The thirteenth profile in the Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner ACTOR PROFILE series features actor, AARON CALAFATO. This series (in interview form) is in process to “get to know” some of our own northeastern Ohio talent. Profiles will feature equity and non-equity actors, stage and screen actors, as well as young, old and in-between actors. These are your peers and your neighbors – please enjoy!
Full Name: Aaron “Calafato” Collier – Calafato is my family name that was changed to Collier years ago. I think it was an attempt to assimilate to American culture to better serve our family opportunity. I use Calafato when I work as an actor, teaching artist or writer. It’s to honor my Italian-Sicilian heritage.
Years acting: 8
“Day Job”: I’ve had a bunch. Salesman, Construction, Waiter, Bartender, Freelance writer, Teaching Artist, and I also work for admissions at a university. The ultimate day job for me is to work as part of a theater or performing arts center. Many of the professionals that I admire have day jobs in their field. They perform, teach, and work within a theater, etc. It opens up a lot of opportunities.
Resident city: Broadview Heights, Ohio (for now)
Kate Miller: Aaron- you’re thinking about going back to school? For acting?
Aaron Calafato: I think I’m going to pursue my MFA now. I’d like to audition for the Case Western Reserve / Cleveland Playhouse MFA program.
KM: Why do you think getting your MFA is important? What attracts you to CWRU / Playhouse program?
AC: Well, I think for me, an MFA has sort of become the professional degree. A lot of my mentors and artists that I admire have their MFA. I trained at a professional studio, but an MFA gives you the opportunity to do a number of things like continue to perform professionally, teach at the university level, and work at a theater or performing arts institution. In my opinion it opens up a lot of doors for you to work and live as an artist. While it’s highly competitive, I think the Case Western program is a gem of an opportunity. It allows you to pursue your degree basically free of cost – if you pass your audition and are selected. Not many programs are that “pro-artist”, allowing the artist to train without continuing to go into debt. Plus, I am originally from Cleveland and have always wanted to perform at the Cleveland Play House.
KM: Where have you trained previously?
AC: University: BGSU Theater Undergrad; Mentor: Joe Grifasi; Studio Training: Michael Howard Studios Conservatory (NYC) and HB Studios (NYC). I’ve also studied under Olympia Dukakis, Austin Pendleton, Arthur French, Ragnar Friedank, Deborah Kampmeier and Karl Bury.
KM: Do you sing?
AC: I try to sing, mostly in private. It sounds a lot better when you’re the only one listening.
KM: Do you dance? What’s your training?
AC: No formal dance, but I have had movement training with Fay Simpson under her Lucid Body program in New York. It has really benefited my work.
KM: How so?
AC: Lucid Body is a program designed by Fay Simpson. It combines Yoga, dance, movement training and scene work. It just allowed me to take risks with my body on stage. For me, as a man, there are certain things that we are sort of groomed to disguise with our body: feeling vulnerable, or expressing want, or pain, or love. I really had to train myself to utilize the body fully in performances – being private in public, so to speak. Lucid Body helped my deal with these challenges and made me a better actor.
KM: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AC: I didn’t start thinking about what I wanted to do until people starting asking me in Junior High and High School; “Well, what do you want to do?”. I was always driven and interested in learning and discovering things. I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity of life and the human condition. As a kid I took an interest in science, sociology, history, philosophy, and art at a young age. At that time, I never thought you could actually pursue a career as an actor or and artist. My passions as a young person seem to fit well with my career choice.
KM: Why did you start acting?
AC: I actually started because I was going to major in Music Performance at Bowling Green State University and decided that it wasn’t right for me. I was a freshman at school with no major, and I had to pick something. I thought, “Theater studies shouldn’t be too hard”. I obviously had no idea the sort of work and dedication goes into the discipline. Luckily, acting became my passion.
KM: Are there any other actors in your family?
AC: My family has a great artistic sense. I don’t have any “actors” in my immediate family. My cousin Joe Grifasi is a wonderful veteran actor who has been performing in film, TV, and theater for the last 40 years. He helped me get started with training, as well as booking a few jobs when I moved from Ohio to New York City. He still serves as my mentor and is an example of a true artist.
KM: What’s your favorite role you’ve ever played?
