Backstage
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Frank Borrelli Leads AIC’s Theater Arts Program

While Hair, the first musical at AIC, received nightly standing ovations and accolades from theatergoers, it was like every other production in Frank Borrelli’s capable hands in that it involved months of blood, sweat and tears, dedication, and rehearsals into the wee hours of the morning to bring the production to life on the Griswold Theatre stage.

What makes someone passionate about what they do? For Frank, his earliest recollection of an interest in theater came at the tender age of seven when he was cast as a monkey in a school production of Dr. Doolittle. But the real bug caught him at 11 when he and his classmates attended a production of Euripides’ Trojan Women at the Connecticut Repertory Theater. “We were in the third or fourth row. My classmates didn’t care, but when I saw Hecuba crawling out of the stage, that was it!” Frank wanted to be an actor and a singer from that moment.

While attending Massachusetts College of the Liberal Arts in North Adams as a theater and arts management major, Frank worked professional summer stock at “Trumpet in the Land” in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Upon graduating, he immediately began his master of fine arts studies in performance and society, acting, and directing at Rhode Island College with the idea he would completely immerse himself in acting upon completion of his degree.

performers with arms raised during Hair the musical

“That’s when my life shifted. I just wanted to teach.” Frank was inspired by one of his own teachers in his decision to switch direction. “I saw what my mentor got out of [teaching]. As Buddha said, ‘You change one life, you change the world.’ She [his mentor] changed a lot of lives. Here at AIC, I get to do that. I get to help a lot of kids through theater.”

He recalled a public comment made by President Vince Maniaci in which he said, “Frank changes these kids’ lives.” “I got choked up,” Frank relayed and added, “They call me Dad. Some call me Mom.” And for a select few of Frank’s students, he is quite literally both mom and dad. This Mother’s Day, he received a text from one of his students making a go of life completely alone. It read, “I know you’re not my mother, but you’re the closest thing I have.”

Frank Borrelli headshot

After the Hair Finale, the cast had something up their tie-dyed sleeves. While Frank was barking orders to get things wrapped up, the students would hear none of it. Growing increasingly frustrated by their inattention to his drill sergeant directives, it wasn’t until the curtain opened on a video dedicated to him that he understood what was really going on. The video “Why I love Frank Borrelli” included each student sharing a very personal reason how Frank has changed his or her life. “That’s why I teach,” Frank said through tears.

“I’ve devoted my life to AIC for the past four years. It’s working because the program keeps growing. Only one piece is missing; that’s my own professional development. Now I want to get back into acting.” This summer, Frank plans on recharging by making his way to Cape Cod to perform a one-person autobiographical play. “It’s about a gay kid growing up in an Italian-American family and all that goes with that.”

Frank plans to take his solo act on the road. Quite possibly right back to home base at AIC. By the way, Frank Borrelli is a singer too—all types of music—standard, show tunes, and jazz, which will be woven into his solo performance. He learned about singing from his grandfather who worked for MCA records for years. No mic needed, Frank says, “You have to know what you’re good at. And I can SING! It’s what I tell my students: ‘You have to be confident when you know you’re good at something because others are good at it, too.’ I’m not confident about a lot of things, but I know I can sing.”

Frank can also teach. Just ask his students.

 

-Written by Candy Lash