Francisco Fiori says there is nothing like being on stage when everything is going right. The Community High senior says an audience’s positive reaction is confirmation of a job well done and the best reward for all the hard work.
“Any time that I can tell the audience watching is invested is such a great feeling,” he says. “I remember last spring, there was a moment where I had to announce that a character had passed away, and there were some performances where you could hear a collective audible gasp from the audience.
“That is such a good feeling because I knew that we had told the story effectively. This also goes for moments of laughter and applause, and every time it completely validates all the hard work that we’ve put into this show.”
“Our directors have such high expectations for us, which is exciting, but the pressure is definitely on,” said Fiori of rehearsals. “They’re not shying away from tough choreography and difficult acting choices, which makes the rehearsal time focused and hardworking. Every character in the show has some sort of journey that they’re on, which means that there’s a lot of work on our end to figure out our characters and our lives at the performing arts high school.
“The directors also totally create an environment where we’re free to try things out and take risks, which I not only appreciate, but feel is necessary to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”
Fiori says the cast is “very talented” but they better be for a show like Fame. They are supposed to be the most talented students in New York City after all.
“There are some incredible singers, actors and dancers on stage, and they bring their A-game to every rehearsal,” he says. “The script is also written in a way where everybody gets a chance to shine and showcase their talent. When you come to see the show, you’ll see trained ballerinas, jaw-dropping belting, and moving performances. Everybody is perfectly cast, and I cannot think of anybody who would better than the people they’ve put in specific roles.”
Fiori’s specific role is Joe Vegas, who goes to this Performing Arts school to be an actor. He is a total class clown and isn’t afraid to make jokes about anything.
“He thinks he’s something of a lady’s man, but he’s really not,” says Fiori of his character. “To give you an idea, his personal hero is Freddie Prinze, so my pre-show ritual before any run-through is to watch old videos of Prinze’s stand up. I had lots of deep talks with my directors, and I came to the conclusion that he honestly feels out of place from all the ‘serious’ acting class and all of his peers who are too uptight for him. He travels a long way from his neighborhood to get to the school, and the community he knows at home is so different from the world he knows at P.A. His extroverted nature is just a cover-up for his insecurities of not fitting in.”
Fiori however fits right in on stage. Past roles with PTG include Grandpa Joe (Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka); Kevin Rosario (In the Heights); Rev. John Hale (The Crucible); Ryan Evans (High School Musical); Franz Kleinman (Rock of Ages); and Gargoyle (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
At the end of the day, Fiori says, theater is always about storytelling.
“There’s nothing in the world like hearing and watching a good story, and theater allows an audience to be entertained and even maybe to relate to some of these characters and situations,” he says. “On our end, there’s that challenge of finding life in the script and making choices that the character would make.
“For me, it’s so fun to do that. As a senior, I’ve known most of the people on stage with me, and there’s a trust and freedom to make mistakes and figure it out that I love. We all want to make a great show and working together to do so makes me feel so supported and happy.”
The crew at Pioneer Theatre Guild also makes Fiori feel “supported and happy.”
“I am a firm believer that the students and mentors who work behind the scenes are the reason why PTG shows are the way they are,” he said. “A musical can have amazing actors, but if the crew is not at their level, it can totally ruin the experience. That’s not the case here.
“It’s absolutely insane how much attention to detail and work the students working in the crews put into the show. They’re here for hours every week while we’re rehearsing the show. Every costume has such intricate detail, every prop looks professional, and every light cue is specially designed to make the people on stage sparkle. Have I mentioned that I think they’re incredible?”
Yes, you have – but it’s certainly worth repeating.
Francisco, the son of Carlos Fiori and Paula Oliva, has kept busy during high school. He has been in the Genes in Diseases and Symptoms Club, Student Council, Pioneer Symphony Orchestra and Pioneer A Capella Choir. He will spend his next four years also in Ann Arbor.
“In the fall, I’ll be studying in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan,” he said. “However, I’ll try to find any and every opportunity to keep theater in my life, because it holds so much in my heart.”
It’s the beat in his heart!
- Saturday, April 27th, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, April 28th, 2 p.m. (matinee)
- Friday, May 3rd, 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, May 4th, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, May 5th, 2:00 p.m. (matinee)
Pioneer High School, Schreiber Auditorium, 601 W. Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor
$15 (Adults); $10 (Students, 65+ Seniors)
General admission tickets available at the door beginning one hour before each performance.