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From a Vision to Reality: Crownsville Resident Builds Successful Theatre Company

Jun 01, 2017 04:00PM ● By Nicole Gould

Photo by ClintonBPhotography

When Vincent Lancisi was getting his Master’s degree in stage direction, he had a vision. His vision was to create an artistic home in the form of a theater company. With a life filled with passion for the performing arts, in 1990, Lancisi brought that vision to life in the form of the Everyman Theatre Company, located in Baltimore.

Hailing from Crownsville, Lancisi knew exactly what he wanted to do, but the road ahead came with its own twists and turns. In the end, Lancisi admits it was all worth it, directing over 35 productions to date. In addition to his work with the Everyman Theatre, Lancisi has dedicated his time to teach acting and directing at Towson University, the University of Maryland, Catholic University, and Howard Community College.

“I’m directing the current show, Noises Off. It’s such a hilarious show. It’s the funniest play written in the English language. Audiences are literally falling into the aisles laughing. It’s like the old Lucile Ball sketches. My greatest joy is directing this resident of actors. For me in my career, it doesn’t get any better than this, because I’m a director and Artistic Director, so I get to do both.,”Vincent Lancisi

At the start, Everyman Theatre was without a solid foundation, performing at different locations throughout Baltimore. After bouncing around the city, the company established its first location in 1994 on 1727 North Charles Street, where it would call home for 18 years.

After a generous donation, the theatre moved to its permanent home on Fayette Street, where you can catch the current record-breaking performance of Noises Off., a production that will leave you rolling in the aisles laughing as everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.

Pre-sale tickets for Noises Off outsold the theater’s 2013 grand opening production of August: Osage County and is on track to becoming one of the biggest selling shows of all time in 26 seasons.

Don’t miss out on what Lancisi admits is the perfect comedy to kick off your summer. Performances are now through Sunday, June 18th. Tickets range from $43–64 and can be purchased here.

Grab your tickets for the Taste of Everyman: Noises Off exclusive pre-show social tonight at 6 p.m. Kick back while you mix and mingle with other theater lovers in the upstairs lounge, featuring a unique cocktail concoction combining the most unexpected ingredients, and paired with hors d’oeuvres by The French Kitchen. Tickets are $60 for the show and the event. The show will follow at 7:30 p.m.

How were you first introduced to theater and what made you continue throughout the years? What ultimately inspired you to take on the task of creating your own theater company? As a local resident of Crownsville, is there any particular reason you chose Baltimore for your theater?

I was first introduced as a young child around six or seven. My dad used to take me to Broadway shows and as a young kid, my imagination was always sort of thoroughly engaged by the possibilities of what could happen on stage. It was really from my youth. When I was in Washington, D.C., studying at Catholic University, I was getting my Masters in stage directing and I knew, in my second year, that I wanted to start a theater company and I wanted it to be a company that had a resident company of actors at the core.

I love actors and I realized from the get-go what a nearly impossible career that is to maintain and what I really wanted to do is create a theater that would celebrate the actor and have a company of artists that would play a more active role in the plays. I look at that for selections, directors, designers, and actors to work with that work in the region. It provides a sort of artistic home for them that really makes a difference and creates stability in their lives so they can live in their community.

I was looking at three different areas and I discovered Baltimore. I got up there and fell madly in love with it. It had a real nitch for a small professional theatre. So, we set up and the rest is history.

How has the Everyman Theatre grown and developed since you first founded it in 1990 to today?

In 1990, we were homeless, performing in different theaters throughout the city. In 1994, we had our first storefront. It was in a quiet section of the city, a little run down, and very inexpensive. It was like those small storefront Chicago theaters.

We worked really hard and made magic in a former bowling alley, and people came. Our first season had only 350 subscribers. Now, we have about 5,200. These are people who commit to seeing the plays all season and have grown to love us. They are a part of the Everyman family. We really value the different neighborhoods and the people who live here and come and join us for the whole season.

What roles/tasks do you have as the Founding Artistic Director?

