One of the best known figures around town- today we’re talking to Ed Reggi!
Ed Reggi is a lifelong storyteller–who has the stories to prove it. Growing up in the Big Apple, Ed honed his acting by sneaking into the NBC studios located across from his Brooklyn home. He also studied at Edward R. Murrow, High School for Television and Media Communications. As a teen, he trained at Marymount Manhattan College where he was introduced to Keith Johnstone’s Theatresports.
Ed earned his BFA from Fontbonne University and moved to Chicago to continue his study at the historic The Second City. He was invited to study with Second City’s founder Paul Sills and did for nearly 10-years at Paul Sills Theater Games Training Center. Ed has traveled on behalf of Sills throughout Europe and Asia. Reggi also serves as an Artistic Associate for the Chicago Improv Festival, the largest Improv Festival in the World.
When Reggi returned to St. Louis, he served as COCA’s Director of Theatre and Voice until 2007. In that role, he created and founded the pre-professional COCA Theater Company (CTC) teen acting program. He’s a founding ensemble member of Insight Theatre in Webster Groves. You can see Ed play himself on Oprah’s nationally syndicated show, WELCOME TO SWEETIE PIE’S. He has managed to start some local cultural events including the 48-Hour Film Project, the St. Louis Improv, and the St. Louis Fringe Festivals. Reggi is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association Union and serves on the regional governance board.
In 2013, Reggi co-created an Emmy™ nominated PBS weekly news and public affairs program fueled by social media. Ed is currently a Teaching Artist with COCAbiz, where he facilitates Applied Improvisation workshops geared toward business leaders and their employees. He also teaches improv at Washington University, Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and COCA in University City. He is also an Artist in Residence for Springboard St Louis.
Viola Spolin (Ed’s biggest influence and mentor) said, “play touches and stimulates vitality, awakening the whole person: mind, body, intelligence and creativity.” And Ed maintains, “when we play together: we repair ourselves and we repair our world.”
Q: What was your first experience in theatre?
A: My very first experience in theatre was in the third grade, Mrs. Stern at P.S. 199 in Brooklyn, NYC. The play was about the seasons and fire safety. I played Smokey The Bear and at one point the classmate who played a tree, she lost her leaves. She forgot to put the felt vest on with all her leaves. No leaves meant no fire for me to put out. I improvised off script and got a reaction from the audience of parents. I knew at that precise moment–my purpose in life. (And yes, Mrs. Stern made a third-grade girl play a tree that could catch on fire! Top that Julie Taymor.)
Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
A: The best career advice I ever received was from a 40+ year veteran of the stage. She told me, “always to be kind to everyone in the production.” Everyone from the ushers to the box office staff. Even when tempers flare, the candle is burning at both ends, and even if the ship in sinking never to lose faith in those human relationships made when making art together. She was right! To this day I still get calls and work from all the kinships I have made in this thing called theatre.
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.
Several years ago I was in an Insight Theatre production of, “On the Verge; or, The Geography of Yearning,” by Eric Overmyer. I loved this production because I had the opportunity to work with three of the most talented women in this city: Amy Loui, Susie Wall, and Jenni Ryan. If you know the show, there’s only one male actor who plays like seven different male characters (well technically one is a male Yeti) throughout the play. I had this fast 60-second costume change where I go from a character who wears a 3-piece white seersucker suit and tie to a gender fluid Vietnamese fortune teller; complete with full-length dress, long red fingernails, 3-foot jet black wig, and turban. The costume change included three dressers walk with me upon my exit until I entered back on stage. We counted backward from 60 to 1 with no time to spare.
Before our matinee, several instruments located in the wings were adjusted to help light the very complicated projection and raked stage. One particular light fixture was lowered 2 inches more than the previous evening shows. Timing is everything and so is 2 inches! When I exited, I scraped my head on this light instrument. Not even realizing it, the dressers kept working on me and counting. By the time we got to 20, my wig was not fitting because of the blood gushing down my entire head. I became lightheaded, and a dresser told me to lay down. I kept counting on the floor. When I whispered the number 1, I heard my cue on stage. I never did get up. The next sound I heard was the ambulance sirens arriving and the voice of my mother-in-law LaVerne who happened to be in the matinee audience. She managed to get backstage when they called the show for a medical emergency. Even though I am Jewish, she was praying to several Saints for me. I am not sure what was worse, the five staples to my head or explaining why I was dressed up like a gender fluid Vietnamese fortune teller to the St. Mary’s emergency room. (To this day at Nerinx’s Heagney Theatre, on stage right, you can see the dark outline from my blood soaked wig!)
Q: What is your dream role?
A: My dream role is to play Mrs. Doubtfire in the Musical adaptation headed to Broadway in 2019.
Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?
A: Marcus Lemonis’ The Profit or Shark Tank.
Thank you Ed!
Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.
Visit gracemaustin.com to see her work.