Employees: Daren A.C. Carollo, managing director, 34, and Derrick Silva, artistic director, 47
How long have you two been involved with Contra Costa County Civic Theatre?
Daren: I came here to direct for the musical Forever Plaid in 2002, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve served as the director, as a board member, as the associate artistic and finally as the managing director.
And you mentioned that once you start working for the theatre you don’t ever want to leave?
Daren: You can’t leave. It’s interesting—the group of people is so welcoming and our audience is so warm. They come up to us after the shows filled with compliments, filled with what we can do better sometimes, like more bathrooms and better coffee—actually our coffee is now sponsored by , so it’s very good.
The patrons are the heart of Contra Costa Civic Theatre. They’re unlike any other patrons—they’re incredibly loyal to this building. They are all ambassadors for the organization; they're always bringing their friends and telling more people about it.
Derrick: I started seeing shows here in 1981. It was something that we didn’t have—I grew up in El Sobrante, which is three cities over. I was very excited about that and came back time after time after time, sometimes to the same show. 1987 is the first time I auditioned here and was in a show. Then after that I took kind of a break from theatre for a while. Actually, it was Daren who dragged me back into it. It was his show.
Daren: He auditioned for Jekyll and Hyde and I begged him to be Simon and he said no way. Then he auditioned for Sweeney, and he earned the role in the first minute and a half of call backs. That was in 2005.
Derrick: I came back after that, did another show about a year and a half later, and after that they asked if I would be interested in being the artistic director. I of course said no immediately, because I thought for a company that was about to celebrate their 50th year, they needed somebody far more seasoned than I was. But, when I talked to them and thought more about it. They needed somebody who loved this organization and this theatre and had a passion for its history and its future. I came to the conclusion, with them, that I was a good fit.
Daren: Since Derrick has joined the organization, the caliber of talent has really grown. We have appealed to the people that he’s worked with throughout the decades to come over to here. Contra Costa Civic Theatre has no travel stipend for the actors, the designers don’t get paid what they should get paid, the directors don’t get—you do this for the love of the art, and, for some of the actors, the applause.
Do you have open auditions?
Derrick: Unlike other theatres—there are a lot of theatres that when they set their season do a general audition for the entire season—we do it show by show. We find it’s easier. Especially in the competitive world where we aren’t able to offer a stipend or salary to the actors, we find it’s easier to maintain them, to do it show by show.
One of the wonderful things that I’ve heard about this place from actors: they can’t wait to come back, because of how they’re treated. We do run this like a community. It’s a family. A lot of the other places that have been offering stipends have to run theirs like it’s a business. Unfortunately some of that personal—just respect—gets lost along the way. And I’ve noticed that when I’ve auditioned and been in shows other places. There are some. But if you love the art, you do it for that.
Daren: Our founding was the Flynn family. The rules of Louis and Bettianne Flynn were very clear—treat everyone like ladies and gentleman. Louis passed on in 2008 and Bettianne passed on over a decade prior to that, but the tradition is continued by their family. Their son Matt Flynn serves as the facilities manager and is often the set designer of the shows, and their daughter, Kathleen, runs the educational part of Contra Costa Civic Theatre, (LIVE at CCCT) which is the reason we get to do the main stage programming—it is funded by the youth programming.
Having just said that, since Derrick started, the art has taken care of itself. The caliber of the programming has risen, the desire for patrons to see it has risen, and that is no longer becoming the case that the educational program drives the building.
And where are you each from?
Derrick: I grew up in El Sobrante, I've been in this area all my life. However, for this theatre, they started performing in this building in 1971, and I didn't come to my first play until 10 years later. ... I still get people coming to auditions, coming to see shows, that never knew we were here.
Daren: We get people down the block, I mean literally five or six blocks away, that are like, "There's a theatre by the park over there?"
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago—Bloomingdale, Illinois. I had the most typical childhood anyone can imagine, and then I went to college at Illinois State University, where I interned at Steppenwolf (Theatre Company), and that was really what launched me into realizing that I was not an actor, and I was meant to be on the other side of the scenes.
One of my favorite college memories is, after two and a half years of getting straight As, going to my junior acting class, and Patrick O'Gara, a very lovely gay professor—he would always sit next to all the students as close as he could and hold your hand, make you feel as uncomfortable as you could. He came over and he did that, and he looked at me, and I could smell his breath, which was boozy, and he said, "You know Daren, you're not much of an actor."
And ... I said, "Why all the As?" And he goes, "Well, 'cuz you do the work, but all you do is smile. You could be delivering the saddest information, and you know people are watching you, so you're beaming." I could say, like, "You're mother's dying," with that on my face. He was right, and thank god he told me, because I probably would have continued for a long, long time.