As my role has increased with size of the theater, I find myself traveling a lot and scouting new plays and creating new relationships. We’re at a point at our organization where were trying to capture playwrights and new voices to nurture the future of the art form.

Four of the six plays next season were written by women. The three young women are relatively recent to the art form and they’re taking the theater world by storm and we’re sort of the first to produce them.

My job is basically the overall wellbeing of the art that we produce. I select the plays, hire the directors, and designers. I’m responsible for casting actors in each play. I make sure that the plays are well-represented in the way we tell the stories and how we interpret them. Also, as the founder, I have responsibilities on the fundraising side and business development side, so I’m kind of a jack of all trades.

As an artist, I identify myself as a stage director. I’m directing the current show, Noises Off. It’s such a hilarious show. It’s the funniest play written in the English language. Audiences are literally falling into the aisles laughing. It’s like the old Lucille Ball sketches. My greatest joy is directing this resident of actors. For me in my career, it doesn’t get any better than this, because I’m a director and Artistic Director, so I get to do both.

How does it feel to have the production of Noises Off. become a record-breaking box office hit? Can you tell me a little bit more about it and why people should come see the show?

Are you kidding? We’re thrilled. I always knew it was a very successful comedy, but I had no idea how much of an appetite people have for this play and how passionate they are. It’s the biggest advance selling in Everyman before any marketing was even put out there. People were clamoring for tickets.

It has outsold our grand opening and become our biggest selling show of all time in 26 seasons. People I talk to on the streets tell me it’s their favorite play. I guess that explains why Broadway tends to revive it every five to 10 years. People just love it. Someone told me this morning that they couldn’t remember when it was done in this region. Must be why people are clamoring for tickets. It’s a beautiful thing.

Well, there’s a million reasons. If I had to say, I’d say it’s the perfect comedy to kick off your summer. You have to see this show because you’re going to laugh like you haven’t laughed in a long time.

Out of the many productions you’ve directed, which one has been your all-time favorite and why?

I would have to say Death of a Salesmen. In my mind, it’s a near perfectly-written play about an everyman in the world who played by the rules and did everything right, and finds himself at the end of his life with nothing to show. I’ve always loved plays about the underdog. I think it resonates more than it really should in today’s society. As society experiences the decay of the middle class and the American dream is chipped away, it’s heartbreaking to think that you can work hard all your life and do the right thing and not be greeted with your golden years and rewards.

It’s a really human story and we kind of specialize in that kind of human stories on our stage. Noises Off., I have a feeling by the end of the run, it might be my favorite play in terms of watching the audience. I love to watch the audience. When they’re enjoying themselves, there’s nothing more rewarding than to see that.

Out of all your years in the theater industry, what has been the most memorable moment?

The grand opening of my new theater Everyman. In 2013, we took an old theater, which was empty for 25 years and completely gutted it and lovingly restored it into a new live theater 100 years later, returning it to its original intent. It’s turned out to be a great expression of who Everyman is, a beautiful and intimate building where everyone feels welcome. It’s an exciting place to be. That was a real big moment for me. This is a very physical monument that is a direct reflection of the core values of the theater. I started it from scratch and it continues to be a really proud moment for me.

What can people expect when they come to the Everyman Theater and why should they come see one of your productions?

The first thing they can expect is to be greeted with a big smile and a welcome. They will be greeted by a beautiful lobby where everyone is comfortable, with a big bar called “Vinny’s Bar.” They can get a drink, bring it into the theater, and enjoy the show. There are only 253 seats, which are very comfortable. There isn’t a bad seat, no obstructed views, and no balcony, which makes the theater all one level.

The actors can literally whisper and still be heard on stage. It allows them to have a natural style of acting that creates a really fabulous conversation between the actors and the audience. In this age of technology and a noisy media world, and with lives that are so busy, people that come to Everyman love to come and put all that technology away and connect with other human beings about stories that are fascinating to them. They can expect to have a really rewarding and fun time at the theater.