Rob Ciccotelli: Runaway Stage Coach

Local Hero: Rob Ciccotelli: The sheer volume of this man’s creative endeavours is astonishing.

November 15, 2009 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2009

Rob Ciccotelli: One of our 2009 Local Heroes

In September, 2010, Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East will be officially designated a school of the arts. For Rob Ciccotelli, a dramatic arts and photography teacher and a driving force behind the initiative, the event can be marked up as one more successful performance.

The sheer volume of this man’s creative endeavours is astonishing. Beyond his full-time work in education, he’s also a playwright, artistic director of a theatre company, a theatrical producer and director, a professional photographer, and member of a slew of arts boards and committees. This husband and father of three has also worked in film, and in the summer he teaches photography for a private school. Whew.

Rob’s frenetic pace has been fruitful, though. Over his fifteen years teaching at Robert F. Hall, the school’s drama program has become one of the most respected in the province – garnering an impressive catalogue of awards and commendations at provincial and international school drama festivals. Theatre Orangeville youth programs have been a rich source of students, but they also come from across the region.

Rob’s equally successful plays, including contemporary takeoffs of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet (renamed, Romeo and Juliet Hook Up, but with a classical all-male cast), have been performed on stages across southern Ontario, including Theatre Orangeville, Rose Theatre in Brampton, Stratford and the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto. Many of the members of Theatre Anon, his theatre company, are former students.

Of the arts school designation, which has been five years in the making, Rob says, “We’ve had an enhanced drama program for four years, so it’s not new to the drama department, but it is for everyone else.” The program establishes two streams at the school. Those who sign up for “Pathways to the Arts” will take six to eight credits over four years, from fields of study including drama, visual arts, music, media and dance.

Although Pathways to the Arts is an obvious fit for students who are serious about theatrical or film careers, Rob notes, perhaps surprisingly, “Likely 95 per cent of our students aren’t interested in performing as a career.” However, learning to stand up in front of an audience has other benefits: “I wouldn’t say it turns introverts into extroverts, but it brings out what may be hidden in people.” He adds that several of his former students, including some who have become lawyers, have told him how valuable they find that skill in later life.

Only in his mid-forties, much lies ahead for this guru of performance. He’s currently writing a treatment of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, set amid the big hair and shoulder pads of the 1980s. “It’ll have to include Billy Idol’s song ‘White Wedding,’” he says with a laugh. Production is scheduled for 2010.

“I do what I love to do,” Rob says of his hectic life. “It’s a lot of fun for me. My kids think it’s a scam that I get to make a living at it.”

Applications for Pathways to the Arts will be available in late January, 2010, for submission by mid-February. Contact Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School at 905-584-1670 for more information.

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.

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