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‘Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding’ serves as Conn College lacrosse fundraiser

By Kristina Dorsey

Publication: The Day

Published January 13. 2013 4:00AM
'Tony n' Tina's Wedding' serves as Conn College lacrosse fundraiser

Dan Corcoran is assistant coach for Connecticut College's men's lacrosse team, and he's the father of team captain Tyler Corcoran.

Dan Corcoran also happens to be a producer of the longest-running comedy ever to play off-Broadway, "Tony n' Tina's Wedding."

Which is how a February performance of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" in Groton will serve as a fundraiser for Connecticut College lacrosse.

"As a parent of any senior, not only a captain, you try to help the school and the program out by some kind of fundraising. I think it's easier to raise the money than ask for the money," Corcoran says.

Corcoran, whose involvement with "Tony n' Tina" dates back to the show's inception, has done various fundraisers with the production before, including one for Simsbury Youth Lacrosse a few years back.

"Tony n' Tina" - which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, having opened off-Broadway in 1988 and running there until 2010 - is interactive theater. The actors mingle with the audience as if it were a real wedding and reception.

For the Conn College fundraiser, all the actors will be coming in from New York City. They're part of a group of performers who do limited runs of "Tony n' Tina" in various cities.

"Tony n' Tina" grew out of characters created by Mark Nasser and Nancy Cassaro.

Back when the show opened, its improvisational, breaking-the-fourth-wall nature was ground-breaking.

"At the time, there were no interactive shows. There was nothing. So it was definitely a whole new concept. Not that we knew what we were creating ..." says Corcoran, who produced the show with his brother, Joe.

There is a script, but it leaves a lot of room for the actors to be creative. The ceremony itself, for instance, is pretty much all scripted. For the reception, the performers work off an outline.

Director Dan Lauria, who used to act in "Tony n' Tina," says, "The outline works pretty much around what song is playing or if there are toasts going on, so there are specific things and moments you have to hit that are specific cues."

In between that, though, the actors ad-lib. One of the bridesmaids and her boyfriend get into a fight and ask audience members to take sides. Because there are so many things going on in various parts of the room, audience members get to see and hear something different. And because it's improvised, every show is unique.

"Even after 21 years of doing this show, I still come across some actors who will find a new moment for a character, will find something I had never heard before," Lauria says.

Corcoran remembers how "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" all began. He lived in Greenwich Village with some of the people who ended up creating the show.

"They used to rehearse the show in our apartment. It was a show but it wasn't a show. It was more a group of actors who were just improving," says Corcoran, who was a Wall Street bond trader at the time. "As time went on, me being a little bit of an entrepeneur, I said, 'You guys should do this, and we should sell tickets and have people come and see it.'"

They invited friends and family. After two nights, they were doing so well they decided to run another week - and got written up in the press. They realized they had something good. So they closed it down, legalized everything, and turned it into a full-fledged production.

Corcoran had no inkling the show would be such a successful off-Broadway show. He didn't, after all, have a background in the theater.

"I was always the guy that ran the boat rides and the ski trips and stuff like that. I was always the guy who put parties together or big groups together. So that's what I thought of 'Tony n' Tina' - just as a party with entertainment," he says.

As for his interest in lacrosse, Corcoran grew up playing the sport. When he became a father, he started coaching his kids' lacrosse teams. After 9/11, Corcoran decided to move out of New York to Simbury and, he says, "to concentrate on things that I really enjoyed. Lacrosse was one of them."

He began working with the Simsbury youth program, eventually became the Simsbury High School coach, and then decided to give college coaching a try. He started coaching at Connecticut College in 2010 and, a year later, his son transferred there from Hofstra.

"I love working with the kids," he says. "I love watching them mature. I think the benefits of just being a student athlete and at Connecticut College - it's unbelievable how these kids can really balance a 30-hour lacrosse week and a 30-hour or 40-hour student week.

"My Wall Street career was all about being on a team. It wasn't just about you being on a trading desk. You really need the guy to your right and to your left. On Wall Street, when I was there ... all the athletes were down there. There's a reason, because you really learn how to work together."

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Before becoming "Tony n' Tina's" director, Lauria was a cast member in the New York production from 1991 to '96. He played the bride's ex-boyfriend who crashes the wedding, and he eventually shifted to different roles - the best man, and later the wedding singer.

Interacting with the public can lead to some interesting moments over the years. Lauria laughs and says, "Listen, it's a party, and they're serving alcohol. So sometimes people might take more liberties than they would if they didn't have alcohol. Generally, some people would grab you in certain places or get a little too involved. We do encourage them to get involved, but sometimes they got a little carried away. I mean, it was all in fun. There was no harm in that. But it's a little startling."

As a director, Lauria says, what he does depends on the cast. With an experienced group, he might just remind them to hit certain marks and to keep the show's flow going.

A lot it, he says, is to "keep the integrity of the show. What we're trying to do is create a reality for the audience that they're actually at one of their friend's or family member's weddings."

It's a heightened reality, of course. The show weaves in some local references to that reality. For instance, for the Groton performance, Lauria expects that the Naval Submarine Base will be mentioned, and the church that the character of Father Mark mentions in his homily will be a southeastern Connecticut one.

Lauria points out that the show appeals to nontraditional theatergoers.

"They can dance. They can participate," he says. "You're not just sitting and watching a prosecium show. There's action happening everywhere."

IF YOU GO

What: "Tony n' Tina's Wedding"

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16

Where: The Groton Inn and Suites, 99 Gold Star Highway, Groton

Tickets: $100 adults, $75 students, group rates available for 10 or more

Benefits: Connecticut College men's lacrosse team

For tickets: http://www.tonylovestina.com

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