Blake Cianciarulo never dreamed of working in theater when he was little. His dream began in high school when the drama teacher approached the track team for some help moving a set into the theater for a musical they were rehearsing. But Cianciarulo, now 20 years old, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts this coming spring and has already worked five different positions in the Bay Area theater scene.
Although Cianciarulo was later accepted into leading universities, he knew his future was at SF State.
“I got into Brown and Berkeley, but those schools just weren’t for me,” he said. “SF State has an established theater program that allows their students to mix their education with real world theaters in the area.”
Since working on five different shows over the past year, Cianciarulo knows what it’s like to work in the Bay Area theater scene. He’s filled the role of a lighting designer, assistant director, technical director, stage manager and currently is assistant stage manager on The New Electric Ballroom, a production showing at the Berkeley theater, Shotgun Players.
Cianciarulo said his job consists of many responsibilities, but most importantly to make sure each performance goes off without a hitch.
“I’m back there all day,” he said. “I make sure the props are set, the stage is ready and in rehearsals I have to help feed lines. (I) give the actors places and generally help keep the show running smoothly.”
A preview of New Electric Ballroom was shown Wednesday, Sept. 3., to an audience awaiting theheart-wrenching tale of the misfortunes of love. The actors laughed and cried against a backdrop of an old cabin as a tale of romance unfolded. When the final scene ended, Cianciarulo walked to the front side of the stage and greeted his family and friends who came to support him.
“Theater is poetry, (and) poetry is music,” said audience member Charles Belenky, as he stood up and walked away, patting Cianciarulo on the back.
“He’s so young and driven,” said Jennifer Bullock, Cianciarulo’s aunt. “We’re so proud of him and where he will take his career from here. Blake has done so much in a short time.”
Cianciarulo said he plans to leave the Bay Area for New York where he spent previous summers taking Broadway master lighting classes. He wants to spend his time on the East Coast discovering the different theatrics New York has to offer.
“I want to help discover new theater, something that hasn’t been done before,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how great the undergraduate theater environment is. You can mess up and it’s not the end of the world. Out here, in this world, theater is your livelihood, and there is a lot more at stake here.”
He added that his time at the University was well-spent, but that he also is aware of the reality he faces when he graduates and feels really prepared for his future.
“Yes, SF State has challenged me beyond belief, but there I can mess up and not be fired,” he said. “Here, it’s a different story. So if I could give a word of advice, be bold, mess up and find your breaking point, because it doesn’t get any easier. And here’s to 12-hour days.”
The New Electric Ballroom is directed by Barbara Damashek and runs from Sept. 3 to Oct. 5 at Shotgun Players, located at 1901 Ashby Ave., in Berkeley.