AC: Whatever role I’m playing at the time. I discover new things with new characters and try and put all my effort into tending to what is in front of me.
KM: What is your dream role?
AC: I’d want to play Richard Roma from David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. I have done scene work from the play, but I will have to wait until I’m a bit older to audition for the role.
KM: Have you done TV or movies?
AC: Yes, I’ve done television and film. When I first was interested in performing, I only wanted to be a screen actor. I really had no desire to do theater. But in the last three or four years, I was bitten by the theater bug. I think it’s important to be familiar with all mediums. It adds to your overall experience and effectiveness as an artist. Recently, I have been more focused on doing theater, specifically Solo Performance that addresses social issues. Film is powerful, too, because the camera is an invasive tool. It magnifies the state of being of a performer. As an actor you train yourself to be vulnerable in the presence of the “eye” of the audience. Great actors don’t show or push feelings to the camera; they just allow the camera to experience what they are feeling and thinking. For me, acting is acting. You just have to modify certain aspects of your performance that benefit the medium.
KM: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?
AC: There are so many talented performers that it’s hard to say. I grew up idolizing Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, and James Dean. I really enjoy Solo artists as well, like Eric Bogosian, Danny Hoch and Anna Deavere Smith.
KM: How do you prep for an audition?
AC: Breathe and stretch. I don’t like getting over-prepared for an audition. I sort of like being lost and afraid when I audition for a part. Sometimes it can go wrong, but I like the unexpected. The moment-to-moment is always unexpected.
KM: How do you reward yourself for getting a role you wanted?
AC: I like to share the good news with friends and family. It feels good to let the people you love know you are doing something you love. After that, I get to work. The real reward is to work and prepare. Hopefully by the end of the day you can create a truthful and vulnerable performance.
KM: What do you do to get through a rough tech week?
AC: Reading and meditation. I also use it as a chance to explore more possibilities for the performance.
KM: Any particular venues where you like to work primarily?
AC: I moved back to the Cleveland area a little over a year ago and have worked at the Cleveland Public Theater, Karamu and Weathervane Playhouse.
KM: Why do you love acting?
AC: Any actor will tell you that it is something you have to do. No matter where I am, performing and the investigation of the craft have consumed my life. It’s weird because there is no guaranteed financial reward or “success”. Yet if you love it, you just keep working. You have to be surrounded by it.
KM: What’s the hardest part about acting?
AC: For me, it has to be the lack of security. You have to make a lot of sacrifices to keep working, auditioning and training.
AC: Reading watching movies. I am also a big sports fan – Browns, Indians and Cavs. I love spending time with my wife and my family. Also love playing video games when I have extra time.
KM: Do you have any pets?
AC: Yes, I have 1 dog. His name is Brownie and he is a Yorkie. He has become a great friend of mine.
KM: Are you currently working on anything?
AC: Right now I am rehearsing Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey into Night. I’m playing Jamie Tyrone. It’s a play that is rarely done and I wanted an opportunity to play that part. It is being performed at Weathervane Theater, and is being directed by Jerrold Scott (Artistic director of the Eldred Theater at Case Western.) Executive Director John Hedges and staff are really making some awesome strides and doing great things at the theater. It will be my first time performing in Akron.
KM: Finally, why do YOU think Cleveland rocks?
AC: Well, I was born and raised in this area and a lot of my family is from here. I think Cleveland and Northeast Ohio has shaped who I am today for the better. I value the city, culture, and people very much. I think it is a very misunderstood city that for some reason always has to prove itself on the national stage. I moved back, got married to my wife, and we had our wedding in Ohio. I have chosen to stay here and contribute as an actor and an artist. I think it’s important for artists who value the area to work here and contribute. There is so much more we can do for the arts community, there is a great potential and need for artistic expression here, and I want to be a part of that movement. An artist friend of mine from New York described Cleveland after visiting and was pleasantly surprised. “Cleveland is where New York City and the Mid-West met, fell in love, and had a child.” I thought that was pretty clever. There is a big city feel with a Midwestern sensibility. I think that’s a great mix. For me, no matter where I’ve lived, Cleveland is always number one in my heart.
You can find Aaron on Facebook at – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Aaron-Calafato/163472294920.
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