Clarence Center native takes role in ‘Party to Die For’
The spotlight on DeKoffin dimmed for the last time when she lost control of her motorcycle on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. Her passenger, “close friend” and part-time fitness instructor Dean Hastings, 24, was unhurt.
The fictional yet undeniably salacious details of the imaginary Carrie DeKoffin will serve as the backdrop to a very real and increasingly popular fundraiser for the Irish Classical Theatre Company, located at 625 Main St. in Buffalo.
Guests also will have the ability to mix and mingle with the theatre company’s actors, who also happen to be “relatives” of DeKoffin’s, all of whom will be more than willing to share the most sensational details of her life that made DeKoffin an enduring cultural icon.
Among those relatives will be Clarence Center native Arianne Davidow. The 22-year-old actress — who graduated in May 2016 from Niagara University with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre performance as well as a minor in American sign language/ deaf studies and philosophy — will experience acting at “The Wake” for the first time next week. Yet for a recent college grad, Davidow’s resume looks atypically bolstered.
Davidow began jazz and ballet lessons at age 3 at the Karyn Kelly Dance Center in Williamsville. She appeared for the first time on stage in a production of “The Nutcracker,” presented by the American Academy of Ballet, while she was still in middle school.
As a student at Sacred Heart Academy, Davidow gravitated toward musicals and found she also had a love of signing. She took a few acting classes at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and was put in touch with contacts at Artpark who provided her with an opportunity to become an apprentice for the theatre’s main stage shows.
In 2012, Davidow appeared in Artpark’s production of “Cinderella” and since then has performed in Musical- Fare’s “In The Heights,” “Evita” and “Gypsy,” as well as Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s “Henry V” and Art- Park’s “Mary Poppins” and “Peter Pan.” She also appeared on the Irish Classical stage for “The Yeats Project” last year.
During the day, Davidow keeps busy through work at People Inc., putting her sign language minor to good use by teaching it in one of the company’s day programs.
Needless to say, Aunt Carrie would have been proud.
“Theatre, for me, has always been something that’s been a passion of mine, and I think once I became fully engrossed in it I quickly told myself, ‘This is what I need to be doing,’” Davidow said.
In 2002, the Irish Classical approached Buffalo-based advertising and marketing firm Crowley Webb for ideas on initiating a fundraiser. Crowley Webb created an event that would intertwine the intimacy and improvisation that the theatre company’s actors relay to their audience, with the often riotous gaiety the Irish have instilled in the Buffalo community.
The result was a brilliantly crafted take on the Irish wake, which, contrary to the traditional mourning associated with a day dedicated to the dearly departed, is nothing less than a boisterous party to serve as a celebration of life. Together, Crowley Webb and the Irish Classical Theatre Company have fabricated and killed off 14 Irishmen and women, and have put on a party worthy of being a permanent fixture on the Buffalo social calendar while doing it.
This year’s “Wake” will feature both a new date and location. From 7 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, at The Atrium @ Rich’s, 1 Robert Rich Way, the theatre company will present an evening of “feigned grief and genuine merriment,” complete with Celtic music, enough libations even for the Irish, and an estate sale — a basket raffle — where DeKoffin’s belongings will be auctioned.
At “The Wake,” Davidow will be fully immersed in her role as one of DeKoffin’s relatives — a challenge she believes is both a novel and intriguing one.
“At an event like this, people can get to know the actors and get to know the scene and the vibe of the theatre community, and what they’re all about,” she said. “It’s great that the community and the audience can mingle with the actors and really get a sense of what it’s all about.”
The tall task of living up to the vivaciousness of DeKoffin, however, pales in comparison to the test of not flubbing the Irish accent in front of some noteworthy Irishmen who include Irish Classical Theatre Company co-founder and director Vincent O’Neill and playwright Bryan Delaney.
“It can get pretty nerve-wracking to have Vincent and Bryan around when you’re doing it. Seeing as how they are from Ireland, I’ll do my best not to offend them,” Davidow says with a laugh.
Davidow hopes her good rapport with Delaney will translate to the stage next month when she will take on a key role in “The Seedbed.” Written by Delaney, the family drama set in Ireland follows a middle-aged couple as they welcome home their teenage daughter and her fiance. Their arrival sets off a chain reaction of increasingly volatile confrontations that ultimately results in the revelation of an unspeakable family secret. Performances will run from Friday, March 10, through Sunday, April 2.
The lighthearted, more improvisational display at “The Wake” stands in stark contrast to the enigmatic and evocative performance that will be required of Davidow during the play’s run, though she looks forward to it as an assessment of her versatility as an actress.
“The kind of improvisational work that we’re going to be doing at ‘The Wake’ is just kind of fun in that you can be more of an individual, but when you’re in a darker show that revolves around a family, you really need to trust the other actors and that the director is going to make you feel safe in that environment,” she said. “So, it’s a lot of reliance on other people, but also putting responsibility on yourself in order to make the other actors feel safe as well.”
Because there are so many variables in live theatre — from cast energy to audience reaction — Davidow believes there’s a certain sense of relief whenever authenticity is touched upon on stage.
“You can have as much preparation as you like, but once you have the audience there, you really aren’t sure how they’ll respond, and the audience is such an important factor when you do these intense dramas because that atmosphere really plays into how you deliver your lines,” she said.
While much praise has already been heaped upon Davidow for her stage presence and ability to command a scene, she attributes her passion and zest for the stage not to any one performance, but to some of her roles as part of an ensemble cast.
She recalls the iconic scene in “Evita” in which the eponymous lead sings “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” atop the balcony of the Casa Rosada. Davidow, playing one of the Peronists listening below, remembers experiencing the equivalent of a theatre epiphany as the spotlight cast a glow upon the actress.
“I think when you’re seeing an actor living so truthfully, it’s such a beautiful moment, and everything else just kind of falls away when you feel that connection,” she said. “Seeing how much they’re giving to their craft and feeling how powerful that is, I think that’s what I love the most.”
Though Davidow would eventually like to spread her wings in a larger theatre market, she remains adamant that she doesn’t have to do so on Broadway. Cities such as Chicago or Washington, D.C., she says, may offer an even more appealing experiment due to their prominent Shakespeare scenes.
While the destination on Davidow’s next bus ticket remains in ambiguity, she is certain that when executed with care and precision, the validity of the theatre is unmatched and the veracity unparalleled. For that reason, she is sure that any journey will include a spotlight and an open stage.
“I think in the theatre, there’s a beauty in having a connection with the audience. You change as your character changes throughout the run of a show,” she said. “Audiences can always relate to at least one of the characters they see on stage, and I think that’s really important. The theatre can change people, and that’s what I hope to bring to the audience.”
Tickets to “The Wake” include all the complimentary Guinness and wine attendees can drink, as well as food and continuous Celtic entertainment. General admission tickets cost $60 prior to the event or $65 at the door.
VIP tickets, which sell for $120 individually or two for $200, include access to the exclusive, private VIP reception area from 6:30 to 7 p.m., a private bar and buffet service during the event and one complimentary pint glass per person.
For more information about “The Wake,” call 853-4282, visit www.irishclassicaltheatre.com or stop by the ICTC Box Office at 625 Main St., Buffalo.