“Side Man,” the winner for the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play and a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, comes to the Studio Theatre in the University’s School of Music and Dramatic Arts.
“It’s a play about jazz trumpet players. They’re called side men. The show is told from the perspective of Clifford, the main trumpet player’s son,” director Mike DiSalvo said. “And it’s about the effect that his father’s devotion to the music had on his family and his childhood, and about the cast of characters that he grew up with who are all different jazz trumpet players."
DiSalvo, an MFA student at the University, has an extensive background as an actor in theater, film and television. He appeared in an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” opposite to Mariska Hargitay and Ice T, as well as in hit shows like “Blue Bloods” and “The Night Of.” Most recently, DiSalvo starred in The Swine Palace’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
“It’s been a great opportunity to work with the undergrads, and the studio space is a really nice black box so it’s very flexible. It’s been really fun to figure out all the different elements,” DiSalvo said. “It’s my first time overseeing all of the stuff and not just being responsible as an actor. It’s been a great learning experience.”
The play will feature original pieces written by sound designer David Ifland, a senior at the University. The inclusion of an original score combined with the more intimate atmosphere of the Studio Theatre will create a more immersive experience for the audience. DiSalvo hopes viewers will be able to experience and feel what some of the players feel like in terms of how they relate to music.
“As an actor, I like being closer to the audience like that. And as an audience member, I like being in a small space like that, especially a play like this, which is just a very intimate play about families and relationships,” DiSalvo said. “It’s nice to have the audience a little closer and to be able to fill that space with sound and light in a way that’s harder than a bigger space.”
DiSalvo thinks the play is very accessible for people who haven’t seen a lot of theater due to its contemporary language and unmistakable jazz music. Unlike lengthy plays that include difficult language, this is a play that theater fans, jazz lovers and new theater goers can all enjoy without much difficulty. Indeed, jazz is an integral part of the cultural heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana.
“I think this is a great kind of gateway play for people who haven’t seen a lot of theater because the language is very contemporary,” DiSalvo said. “There is a lot of music to it so it’s a lot more of a cinematic experience than you normally get from a play. This is a little more narrative in terms of the story. There are parallels to be had with anyone who has a connection to music. I think they’ll understand a lot of what the play is saying.”
The show features one daily performance at 7:30 p.m. from Tuesday, February 5 through Sunday, February 10, with the addition of a 2:00 p.m. matinee performance Sunday. Tickets can be purchased for $12 through the College of Music and Dramatic Arts website and at the box office in the School of Music and Dramatic Arts.