BWW Interviews: Behind the Curtain - Eagle Theatre's Artistic Directors Ed Corsi and Ted Wioncek III

The Eagle Theatre's beginnings were humble, with just a simple announcement printed in the local newspaper in June of 1914, stating that "Mr. Litke will put up a concrete building on his lot on Vine Street, for his moving picture winter theatre." From that, the Eagle Theatre was born, turned into a church then a storage building until it was nearly demolished in 2006. After some TLC and a devoted base of volunteers who were intent on seeing the theatre restored.

I caught up with both Ted & Ed, (who look nothing alike! ), yet share a friendship and passion for theater that is contagious and continues to create some mighty fun edgy productions that truly bring out the crowds.

Q: Did the two of know each other prior to working at The Eagle Theatre?

Ed: We knew of each other but had no personal connection. We were both running "for-profit" theatre companies at the time. Ted reached out regarding a potential "co-production" and the rest is history.

Q: You both seem to have checked your egos at the door. How do you decide what shows to mount and who will direct what?

Ed: Selecting a season is my favorite part of the job! It is tedious and adventurous. We discuss, eliminate and discuss again. We ask ourselves; why this piece, why now, why at the Eagle? Then it is back to the drawing board. As for directing, we tend to know which piece is right for whom.

Ted: Sweatbox sessions are routine as we chart out the season. While Ed and I have rather eclectic tastes, there seems to be a distinct through-line. Ed's work is typically rooted in raw, contemporary society. I tend to favor predetermined period and/or a heightened reality. If the season is properly balanced, it is quite clear.

The Eagle Theatre in Hammonton was nominated for 14 Perry Awards this year and won 6 Broadway World Awards. It recently joined the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and, through a partnership with the Actors' Equity Association; it is the first year-round Professional Equity Theatre in South Jersey.

Q. What doors have opened for you since the Eagle has achieved its Equity status?

Ed: Honestly, so many doors. It has afforded us the opportunity to work with actors such as Krissy Fraelich, Jeff Coon, etc. We have performers, both Equity and Non-Equity, traveling across the country to work with the Eagle. We recently auditioned over 900 actors for our 2014 season.

Ted: I have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand the structure AEA provides a professional, non-profit organization. Such structure is paramount in creating a warm and nurturing environment for artists, designers, patrons. Equity has opened both doors and eyes to an artistic community of infinite possibility.

Q: What have been your most challenging and proudest productions?

Ted: Each production brings forth a new challenge. Challenge is what attacks me. Overall, striking balance between presentational and representational proves taxing. You must demand unmitigated honesty with yourself as a director.

HAIR and Lombardi stand out due to their critical acclaim and assistance in putting us on the map. Our current production of Glengarry Glen Ross stars Tom McCarthy and is exceedingly evocative. I am proud of every production we produce. I consider myself privileged.


Ed: As for a particular production, for me, the most challenging was Next to Normal. I am extremely proud of the final product. It was an incredibly powerful production that taught us an invaluable lesson about who we are as a theatre. Urinetown - The Musical will also always hold a very special place in my heart.

Q: You are both former Equity Actors and current members of The Society of Stage Directors & Choreographers. What drives you to direct rather than pursue a career in acting?

Ted: As an actor I was completely process driven. As a Director, process is all there is. Directing's a transient nature is alluring to a child born unto, and a member of the ADD nation. Perhaps at the root of it, manufacturing a moment, while messianic, is exposing others to the world as we wish to see it. It is shared, unadulterated theatrical idealism.

Ed: I lived in New York for a while, had a successful career as a professional actor but ultimately knew I wanted to raise a family and create a professional environment here. Seeing how things have turned out, I wouldn't have had it any other way. I draw on my experience as an actor each and every time I direct. Performing will always be my first love. I am sure in time I will revisit downstage center.

Q: What is your goal for the Eagle and what surprises do you have in store for the future that you'd like to share?

Ted: Unremitting evolution with long-term strategic planning as its backbone. This fall we will launch a New Works Development Series, featuring plays written by local playwrights. We recently committed to "workshop" our upcoming production of Into The Woods.

Ed: The beautiful thing about the Eagle is that we refuse to cool down. We postmortem every move we make. We added the Eagle Theatre Wine Lounge, joined the ranks of Actors' Equity, all while acquiring sufficient funds to purchase a Workshop, where our scenic artists build, store costumes, and hold executive offices. We are in the midst of revamping our educational outreach programming.
There are many exciting things on the horizon.

Q: What advice can you share for upcoming artistic directors?

Ed: Stay true to yourself, your craft. Do not sacrifice the art and be fair to your actors, staff and production. Be ready to work 24 hours a day to make it happen.

Ted: Hone style and perfect good taste. Read everything, see everything, and absorb everything. Adopt a profound willingness to respect the four narratives; theatre, production, town, patron.

For more information about the Eagle Theatre please visit www.theeagletheater.com

Photo Credits: www.theeagletheatre.com

Photo: Ted Wioncek III and Ed Corsi -Photo by Jodi Streahle, Hammonton News



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