For local actor Tom Teti, worry and a little bit of “what if” preceded the work.
For a great deal of his life, Teti said he loved the idea of writing and acting, but chose instead to major in history in college and become a teacher. It was one of those “just in case” decisions.
And yet, somewhere inside Teti, the desire to write and act never really left his thoughts. So a few years into his teaching career, Teti decided to go to Hedgerow Theater and there, two nights a week, enroll in acting classes.
“As I got deeper and deeper into the classes, and as I got good feedback and was invited to be in more and more shows, I found myself getting totally immersed in the whole process after a couple of years.” Teti recalls. “Eventually, I made the decision to leave teaching and become a full-time actor.”
That decision obviously paid off. Early on, Teti became a company member of People’s Light and Theatre Company, and spent the last several decades as an actor, director and teacher. He’s also performed in film and television, recorded voice-overs extensively for radio, TV and audio stories, and appeared in various venues around the Philadelphia area.
Today, Teti, 64, takes the role of Oliver Opfinder, the father of Cinderella, in the People’s Light and Theatre Company’s 10th Holiday Panto titled Cinderella: A Musical Panto, running at the Malvern theater through Jan. 12.
The panto is a tradition borrowed from England where almost every town has one during the holiday season. Pantos are a mix between a fractured fairy tale and a variety show, using familiar stories to form the basis of exaggeration, outrageous jokes, and rollicking songs and dances. At People’s Light, they incorporate traditional elements including the “dame” (a man dressed as a woman), audience participation (in the form of cheering the heroes and booing the villains), a “messy bit,” candy passed out to the audience, and a “silly song” that inspired an audience sing-along.
“I’m the man who marries the woman who becomes the wicked stepmother,” Teti explains. “And the whole process, which takes place in the 1920s, complete with the clothing, the flappers and so on, is filled with song and dance.”
And for him, that’s the biggest challenge of all.
“I didn’t train as a dancer. Oh, I can move but that’s about it. So for me, that’s the hardest part of doing this play.”
But then there’s the best part, he adds, “The part where I get to make the audience happy or move them in some way. Sometimes, I wonder about what we do as actors. Is it purely entertainment? And then I meet someone who tells my how they’ve been moved by one of my performances, and then I know it’s much, much more.”
For times and ticket information, call 610-644-3500. ••