Marty Marchitto always felt an attachment to Center Stage Theatre.
It was on that stage in his youth with the guidance and friendship of Center Stage founders Gary and Francesca Scarpa that his love for the theater blossomed. And while, as years passed, educational and employment opportunities would take him far from his beloved Connecticut, his heart remained with the place, and the people, who helped cultivate his creative spirit.
That’s why Marchitto — upon his return to the Nutmeg State last year — could not refuse the Scarpas’ request to return to the Grove Street stage and take charge of a production. He eagerly welcomed this chance, in front of friends and family, and in front of the Scarpas who had been such an important part of his professional growth, to show off his skills.
Marchitto was truly home.
“Being here is so special,” said Marchitto, an East Haven resident. “I developed as a professional theater artist here, with Gary and Fran, but what has always stuck with me is what else they taught me — about being a good community member, a good citizen, having a good heart.
“Yes, I got this theater training, but thanks to them I became more than just someone doing theater. In all places I have worked, I always carried that foundation. Coming here was like coming home.”
And Marchitto’s return was perfect timing for the Scarpas, who were looking to retire after 42 years of devoting their lives to local theater — 14 years operating the nonprofit Center Stage — and needed an heir with whom they felt comfortable.
“Martin is an extremely gifted director, with decades of experience on the professional, community, and educational level,” said Gary Scarpa. “He’s doing a great job, and his production is really going to impress our patrons.”
Marchitto began his role as Center Stage artistic and executive director on Jan. 1, and the Scarpas plan to assist him in making a smooth transition for the rest of the current season until completely retiring on July 1.
“Marty can design, produce, direct,” said Francesca. “We couldn’t believe he wanted this [position]. We share a common philosophy on what community theater is and what educational theater is to the community, not only for the actors and crew but also for the audience and the community at large.
“It’s always about the community for us. Theater is what we do. It is our vehicle to promote a better community and help young people and older people to be able to have sense of a smaller community within the bigger community. The life stories we explore together help us to be better people,” added Francesca.
And Center Stage is now Marchitto’s baby to mold in his image while paying homage to the couple that made community theater a reality for area residents.
“First and foremost, my job is to continue the legacy of these two amazing people, who founded this beautiful place,” said Marchitto. “I need to move Center Stage forward in a way, keeping the original vision while finding ways to generate more excitement and interest for the community.”
Gary Scarpa said the couple is proud of what they have accomplished in Shelton and are enthusiastic about Marchitto’s future plans.
“This will also be the go-to place for performing arts,” said Marchitto, “but I see us expanding programs into other areas of performing arts to reach a broader community. Theater is important to me, but we can use other avenues to build the audience. If they come for one thing, maybe stay for another type of program.”
Marchitto has spent the last three decades working as a freelance theater artist, teaching, directing and designing throughout the country. Marchitto holds a B.A. from Albertus Magnus College, an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a certificate in drama from the Yale School of Drama.
Marchitto also has extensive teaching experience in theater including programs for middle school, high school and college students, such as the Trumbull Youth Association, where he has been involved since 1988 as either director, designer or both. He has taught at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, Iowa Western Community College in Iowa and, more recently, he has served as an adjunct professor at Manhattan College, where he also serves as the college’s “Players” director.
Marchitto has recently been teaching acting and technical theater at the newly opened Center Stage Education Center, under the direction of Education Director Gina Scarpa. He looks forward to working in tandem with her to continue to bring quality theater education to Shelton and the surrounding communities.
“We feel Marty is a wonderful match for our theater,” said Center Stage Board Chair Susan Coyle. “Besides being a very talented director, who is skilled in all areas of live theater, he is aligned with our mission and purpose. We were grateful that he was available and that he said yes when our board of directors unanimously voted to offer him the position of the new artistic/executive director of the theater.”
And Marchitto said that the Scarpas’ influence on him has been profound.
“Gary and Fran have been an inspiration to me ever since I first met them back in 1984,” said Marchitto. “I was quickly impressed by not only their knowledge of theater, their dedication to teaching, but most of all their beautiful and caring hearts. I consider them to to be the two most influential people in my life, and I am honored to be the person who is entrusted to continue their legacy.”
Center Stage is located at the Richard O. Belden Cultural Center l at 54 Grove Street. For more information about the audition or Center Stage, visit centerstageshelton.org or call 203-225-6079.