TF Alumnus Named “Actor of the Week” by Time Out Chicago


One of Theatre Fairfield’s alumnus and graduates, Steve O’Connell, was honored this week by being named “Actor of the Week” in Time Out Magazine in Chicago!! Current students will remember Steve as the face on the screen, when he Skyped into our annual, LIFE AFTER TF panel discussion earlier in the semester. Steve has been making his mark on the windy city as an actor, in theatre performances, national commercials, films, etc, and here at TF we couldn’t be more proud to hear of his success and recognition!! Check out the article Steve was featured in below! Congrats Steve!!


– The TF Family


Steve O’Connell and Jude Roche in Coriolanus at the Hypocrites

Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

William Shakespeare’s Corialanus is one of his lesser-known tragedies, centered on a Roman warrior turned politician who has more skill on the battlefield than in the senate. Starring in the title role, Steve O’Connell gives a riveting, physically demanding performance in the Hypocrites’ dynamic production. Born on Long Island and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, O’Connell began performing in the church choir before discovering theater as a teenager. A student at an all-boys high school, his first role was in a musical over at the girls’ school. He received a degree in theater at Fairfield University that was not acting intensive, and after spending some time in New York City, applied to the master’s program at University of Wisconsin in Madison. He moved to Chicago for a role and has remained a regular fixture on the storefront stage, most recently appearing in productions with About Face, Stage Left, and Signal Theatre Ensemble. O’Connell talks to us about the intense fight choreography, homoerotic undertones, and what young actors should do when starting a professional career.

What was the biggest challenge of the script for you?

I wouldn’t say that a challenge leapt out right away. I’d heard negative things about [the script] before, it being this unproduced play and one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays. I think maybe the biggest challenge in the beginning was just trying to put all of that out of my mind when I sat down and read it. But when I read it, I really was able to focus in on who this guy was. I think one of the main detractions from the play is that this is a man who’s not very introspective, and he’s unlikeable, and nobody can identify with him and so on and so forth. But the first thing that kind of leapt out to me was that he was a man with conviction. A lot of people in the world of the play didn’t agree with what his set of beliefs were, but at the same time it was easy for me as an actor to wrap my mind around somebody who had a purpose and a direction and knew what he wanted.

When I started to rehearse the play was when some of the challenges crept up because it’s such a physical role, and the amount of movement and physicality in the violence that’s in the play, in the way that he speaks and holds himself, was something that I really had to train for. And to be able to sustain that over what our running time is for an hour and 45 minutes, that was something that I really had to continue to work at all the way up until the last week of previews. Really understanding what it took both physically and mentally to pursue his actions and maintain that presence that is called for in this role on stage.

How much fight choreography training do you have and how was working through those physical moments with fight choreographer Ryan Bourque?

When I was in grad school, I had three years of fight training. My teacher, Tony Simotes, who’s the artistic director at Shakespeare & Company out in Lennox, Massachusetts, he was my fight instructor. He was great. Before that I had really no training in stage combat, but I left there feeling pretty confident in my ability. That ability had not really been called upon since I moved to Chicago. I hadn’t done a lot of plays with a great amount of combat. I felt confident going into rehearsal. I knew it was in my body, and Ryan was really great at creating an environment where things weren’t thrust upon us that we didn’t feel comfortable with. He works in a really organic way. What I mean by that is he starts from a place and really allows you to have your input on what you think you would do next. You know, I think I’d elbow him in the face here, or I think I would go try to wrestle him to the ground. So it really came out of where your body was at the time, choreographing the music and then he would kind of tap you on the shoulder and jump in for you and sort of feel how it would be like to be in a certain situation or a certain grapple.

Most of the violence in this play is all hand-to-hand. It’s very visceral. Most of the fighting has been very close proximity. There are many times when people are right on top of each other. Ryan was great at walking everybody through that step-by-step, and we got to spend a lot of time in rehearsal on the fights, which really informed everything. For the first 20 minutes, much of it is [Coriolanus] fighting this series of battles. And then after that is done, he then goes back to Rome. I always joke around saying, “I fight for 20 minutes and then I have to do the play.” But he’s not a person that paces himself. So I really needed to throw myself into these fights and just have to worry about what happens after that after that. The idea of tempering the fight so I could sustain through the rest of the play was not an option because that’s not who Coriolanus is. He’s a warrior. And so through lots of rehearsal and as much training as I could do on my own, I felt like I was in really good physical shape to take on the role.

There are some homoerotic undertones in this production. Was that an active choice on director Geoff Button’s part?

