talking about everyone who played a role in making this musical extraordinary. With teachers and mentors devoting so much time to advising, with the Theatre technical crew doing everything in their power to have the show perfectly ready for opening night, and with the cast’s tremendous and hardworking efforts to embark in a whole new world of theatre, viewers were able to practically touch and feel the success that was illuminating out onto the audience. With the URI Theatre department leaders knowing that puppeteering would have to be an entirely new development of muscle memory for the Avenue Q cast, they made sure that their students were ready by calling in the experts such as Joshua Holden, a professional puppeteer, to help the cast members learn the new art in workshops. The cast also dedicated an insane amount of time to working on their puppeteering skills, which was also enforced by the Avenue Q directors. Considering the amount of time that the Theatre Department put into preparing for the show, some might say that it would have been a sin if you didn’t catch one of the unforgettable performances.


5. The Message: Completely Pertinent 

You know the saying ‘What you see is what you get’? While this saying may apply to the most simple of men and to a plate of Antipasto, it most definitely did not apply to the musical Avenue Q. You may have seen a plethora of animated and fun-loving furry puppets with smiles on their faces in pictures on flyers or on ads but that is not all you saw during the performance. Despite the fact that this was a puppet show, it was spot on to one’s normal outlook and struggles that they experience in life. Every human being on this planet has already or will experience the troubles and battles that these characters went through. Whether it was getting through a tough breakup during college or trying to find a job as an adult, we all at some point in our lives will be able to relate to these trials. Knowing this information, the writers were successfully able to perfectly simulate those situations in Avenue Q, which had a realistic impact on us when we watched everything unfold.


To close this wrap up, we want to thank everyone who was involved in making this production happen. Thank you to the Theatre Department teachers, staff, and professionals for your help and patience during the preparation of this extraordinary show. We want to thank the cast for their hard work and for putting in an enormous amount of effort towards this production to make it special. Thank you to the technical crew because without you, none of the shows put on by URI Theatre would be possible. A final warm thank you to everyone who supported us and to everyone who came out to see the Avenue Q because without you, we would not be successful.

Don’t forget about us though! More productions are on their way during the Spring 2015 season. Learn about the shows here: http://web.uri.edu/theatre/current-season/