If We Were Birds Interview: Tara Lucchino

Through the lens of Greek tragedy, If We Were Birds presents an unflinching commentary on contemporary war and its devastating aftermath, particularly for the women who become its victims.

20% Theatre Company is excited to present this beautiful, shocking and brutal new play by Erin Shields at Nimbus Theater September 13-27, 2014.  Before and during the run of this show, we will be giving you the chance to learn a little bit more about the artists involved in our production. In this interview, meet actor Tara Lucchino.


Actor - Tara Lucchino
Actor – Tara Lucchino

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How/when/why did you get into theatre?

I grew up near Pittsburgh PA in a suburb north of the city called Natrona Heights. I went to a tiny grade school and later graduated with a class of 32 from St. Joseph High School. When I was still in elementary school, there was an English teacher at St. Joe’s named Mr. Carosella (Mr. C. for short), who also happened to be the director of the plays and musicals that the high school produced. Mr. C. always invited our school to see the plays that the high school performed. I remember being in awe of these upper classmen and the shows they were able to work on. It was because of Mr. C. that I chose to go to St. Joe’s. He was able to get anyone, whoever they were, to go up on stage and tap into whatever raw talent they may have possessed. I don’t know how he was able to create magic out of thin air when he worked with us but he did.  He believed in us and he inspired us to think outside the box. He used to give his opening night pep talks and always ended his speeches with the simple wish for us that we would “sparkle”, and because of him, we had the courage to do so. It was his letter of recommendation that helped get me into Penn State’s School of Theatre.

What excites you most about If We Were Birds?

I love mythology and the ancient Greeks so I was drawn to this piece for those reasons, but particularly exciting is the modern spin this play takes on an ancient tale that’s still very relevant in the world today.  I’m also really looking forward to see where this piece will lead us creatively, as an ensemble. The group that we have gathered is incredibly talented and I’m really excited to see where the process leads us.

What is your role in the play? What do you think will be the most challenging and/or rewarding part of performing this role?

Being a member of the chorus, it is essential to work together as a collective consciousness. All of us need to be on the same page at all times. Early on in the rehearsal process we had several chorus rehearsals to work on just that, and it’s been really cool to see how we’ve all started to meld into a tight knit group. That said, we also need to develop our own distinctive individual characters. As a Greek chorus we are the voice of the people, but specifically in this play, we are the voices of all the women who never had their own voice, or who may have once had voices, but then had them taken away. We represent thousands and thousands of women who have been silenced. The biggest challenge will be to develop fully realized characters who are truthful to these women; To do all the research and do all the background work and in the end to be worthy to step into their shoes and tell their stories.

Tell us a little bit about the character.  Is this role similar to roles you have played in the past or will this be a stretch for you?

I am a servant woman in the chorus, The Mysterious One. I have chosen to create my character’s backstory by drawing on stories and accounts of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. In my research I came across a collection of beautiful poetry translated into English and written by Armenian women, some of whom were survivors of the genocide and some who wrote their poetry a generation after.  I was blown away by their tenacity of spirit and their style. The pieces are incredibly lovely and they were definitely a source of inspiration for me. I have done Greek Tragedies in the past and I have played incredible and amazingly strong women, but this character is not like anyone else. She has gone through so much yet she still stands strong and keeps on fighting. I’m excited to see how she continues to develop in this process.

What do you hope the audience will walk away from this production knowing, feeling, or thinking after seeing If We Were Birds?

I can’t really say what I want people to walk away feeling after viewing this show. There are a whole range of emotions that will be possible for people to carry out with them. What I want the show to do is to continue a dialogue. I want people to talk about what happens and I want most importantly for people to walk away with these stories. The stories of these women. They’re hard to hear and perhaps soul-crushing to even imagine, but in talking about them, at least we are taking a step in the right direction and we’re keeping their memories alive.

What else do you do in the world, outside of theatre and/or working on this production?

For the past two summers I have volunteered at a grief camp for children called Camp Erin. It is run by the Moyer Foundation and it does amazing work for children here in the Twin Cities Area and their families. For more information you can watch a documentary about the camp that was produced by HBO (and nominated for an Emmy this year) called One Last Hug.

I also enjoy reading, writing and and playing guitar. I recently collaborated on a few songs with a local singer-songwriter, Daniel Bonespur and you can hear me singing on his newest album entitled Dead People. You can check it out here.

Lastly, I play Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show (the Twin Cities Shadow Cast) at the Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis. Shows are always the last Saturday of the month at 11:55 pm. Come and catch us. You’re bound to have an excellent time!

What is your favorite thing about the Twin Cities?

All the amazing people who have welcomed this Pittsburgh girl with open arms and who have made me feel so very much at home! Xxxx

What is your favorite type of bird?

For this show I have been studying Cranes. They are such beautiful and graceful birds and they have an air of mystery to them, which is perfect for my character. It’s fascinating to me that they pop up in mythologies in many different cultures all around the world. Watch a video of the Japanese Cranes doing their mating dances and it looks like a ballet. They’re all incredible birds!