Faiola finds the perfect commute with Woodminster’s ‘Forum’

She lives around the corner. And it’s taken 20 years. But it’s finally happened.

Rebecca Faiola has attended a ton of shows at the famed Woodminster Amphitheater over the years, an idyllic space that is nestled perfectly at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland’s Montclair district. As a performer living in that district, she sings with her husband in a jazz band, creates short films, does plenty of theatre and even owns and operates an event planning business.

Yet the opportunity to perform in her neighborhood never timed out right. So when the role of Domina, the shrewish, manipulative sasspot in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” arose, Faiola was encouraged by friends to take the five minute drive to the theatre and go after it.

“What I like about the role is her attitude, she is not a walnut to be messed with,” said Faiola. “She knows who she is, you can’t really get over on her. I really love her.”

For two weekends, Faiola and her castmates will take on the Stephen Sondheim farcical comedy. “Forum” is the story of the slave Pseudolus and his quest to win his freedom by helping his master win the favor of the girl next door. It’s also a classic 1966 film starring comedy and theatre legend Zero Mostel.

Summertime in the Oakland Hills is all about seeing three grandscale musical productions. Woodminster is quite a site, with a slow sunset beyond the stage and a production that starts off with a few remaining hints of sun rays, which is then slowly taken over by crisp stage light.

Memories like these are what made Faiola finally audition for a production. She has been careful over the years to take projects that still allow for a full-time commitment to her family, which include twins who are also heavily involved in theatre at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School. But now that the kids are older, Faiola, 56, is able to take on more varied projects, and admits that at her age, she is having a blast.

“I am getting better roles now then when I was in my 20’s,” said Faiola. “Domina is a bawdy broad, which is my favorite thing to play. The roles that I’ve gotten in the 40’s and 50’s are fun character roles.

“I had no idea I’d be having so much fun as a mom and an older actress. I’ve found that you don’t need to just focus on being the young ingénue.”

One thing that Faiola had to get used to is the breakneck speed of rehearsals. Woodminster is a summer stock company. And Faiola had to learn what it means to put on a show in two weeks and 10 hours a day.

“It’s kinda new for me, I am used to a little longer rehearsal period, but it’s been a fun experience,” said Faiola. “There’s a lot of ‘get out there and let’s do this’ and not a lot of time for character study. I really enjoyed that, it’s really made me better quicker.”

What Faiola continuously raves about is the fact that the cast of the show is ridiculously collaborative and very fun. She points out the wide range of participants in the company, from children to a man 86-years young.

“We’ve had Broadway actors, LA actors and  New York actors,” said Faiola. “Woodminster draws all types of actors to do the shows. It’s really impressive.”

This is Faiola’s first Sondheim show she has performed, and she couldn’t be more in love with the music. As for Sondheim, she considers him a “national treasure” and his music “deeply personal.” And for her first show, she is smiling from ear-to-ear.

“I’ve never laughed more during a rehearsal period than I did with ‘Forum,’ it is so, so funny,” said Faiola. “Even in act II, it feels like a total chase scene. (The cast) is just having so much fun.

And see, it only took 20 years.

WHAT TO KNOW  IF YOU GO

Woodminster Summer Musicals presents “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Music and Lyrics by Steven Sondheim
Through Aug. 19th
The Woodminster Amphitheater
Joaquin Miller Park
3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland, CA
Tickets range from $25 to $56
For tickets, call (510) 531-9597 or visit the official website.

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