Yeah, Geoff and I sat down together before the show began and we talked about Coriolanus and our ideas for what we wanted to do with him and how we wanted to humanize him and make him a human being, complete with flaws and complete with desire and with ambition and secrets and things like that. There’s an obvious relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius, who’s his chief rival on the battlefield and has been for his entire life. And I think that relationship can be interpreted in different ways, but I find it’s always interesting to find out if there is some sort of— when two people speak and talk about each other so much, whether it’s two men or two women or a man and a women, if there’s any sort of love or desire behind that relationship. Is it strictly platonic, or is something else going on, and is that person hiding that or keeping that to themselves for certain reasons?

As we worked on the play — I think both of us started from a place saying there seems to be something else here, between these two guys, and wouldn’t it be interesting to explore that. As rehearsal started, we definitely started from that place of there being an attraction between these two men. Not only physically but just for who these guys were. There was an attraction based on the fact that they were both warriors. Aufidius is the only person Coriolanus thinks could even begin to understand who he is and what he’s gone through and what it means to lead an army and fight in battle and kill people for your country. So there’s that sort of intense emotional connection and then from that, as we continued to work, we finally had a rehearsal one day where Geoff was just like, “Are we ready to just call this a homosexual attraction? Are we ready to name it?” And both Jude [Roche] and I were like, “Absolutely.” This just makes it that much more interesting to play.

Beyond what that is—I think it’s up to the audience to take what they want after what they see on stage and extrapolate what their relationship is after they get together. There’s a scene three-quarters through the play where Coriolanus comes in to Antium, where Aufidius lives, and basically is asking for his help to turn around and take revenge on Rome who has just thrown him out, who’s exiled him, banished him. After that point, it’s up to the audience to decide what that relationship is, but that was definitely something that we didn’t shy away from in the rehearsal room.

Any advice you’d give to aspiring actors who are trying to build a professional career while trying to find ways to survive financially?

It’s hard. I think the thing you have to do as a young actor who’s trying to do both is number one, know that there’s going to be long hours and to just give over to that. And if you need to have a day job, finding one that is going to be flexible with your performance schedule and being very upfront about what is your priority, and that you are going to need time off. Nothing’s worse than sort of springing that on somebody. It doesn’t make you look good and it just is going to hurt you in the long run. I think another thing you need to do as a young actor is really pay attention to the work that you’re getting and really try to make sure that you set some goals and are always taking steps forward. I know for myself I reached a point where I had a family, I was doing a job and I continued to start getting these roles that just really were very challenging and asked a lot of me. I realized that that was the work I needed to do. And paying attention to myself and talking to people that I knew cared about me and loved me and asking them for advice.

That’s what led me to finally walking away from waiting tables and saying, “You know what, I’m going to dedicate myself full-time to this and see what happens.” I think it’s a very scary prospect, but for me this year has been the most rewarding year of my career because I took the leap, and I think you need to know when you’re ready for that and if you’re not, that’s absolutely fine but know there’s a difference between taking steps forward and treading water. And if you’re somebody who wants to make a living at it, and not everybody does, Chicago’s a really unique place. I love that people can settle into having a day job and doing theater and they’re perfectly happy with that, and then there’s other actors who are pursuing this as a full-time career, and if that is really your goal, making sure that you’re always taking steps to fulfill that and really listening to yourself and listening to those around you who love and care for you, because those are the people that are going to be there for you and help you through the difficult times.

The Hypocrites’ Coriolanus runs through April 21 at Chopin Theatre (1543 W Division St, 773-989-7352).

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“Drive” -Rehearsal Photos

Rehearsals are underway for Theatre Fairfield’s latest production of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive. Sponsored by The Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation, Drive, is the TF’s student driven Independent Project this season.  Check out these photos of the rehearsal as this dedicated group of students prepares for opening night! How I Learned to Drive opens January 25th @ 8pm at the PepsiCo Theatre and runs through the 27th!! Tickets go on sale soon!!

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In the Works: How I Learned to Drive


Though it’s still winter break, things are already getting back into swing at the PepsiCo.  Yesterday, a group of eight students returned to campus two weeks early to put on this year’s Independent Project.  Every January, Theatre Fairfield gives students the opportunity to stage a show completely by themselves, and this year they have chosen to put on How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel.

The show was chosen by senior theatre major Michael Maio who also is directing.  Students are in charge of every aspect of producing the show, and How I Learned to Drive features costume design by Michael Maio (’13), set and lighting design by Joe Plouffe (’13), props management by Ryan Champlin (’16), and stage management by Kelan McDonnell (’15) and Mary Corigliano (’14). The cast also includes TF students and features Maggie Greene (’15) in the leading role of Li’l Bit and Joe Plouffe as Uncle Peck.  Katie Premus (’15) plays the Teenage Greek Chorus, Brendan Freeman (’15) plays the Male Greek Chorus, and special guest actress Elise Bochinski takes the role of Female Greek Chorus.

