Erica Cenci Profile
Only child Erica Cenci, who is currently the assistant director and choreographer of Paper Mill Playhouse’s The Sound of Music, which will be playing at the Millburn playhouse until December 30, began her theatrical career as a performer.
Cenci grew up in Westfield, New Jersey where her family always strongly encouraged her to embrace the arts, such as singing and dancing at home and taking dance classes since she was three years old. At ten years old she had her first big break when she auditioned for Westfield Community Players’ Storytime Fairytales.
“I was terrified, had no idea what to sing, but somehow I didn’t fail terribly because I was cast as Old MacDonald,” says Cenci.
Her performances skyrocketed from there. She was cast in every single musical from 6th to 12th grade in Westfield and also took on new plays when she attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania where she double majored in English and Theatre. She wished to continue after graduation so she joined the apprentice program at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and thereafter Paul Gemignani’s Musical Theatre Workshop at the Manhattan School of Music. She then toured with two children’s theater groups, Connecticut’s Grumbling Gryphons and Philadelphia’s American Family Theater, and participated in national tours of Cats as Rumpleteazer and A Chorus Line as Bebe, which has been her favorite feat so far.
“Standing on the line as Bebe in the tour of A Chorus Line was an amazing experience. It’s a show I have always loved listening to and to finally be able to do the original choreography while a live orchestra plays. It was an honor to be a part of such a personal show.”
She also experienced the great accomplishment of receiving her Equity card when she worked at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts playing Grandma Tzeitel and Rivka.in a production of Fiddler on the Roof this past summer.
Fast forwarding to now working on The Sound of Music, Cenci finds herself on the other end of the spectrum as the assistant director/choreographer. “It was my first time working with the director, James Brennan, and so I was nervous and ready to prove myself!”
Cenci’s duties were to help Brennan in any way and to rehearse the choreography and blocking with the children in the cast, while also copying down blocking for future references. In doing all of this, Cenci discovered that she has a knack for having a “director’s eye” as well as a “dancer’s eye” focusing on choreography and musicality, and is impressed with how well the team worked together to pull off the show.
“I was constantly in awe of how wonderful the team at Paper Mill is and how much they care about each actor and each moment in the show. I was always amazed at how well the children took on the challenges presented to them-a shortened rehearsal period thanks to Sandy, having to stay on top of their schoolwork while attending long rehearsals in New York and New Jersey, and learning to operate as a unit, a family. Every single person involved with this show was a pleasure to work with and created a show filled with joy and heart; one that I am very proud of.”
Being an only child actually enhanced her theatricality and imagination even more. “I am an only child and was always coming up with imaginative ways to have fun, and I think that’s what ultimately made me want to pursue performing; each production allows you to create and discover new ways to play.”
Cenci’s future plans include auditioning, working, and taking classes in New York City.
“The goal is always to book another show, so I’m hopeful that something will happen soon-and I would definitely be open to choreographing or even directing a project!”
Written by Stefanie Sears