Hosting the Troupe
Peter Pizzalongo admits that he always wanted to be an actor/singer/dancer, preferably on Broadway. He did some acting in high school and with his Catholic Youth Organization.
“I wanted to be Barnaby in Hello Dolly, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Marius or Jean Valjean in Les Mis,” he mused. “Now I’d be Mr. Vandergelder, Mr. Munchkin, Mr. Thenardier,” some of the more “mature” characters in those shows. His husband, Carlos Prugue, also acted in college.
They moved from DC to Rehoboth in 2018 with their passion for the theater intact. Pizzalongo and Prugue are among the Clear Space Theater Company’s cadre of host families who volunteer to house actors performing in shows. The experience seems to offer a whole new perspective to the theater.
“Having a 20-something in the house is energizing,” Pizzalongo said. “Because our actors have the whole second floor—living room, bedroom, and bathroom—we become a gathering place during the July-August season.”
Their current actor is Thomas Higgins who plays the lead in The Spongebob Musical. “From the second I arrived they have been nothing but kind, generous, and truly have welcomed me with open arms,” he said. He grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but currently attends Rider University in New Jersey.
Sam and Diane Markman started hosting summer actors five years ago and have accommodated eight so far, including their current two—Leilani Carr and Tiffany Beckford. The Markmans gave hosting “a try” because their house had ample room, and they felt it was great way to stay in touch with a younger generation. A side benefit is meeting and networking with other hosts.
Actors appear in all three rotating shows during the summer and juggle demanding schedules. They often do not frequently cross paths with their hosts.
“Doing shows six days a week is hard work but, especially with the casts we have, it’s also fun,” said Beckford who has a starring role in Kinky Boots. “Also, switching between shows each week is an interesting experience because you must reorient yourself in a way to gear up for each character. You also surprise yourself with how many things become muscle memory.”
John Pitchford and husband Lenny Stumpf are hosting Val Kilmer look-alike Scott Taylor-Cole this summer and they follow the careers of former actors-in-residence. “Many have gone on to roles in national tours and Broadway shows,” said Pitchford. Their first actor, Zach Bravo, performed as Rum Tum Tugger in the national tour of Cats and he is currently performing six swing roles in a national tour of Hamilton.
“Actors have their own personalities, eating habits, and cooking skills, but we typically end up living together as a family, with them welcome to share our food and eat with us when their schedule permits,” said Pitchford. “We want them to be comfortable.”
2023 Season Sponsors Alice and Alfred Willis have hosted for six years. They saw it as an opportunity to attract quality performers from outside the region. They have hosted eight actors, mostly during the summer, but also have hosted for the spring and fall productions. Dan Feldman is their current actor.
This was Matt Lukasiak’s first summer hosting. He believes in supporting live theater at the beach and has made several friendships because of his volunteer efforts. “Inviting a stranger into your home is an interesting experience,” says Matt. “My actor, Dean Marino, has stayed all over the place and in many different situations, so he is much more accustomed to sharing the space.” Marino also has a lead role in Kinky Boots.
Manino says he chose to be an actor because “I have a passion for bringing people joy and entertainment.” He graduated in 2022 from NYU with a master’s degree in Theatre Education. “This has been a wonderful summer and I’m so happy to be in a town where everyone is excited to make others smile, whether they are buying ice cream or purchasing a book at Browseabout,” he said.
Forming new relationships with actors and their families, meeting and networking with other host families, and a strong sense of support for the theater are common denominators for hosts.
“The excitement of being in a theater with hundreds of people who share the same love, to see a production written and performed by the best of the best, to be taken away by a good story told in an excellent way—it’s exhilarating,” says Pizzalongo. ▼
Mary Jo Tarallo is a former journalist and public relations professional for various non-profits including a ski industry trade association. She won a Gold Award for a United Way TV program starring Oprah Winfrey.
Photo L-R: Carlos Prugue, Thomas Higgins, Peter Pizzolongo. Photo by Mary Jo Tarallo.