The Independent Project is a valuable opportunity for theatre students to learn the ins and outs of putting on a play under “real world” circumstances.  The company will labour tirelessly over the next three weeks to put together a show that is completely their own.

How I Learned to Drive runs January 25th and 26th at 8:00 PM and January 26th and 27th at 2:00 PM.   Tickets are $5.00 for students, $7.00 for general admission and can be purchased at the Quick Center Box office or by calling 1-877-278-7396.  The Independent Project is funded through the generous support of the Jamie A. Hulley Foundation.

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TF Showcase: This Friday!

This Friday, Theatre Fairfield is proud to present TF Showcase.  This FREE event showcases the hard work done by the members of the Performance Workshop Class which focused on clowning, improv, stage combat and more!  Audience members will get to see a little bit of all the techniques practiced this semester from games and fight sequences to laughter and comedic mayhem.  If you like Hamlet, The Exorcist, Chicago, and The Nutcracker, you’ll enjoy Showcase.  This is one roller coaster of emotions that you don’t want to miss!

TF Showcase plays this Friday, December 14th and THIS FRIDAY ONLY at the PepsiCo Theatre at 8:00 PMAdmission is FREE!  So bring your friends and be ready to laugh, cry, and have an enjoyable evening!

Showcase’s cast consists of the following students:

  • LeighAnn Albanese ’14
  • Alec Bandzes ’15
  • Christina Barry ’15
  • Ryan Champlin ’16
  • Owen Corey ’14
  • Brendan Freeman ’15
  • Shannon Galgay ’14
  • Maggie Greene ’15
  • Grace Janizsewski ’14
  • Rachel Lang ’14
  • Michael Maio ’13
  • Kelan McDonnell ’15
  • Luke Paulino ’13
  • Joe Plouffe ’13
  • Katie Premus ’15
  • Ashley Ruggiero ’14
  • Emily S. ’14
  • Cristelle Sens-Castet ’15
  • Lauren Sippin ’13
  • Nick Solimini ’16

-Thanks Grace for the photos!

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Director’s Cut Opens TONIGHT!

Director’s Cut, the second major production of the Theatre Fairfield season, opens tonight at the PepsiCo Theatre on the Fairfield University campus.  After months of class work and weeks of rehearsal, Director’s Cut is ready to open, and you are all invited to come see it!

The show runs tonight and Saturday the 8th at 8:00 PM and Sunday the 9th at 2:00 PM.  One ticket gives you the chance to see not one, but nine stunningly directed ten-minute plays.  Tickets are $5.00 for students, $6.00 for faculty, and $12.00 for general admission.  They can be purchased at the door, or through the Quick Center box office.

Nine student directors and their casts have worked tirelessly over the past four weeks to put together an enjoyable evening filled with plays that will make you cry, laugh, and think.  This is a piece of theatre you don’t want to miss!  Take a look at these pictures from last night’s dress rehearsal (Thanks to Grace Janiszewski for taking these magnificent shots!):

"The Turnover"


"The Competent Heart"


"Undress Me, Clarence"

"Rush to Judgment"


"The Blocking Maneuver"

"Layla Misérables"

Hope to see you all there this weekend!

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Director’s Cut in Rehearsal! (Part II)

With opening night only days away, directors continue to fight for space in the PepsiCo to cram in some final rehearsals.  Thursday will be the culmination of a semester’s worth of class work and weeks of rehearsal for the nine directors.  The joint rehearsal last Tuesday gave a glimpse of what the finished products will they like, and each show will only get better by Thursday’s curtain!

Here are some shots taken during rehearsals this past week.

“Covers” –Directed by Michael Maio

Tonya: Shannon Galgay

Paulette: Maggie Greene

Shannon Galgay and Maggie Greene in rehearsal for "Covers"

“Contact” –Directed by Josh Matteo

He: Austin Begin

The Voice: Kelly Pierce

Austin Begin rehearses for Josh Matteo's play, "Contact"

“The Competent Heart” –Directed by Adam Powers

Chris: Austin Begin

Terry: Kelan McDonnell

Kelan McDonnell and Austin Begin rehearse "The Competent Heart"

Be sure to see Director’s Cut Thursday December 6th and Saturday December 8th at 8:00 PM and Sunday December 9th at 2:00 PM.

–Thanks to Grace Janiszewski for some great pics!

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