Encore Michigan

Ten Questions: Tony Caselli

Feature April 20, 2020

WILLIAMSTON, Mich.–Tony Vaselli is the Artistic Director and co-founder of The Williamston Theatre.

He has directed nearly 70 professional productions at wonderful places such as the Williamston Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, The Gem Theatre, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre Company, The City Theatre (Detroit), Urban Stages (Manhattan) and Studio Arena Theatre (Buffalo).

Tony Caselli, artistic director of The Williamston Theatre

Prior to founding the Williamston Theatre in 2005, he worked for the Purple Rose Theatre Company for 12 years, serving as Associate Artistic Director for his last several years there.

In 2011 he directed the world premiere of Mitch Albom’s new play, Ernie, at the City Theatre in Detroit, where it returned to be performed again every summer, and toured around the state, for the next 6 years. Tony has won Wilde Awards for directing 1984, boomOedipusIt Came From Mars and Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol. He’s also been named Best Director for other productions by the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and the Ann Arbor News.

A native of New Boston, Michigan, Tony received his degree in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University and is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the union for professional stage directors. Tony lives in Williamston, Michigan, with his wife and kids, who continue to be his inspiration.

As theaters are currently dark, owing to the Covid virus pandemic, we asked Tony to answer our Ten questions, eight derived from James Lipton’s list of questions he made famous on his Actors Studio TV show, and two of our own.*

What is your favorite word? 

I want to say callipygian, because it’s such a great word… but it’s probably susurrus, even though I rarely get to use it! 

What is your least favorite word?

No. 

What turns you on?

Imagination, empathy, humor, unabashed joyfulness. 

What Turns You Off?

Deceitfulness. Insincerity. Pretentiousness. 

What sound or noise do you love?

Oh, laughter for sure. Easy. My wife’s laughter, my kids laughing. Non-human sounds would be the susurrus (hah!) of the wind in the forest, or sounds of the frogs crickets and peepers on a spring evening. 

What sound or noise do you dislike?

Hospital bedside machines. 

What is your favorite curse-word?

The versatility of “fuck” is pretty hard to beat – I mean, something like “Oh fuck, that orange fucking fucknuckle has fucked us” is an amazing sentence. 

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

If Starship Captain is out, I’d love to be a writer, but I’ve never made the time to pursue learning the craft. Maybe someday. Can I get paid to watch baseball? 

*What play would you do if you were told you had just one more play?  Boy this one is tough. There are so many good plays. Right now, I’m really looking forward to directing The Cake when we are able to start a season at Williamston Theatre, because it’s a funny, moving play full of empathy and real people. The show we had to cancel, Alabaster is a stunningly beautiful piece that I was very sad to postpone because of the virus, but it’ll happen someday soon.  And, of course, I love working on new plays. 

*What role remains on your bucket list? — I’ve really focused on directing, but been lucky to get a handful of wonderful acting roles over the course of my career. I’d love to do some small supporting roles in good plays with great ensembles, I have little interest in really “starring” in anything. Although: If I had any ability to sing at all, I’d love to play Freddy in the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels musical – It’s just ridiculously fun!

Week of 5/25/2020

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