French opera unites famed playwright, sophomore

It’s not every day that an actor gets the chance to originate a role written by a world-renowned playwright and director, let alone work with him to help shape the script’s final form. But over the past few weeks, sophomore Gabby Mancuso has gotten to do just that, playing Micaela in a new adaptation of the opera “Carmen,” written by Moises Kaufman, author of “The Laramie Project,” and co-produced with the University of Miami Theatre Department.

The Miami Hurricane had a chance to speak with Mancuso about the struggles of an ever-changing script, her new-found mentors and her busy schedule.

The Miami Hurricane: Tell me about your character.

Gabby Mancuso: On paper, I am the ingenue of the show, so normally that means the sweet, light, kind of secondary to the strong leading woman. However, Moises and I talked about it and she’s a Cuban woman, so we want to keep the strength of a Cuban woman. She has strength, but she’s sweet.

TMH: What has it been like working with the professional actors and Moises?

GM: We’ve hit the educational jackpot here because working with the professionals is amazing. I was scared to work with them and Moises because I figured that they know so much more than us that they wouldn’t want to take the time to explain things, but they’ve been great. They’re so helpful. They give us hints, they talk about the business, and more than that, they’re just normal people. They’re friends, they care about us and they create an open environment, so it’s really great.

Every day is just so fun because we never know what’s going to happen, so every day we’re just playing around, which sounds so silly, but we’re playing and working at the same time. We’re always laughing, always joking, and that’s the best part. It’s a really warm environment.

TMH: What has the experience of working on a play that is still in development been like?

GM: It’s been challenging, I’m not going to lie, because we’ll get somewhere in the process one day and then we’ll get a totally new scene the next day. So just trying to do the process of keeping it memorized, keeping fresh, and bringing in new choices is exhausting, but it’s also really rewarding because we can work through things and make something that we’re really proud of. I think the changes that are set are the best versions of whatever has been played with. But there actually still can be changes all throughout the run.

TMH: Take me through your typical day.

GM: I want to preface with saying that I am happy that I have the huge workload that I do. Generally I have class every day from 9 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. and within those I have an hour and a half to two hours of breaks, but during that time, I rehearse with the professional cast and Moises, so I don’t actually have any breaks during the days. I have my 45 minutes for dinner, and then 7 to 11 p.m. for rehearsal. And then I’m going home and memorizing changes along with doing homework, and then waking up and doing the same thing.

TMH: Do you have a favorite moment in the play?

GM: One of my favorite moments in the play is in the second act, where Micaela really gets to show her strength, and it ends up paying off for her, for at least a little bit. But I love the group numbers; they’re so charming and inviting and they just make you want to get up and dance.

TMH: Why should students come and see ‘Carmen’?

GM: You should come and see ‘Carmen,’ one because you’re seeing amazing professional performers and a Broadway director’s show for the low price of $15, or zero dollars if you come on Totally Tuesday, and two, because it’s just such a fun story and it’s deep and you get to see the talent of some of the most talented kids at UM.


What: “Carmen”

When: Nov. 12-23

Where: Jerry Herman Ring Theatre

Cost: $15 for students or free on “Totally Tuesday” Nov. 18.