Interview | Don DiGiulio
Don DiGiulio is the Founder and Artistic Director of No Name Players. The company was founded in the winter of 2000 at Marshall University in Huntington, WV. Don’s goal was to foster a creative outlet for himself and his fellow classmates to hone the skills they were establishing in the classroom setting and to create additional non-collegiate performance opportunities. Don has since been involved as a producer, director or performer in all subsequent No Name Players’ ventures. Productions at Marshall included Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin, Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon, Last Train to Nibroc by Arlene Hutton and Greater Tuna by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard.
In August of 2004, Don and No Name Players made their Pittsburgh debut with their critically-acclaimed production of Big Love by Charles Mee, earning them a spot as one of the Top Ten Plays of 2004 in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Since then, the company has produced the American premiere of This Hotel by Alex Poch-Goldin, Wonder of the World by David Lindsay-Abaire and A Celebration of Women Artists in association with SWAN Day in March of 2009.
As an actor, Don has also worked locally with City Theatre, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Pittsburgh CLO, Bricolage, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Pittsburgh Musical Theatre, Thank You Felix Productions, The Theatre Factory, and The Summer Company, among others. Don is also an Acting Instructor with ActOne Theatre School in the North Hills.
Suffice to say, Don’s an impressive guy, and I was really impressed with him when I interviewed him. He’s awesome. Enjoy!
1. Okay, let’s just dive right in and put it on the table now. When you dream, you dream big! I mean, your very first production of your very first company was Big Love – probably one of the most difficult undertakings you could have done! You made SWAN Day more inclusive and welcomed all sorts of artists. That takes a lot of bravery. So my question is multi-pronged:
a. Why that direction for No Name Players? Why that direction for yourself?
Our motto as a company is “No Fear. No Boundaries. No Limit.” I don’t believe in stifling the creative process by limiting your expectations or aspirations. Also, as a company, we believe in the artistic process and the potential for cross-disciplinary artistic collaborations. Art is art. We are all working toward a common goal which is to create art.
b. Were you at all hesitant to try such big productions?
There’s always some level of hesitation in putting on any production, large or small scale, but to me, the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. I tend to aim high.
2. You started the company as a creative outlet for you and fellow classmates. I started this site for the same reason: creative outlet. But wow! It’s hard work! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been and still is for you to be at the helm of a company. So again, another multi-pronged question:
a. Why a company? Why not a blog or one night show or something smaller? I guess maybe this feeds back into your answer to question one. 🙂
I wanted to make my contribution to the artistic world in the best way I knew how: as a theater artist. And if I was going to enter into that artistic world, I was going to do it with a bang. I immerse myself in my work and I don’t have the capacity to do anything halfway. Just not in my nature.
b. Looking back on it, now that years have passed, did the reality of having a company measure up to your imagination?
Not only does it measure up, it exceeds my expectations on a daily basis. There really is no feeling in the world like putting up one of our productions for that first audience and being able to say, “Yeah. We did that. This exists because of us. Our company. Our dedication. Our talents.” No feeling even comes close.
3. You still continue to put on shows that are very edgy and push boundaries. The plays I see aren’t clean-cut or tidy. What do you look for in a script that makes you say, “yes. I want to do this one.” You mentioned that Book of Liz was because of its authors: David and Amy Sedaris. What other factors have to come into play for you?
When I read plays, I see them. I see the finished product in my head. I believe in my own gut reaction and I ask myself: Is this a story I feel needs to be told? Is this something I’d like to see on stage? If the answer is yes, then I add that piece to my list and wait for the right time to present it. Life isn’t clean-cut or tidy so why should we impose those restrictions on the theater? The authors that I gravitate towards have a unique vision of the world and they reflect that in their respective styles. All of the works we produce are either world or Pittsburgh premieres. I believe wholeheartedly in giving the audiences in Pittsburgh the opportunity to experience these pieces for the first time.
4. Your current show, Reasons to be Pretty is described as a love story about the impossibility of love. Tell us more about the show and what attracted you to it.
reasons to be pretty is the third play in a trilogy of plays by Neil LaBute chronicling our modern obsession with physical beauty. It is also a searing examination of the effect miscommunication has on relationships. I was also attracted to the humanity of these characters. LaBute does not have the capacity for veneer and does not aim to be tidy. He holds a mirror up to the communication gap between men and women and paints an illuminating if sometimes unflattering portrait of what he sees. And in my opinion, no contemporary playwright has quite his ear for dialogue. It is uncanny and unflinchingly real.
5. You certainly don’t shy away from tackling hard issues. But let’s change gears a moment. I’ve always wondered: what do you look for in an audition?
Assembling a team of artists to work on a piece is akin to building a family (if you could choose your family). I don’t audition actors, I interview people. I look for artists who are personable and with whom I can converse on a basic human level. Show me who you are, not who you think I want you to be. I try to put people at ease to allow for this interaction to take place. I’m an actor too, so I know what they’re feeling.
6. Is there an instant turn-off an actor can do during an audition?
Sometimes people forget that an audition begins when you walk in the door. I believe in teamwork and respectful collaboration. So if an actor treats any member of our team, from the sign-in desk to anyone who might be in the room for the audition, with disrespect, that tells me something about that person.
7. You’ve worked with some incredible people. For instance, Pittsburgh stage veteran and recent Pittsburgh New Works Festival Lifetime Achievement Award winner Marci Woodruff is directing Reasons to Be Pretty. How would you say Pittsburgh has influenced your work?
Knowing that Pittsburgh audiences are interested and excited about seeing new work allows us to pursue our mission. As a company, part of our goal is to collaborate with local artists as much as possible, so every production of ours is directly influenced by Pittsburgh and the artists and people who make this city their home.
8. Is there anything you find particularly inspiring about the city or its artists?
Pittsburgh is a blue collar city and I think we as Pittsburgh artists bring that same sensibility to our work. Pittsburghers work hard. We don’t give up. Persistance. Commitment. Originality. Creativity. These qualities are what make Pittsburgh and the artists residing here inspirational.
9. You produce, direct and act. It’s clear you love to read. Any ambitions to write?
I’m no writer. I like to consider myself, be it as producer, director or actor, as an interpreter of the written word.
10. Finally, you so enjoy artists and creativity and working together. You like the collaborative nature every art form can bring to another. What advice do you have for a Pittsburgh artist?
See plays. Visit art galleries. Go to concerts. Attend poetry readings. Above all, experience Art. Broaden your mind and do not let yourself be hindered by any self-imposed limitations. You just may surprise yourself.