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The Beacon

The news of today reported by the journalists of tomorrow

The Beacon

The news of today reported by the journalists of tomorrow

The Beacon

Theater seniors blossom in black box capstones

The “black box” lives up to its name.

For those who’ve never visited this spartan space, in the basement of the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts, the difference from the open opulence of the main stage can be jarring. The room is literally a black box, spare in features and small in size, its intimate minimalism making it a true theater of the imagination.

All the better for audiences to give their full attention to the performers before them. Even more than the two main stage productions the school puts on every semester, performances in the black box are all about the players. Players like Cierra Cellerari, who performed her senior capstone there last Friday.

“I started dancing when I was 3,” Cellerari said. “I’ve always had a passion for the stage. I could never picture myself doing anything else. It’s the one thing that’s always been important to me, it’s always been consistent.”

Like all Wilkes University seniors, Cellerari is required to complete a final project that acts as a summation of all that she’s learned  before she can graduate. For theater arts majors like her, that final project, the senior capstone, involves putting together a roughly hour-long production for performance in the black box. From early conceptualization to final execution, every element of the production is the ultimate responsibility of the individual at the helm.

Each capstone, then, is in some way a personal expression, a reflection of each senior’s unique tastes, interests and points of view.

“We look at it as a chance for the students to explore, with the skills they’ve learned in the program, their individual aesthetic,” Teresa Fallon, Wilkes’ director of theater, said. “It’s an independent project. They choose their material and they rehearse and they have to schedule their rehearsals, so they learn an awful lot about how production gets put together when they’re the ones that have to accommodate others and get all the information out there to people.”

That kind of preparation is crucial for Luke Brady, who decided to forgo a potential career in neurosurgery to focus on his love for theater. Already ambitious about his post-Wilkes future, Brady has been auditioning for graduate schools and Shakespearean touring companies, nearly single-minded in his determination to earn his living as professional actor.

“I have some options and if none of those pan out, I’m thinking about moving out to the L.A. or NY area and looking into the indie film scene,” he said.

Brady is preparing to cast his senior capstone, auditions for which are open to anyone, theater major or not, and will take place at 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 5, in the black box. The title of Brady’s capstone is “Villains and Vexed Minds.”

“It’s off the trodden path. It’s a collection of monologues from Shakespeare villains and psychopaths that Shakespeare has written. It’s the other side of Shakespeare, the side that doesn’t get a lot of light shined on it. It’s usually the lovers and main characters that get in the light. I’m focusing more on characters like Iago from ‘Othello’ and Mercutio from ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ The odd characters. The outcasts.”

Like any capstone, “Villains and Vexed Minds” reveals something about the senior behind it. In Brady’s case, he acknowledges the idea grew out of his affection for characters who dwell closer to the fringe and his preference for the depth and complexity they embody.

It was equally natural, then, that Cellerari’s capstone would be strongly rooted in musical theater, givern that her performing background prior to Wilkes included community theater and band as well as ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop dance. Titled “Dancing Through Life: A Night of Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz,” Cellerari’s capstone saw her and fellow students Jamie Alderiso, Cassidy Conroy and Amanda Thomas performing selections by the composer and lyricist of such songs as “Colors of the Wind” from the Disney film “Pocahontas” and “Extraordinary” from the Tony Award-winning musical play “Pippin.”

“I wanted to do something musical because my strongest suit is singing and dancing,” Cellerari said. “I just find more enjoyment in singing. Not that I don’t enjoy doing straight plays, but I really get that passion when singing and performing musical theater.”

As much was evident as she closed her capstone belting out a triumphant rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway hit “Wicked.” Standing mere feet away from the audience,  the expressive body language performers such as Cellerari to use to project emotion and convey meaning all the way to cheap seats was rendered all the more clear by her closeness. Her voice rang out in the confines of the austere space, impressive in its range and clarity.

Four years of education had come to this. In the black box, unencumbered by trappings and context, the talent of one Wilkes’ theater arts senior was in full blossom.


Theater Arts Senior Capstones Calendar

Nicole Weaver presents her senior theater arts capstone, “Plaza Suite: The Visitor from Forest Hills.” It is the third act of the comedy play “Plaza Suite” by Neil Simon, revolving around the lives of different characters passing through New York City’s Plaza Hotel.

Performances of Weaver’s capstone will be in the black box theater in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts. at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 1.


Jimmy Basquil presents his senior theater arts capstone, “The Flu Season” by Will Eno. It is a darkly comic story of love and loss set in a psychiatric hospital.

Performances of Basquill’s capstone will be in the black box theater in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Peforming Arts at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, March 15.


Luke Brady presents his senior theater arts capstone, “Villains and Vexed Minds.” It is a collection of monologues by Shakespeare’s most villainous and psychotic characters.

Performances of Brady’s capstone will be in the black box theater in the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, April 26.


About the Contributor
Bill Thomas, AE Editor
Arts & Entertainment Editor Fall 2012 Office Hours: M-W-F 8am – 11am, 12pm – 2pm Bill Thomas is a senior Communications major at Wilkes University, with a concentration in Journalism. In addition to serving as The Beacon’s Arts & Entertainment Editor, he is also a former member of both the board and staff of Zebra Communications, and is still a regularly contributor to local alternative weekly the Weekender. Bill currently runs an intermittently updated blog about the Pennsylvania underground music scene called 570 Mine Fire. In 2011, he was voted “Best Blogger” by Diamond City for his now-defunct movie review blog, Total Popcorn (a.k.a. Cinema Cyclops). A self-professed pop culture geek and lover of all things A&E-related, Bill is both a die-hard film buff and a passionate supporter of the local music scene. He is currently working on putting together a radio show for Wilkes University’s radio station, 90.7 WCLH, that will focus on independent, underground musical acts throughout Pennsylvania. All in all, he finds it a little weird writing about himself in the third person.