When Colainni ’03 Creates, Everyone Else Watches and Learns

Most people believe that coming to PA as a new Upper is a huge disadvantage to any student that attempts it; the notion is that, because Upper year is rumored to be the most difficult here at Andover, a new 11th grader unused to the pace of life at Andover will have to spend all of his time on school work and thus will not be able to get involved in and to experience the Academy to its fullest. Well, if there’s one name that defies and completely falsifies this belief, it is Alessandra Colaianni ’03. Now a known name in both the Theater and Music Departments, Colaianni began her involvement in these arts modestly and quickly climbed her way up the latter of talent here at Phillips. While living in Puerto Rico, where her family moved the summer after Alex finished eighth grade, a family friend was the first to suggest that Colaianni apply to PA. When accepted at Andover, Colaianni was happy, but her emotions were mixed. “I never expected to see myself in a prep school,” she later confessed. Upon her arrival on campus in the fall of 2001, Colaianni immediately jumped right into the Theater Department. “I auditioned for everything I could; I just wanted to dive right in,” she recalls. Colaianni was accepted into an improve troupe called “Under the Bed.” Now the leader of the troupe, Alex recalls her first experience with Andover drama as a “most rewarding” one. Colaianni’s first theater classroom, “The Universal Language,” by David Ives, served Colaianni with a modest beginning. During Upper Winter, Colaianni played in The Real Inspector Hound, a Drama Lab, “Anything For You,” another theater classroom, and Arsenic and Old Lace, a Theater 520 production. By the end of the year, Colaianni won the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, the spring 520, directed by Instructor in Theater Kevin Heelan. Yet, when asked about this accomplishment, Colaianni modestly applauded everyone involved in the show, without mentioning her own achievements; “Mr. Heelan is a genius and we had such a great cast; everyone was so supportive.” Later, Colaianni realized that her body had been battling with mononucleosis. Whether it was her six-course load with piano lessons and four hours of rehearsal or not, Colaianni remembers that she was amazed to find out about her ailment. “I didn’t even know I had mono,” she remembers “but I decided to take a break after all that; I had kind of maxed out.” During this “break,” Colaianni experimented with other venues of the performing arts. She wrote plays, one, called Was it Something I Said? was performed as a theater classroom during winter term this year, and focused on her music. Though she had been playing the piano since the age of four and had continued her study of this instrument upon her arrival at PA, Colaianni began performing seriously during her break from theater. She expanded upon her performing spectrum by taking other performing roles that focused more upon sketch comedy than scripted shows. These roles included being master of ceremonies for Grasshopper Night, Rabbot Cabaret, and the Oxfam auction this year. “I learned that sketch comedy is something that I’m really interested in,” she said. Colaianni also founded a community service initiative during this time that works with small children, teaching them theater basics. “It’s a really cool program,” she commented, “the kids learn all about self confidence and all that without even realizing it; it’s just a lot of fun.” Now, during her Senior spring, Colaianni has decided to delve back into her theater career at PA before moving on to college. “That’s the great thing about this program,” she commented, “you can take a break and start right back again anytime you want.” And start again she has. Colaianni auditioned for the spring Theater 520 class, an intense theater course that is putting together the show Rhinoceros, by French playwright Eugene Ionesco, which they will take to the American High School Theater Festival in Scotland during August. She shares the role of Daisy with Ali Schouten ’04. “I’m really excited about Rhinoceros,” Colaianni said, “the director, [Instructor in Theater and Dance] Judith Wombwell, has a great conception of the show and our cast is really wonderful.” Colaianni also demonstrated her skills as a pianist last Saturday in her Senior recital. Colaianni opened the performance with a piece she said everyone would recognize. She then sat down on the piano bench backwards and played “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Until this point, few members of the audience realized that the name she dubbed the song– “Bmal elttil a dah Yram”–was “Mary Had a Little Lamb” reversed. This humorous introduction lightened up the audience and set the tone for a more casual Senior recital. Colaianni followed up this introduction with four pieces by Chopin—Prelude in E minor, and three Nocturnes, in B flat minor, F sharp major, and E minor. The last, which Colaianni said was her favorite piece of piano music, was played flawlessly, engulfing the large audience in beautiful sound. After the intermission, Colaianni introduced her next piece by saying that the guitar fascinates her because “you can play [it] behind your head.” Immediately following this introduction, she lay upside down on the piano bench and played Mozart’s “Theme from Sonata in C” behind her head. An impressive way to start off the second half of her recital, Colaianni certainly regained the attention of the audience. Colaianni followed up with “First Arabesque” by Debussy and two movements from “Sonatine” by Ravel. Again, both pieces were played beautifully, despite a little trouble with the piece by Debussy. A surprising thing about Colaianni’s recital was that she never used any sheet music, instead having committed her entire program to memory. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that she had a few slip-ups during the recital, and she deserves recognition for her decision to memorize it all. Colaianni’s final piece, Scherzo Humouristique (Cat and Mouse), by Copland, was by far and wide the highlight of the evening. The piece was written to be a cat and mouse chase on the piano. Staccato, legato, sharps, flats–everything was mixed together in this interesting piece, which the audience adored. Though it took a couple of tries, Colaianni proved that the third time was a charm when she successfully played the brilliant piece. Following the Scherzo, the audience was on their feet, applauding Colaianni’s work and beautiful performance. As Colaianni moves on to begin her career at Duke University, she promises to continue her involvement in the performing arts: “Theater may not be something that I want to do with my life, but it’s like music; they’ll both always be a part of me.” Colaianni has a various array of academic interests she wishes to pursue in college, but among them are strung bits of allusions to her past performing persona. “The hardest part of moving on and growing up is realizing that I have time to do everything that I want to do without having had to begin it at age eight,” she confesses. “I mean, I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know it’ll be fun.”