Mr. Chillemi: Footloose, Theater Experience, and More!


Metta Pollio

Metta: Hi Mr. Chillemi, I wanted to ask you a few questions about your theater experience and Footloose! Firstly, what inspired you to put on the play Footloose?

Mr. Chillemi: So, I am fairly old and when I was younger I remember the movie Footloose coming out, and I was a big fan. It actually inspired me to take break dancing lessons when I was younger. When I started directing shows about 4 years ago, one of the shows I knew I always wanted to do was Footloose. Assuming we got the cast that we were able to do it with, you need a certain type of cast to be able to perform the singing and dancing necessary. So it was always a show in my head, and I wanted to do it because I loved the singing and dancing so much.

Metta: That’s super cool! What was your favorite dance scene from Footloose?

Mr. Chillemi: Alright, so we were fortunate to have Ms. Kuranishi, who was our choreographer, so the dances were great. If I had to pick a favorite dance, I would have to say the opening number. In the Broadway show, it combines two songs, Footloose, and an original song called On Any Sunday. So it’s actually an 8-minute opening number. The dance kind of covers that whole span from where Ren is in Chicago, to where he goes to Bomont. There were a lot of moving parts, so it took a lot of work to get there. It was really cool to see all of the moving parts come together.

Metta: What about your favorite song from the show?

Mr. Chillemi: Song? My favorite song in the whole show is probably Let’s Hear It For The Boy. It’s a song from the ’80s that was one of the songs in the movie that they turned into a show song. And that was Mae Curiale in the show. It was one of my favorite songs in the show, and with the dance it was awesome.

Metta: Let’s Hear It For The Boy was a really good song! Personally, my favorite was Somebody’s Eyes. Anyway, what inspired you to start putting on plays at North Shore?

Mr. Chillemi: I’ve always been a theater fan. When I was younger, in Middle School and High School, I was involved in the shows. I did a couple of shows when I was a student, you know, smaller parts, ensemble, leads, the whole 9 yards. Never really did anything after that, I graduated, but when I got involved as a teacher, I thought it would be a cool thing to do at some point. Took me a while to get my foot in the door because there was always someone else doing it, and I didn’t want to take the job away from someone else. About 4 years ago, I put it in word that I wanted to do it, and the principal at the time supported that. Then we did four shows that have all been very successful. And we have a great team of teachers that work together. So I love theater and am a big fan of Broadway musicals. 

Metta: Interesting! What has been your favorite play that you’ve ever put on? 

Mr. Chillemi: Okay, I’ve got to say that they’ve all been great for a variety of different reasons. We did Bye Bye Birdie first, then Frozen, and then we did Emma. But my favorite was this one. I think this was a very challenging show, so I love it because it just allowed us to see all of the middle school kids, the cast, and the crew. It was great.

Metta: I saw the play last Sunday, it was amazing! You did a great job. What is your favorite part of working with the students to put on plays? 

Mr. Chillemi: Thank you, thank you. I’ll tell you a little bit about the theater groups. So when we do a show, it becomes a very close-knit group of kids cast and crew, and they hang out for long hours for several months, when we’re putting on the show. I love seeing the little unique perspective because you don’t see that in class, but you don’t see those kids together, right? So they get to spend some time together. They develop close relationships across grades 6,7, 8. It’s nice to see eighth graders talking to sixth-graders in the hallway. I like seeing culture built and I like being part of helping that culture be built. And again, I like seeing these kids do things, especially during these difficult times right things that they enjoy and take them away from the stress right that they’re dealing with on a regular basis. 

Metta: I was in cross country, and I definitely see what you’re talking about. It’s similar to sports. What do you think was your greatest achievement with the plays you’ve put on?

Mr. Chillemi: My favorite achievement? If we’re talking about the theater world in terms of shows we put on, there definitely have been some difficult things that we had to make happen in Footloose. At the end with the confetti cannon was a little bit of a challenge trying to time that right and make that work. That was pretty cool. There were great challenges when we did Frozen. When she sings Let It Go, she’s in her regular coronation dress. Then she’s got to switch over to the ice palace dress that has to happen during the song. So it’s like a very quick, magical dress change. So that was a very cool thing that we were able to make happen. So those are kind of like theater tricks, tech-savvy things that I was happy to make work.

Metta: Wow, that’s amazing! Finally, what was your past theater experience before North Shore?

Mr. Chillemi: So I started teaching, this my 20th year. I graduated college, it was a few years before I started teaching. So I’ve actually worked for a restaurant called the Cheesecake Factory when I was, you know, in my early 20s. They were still relatively new at that time. I would help them open up new restaurants. So I traveled the country. And every time they opened up a new restaurant, say like in Dallas, Texas, or Phoenix, Arizona, I’d be one of the people they would bring in to help train the new staff, right. And that’s kind of what got me into wanting to be a teacher because I was teaching right, these new people to be servers or bakers, or whatever they were doing. And then I just didn’t want to travel anymore. So I decided, let me come back home, go back to school. And I became an educator. And then got into the theater again. Actually, I’ll just tell the story too because it’s part of what I do and why I do it. When I was in sixth grade, A new teacher started. His name was Mr. Olavari, and he started a theater program in my Middle School that he’s still running to this day, and my son has been in his show. He was my sixth-grade science teacher, and he inspired me. And then when I got here, I’m like, I got to be just like this guy. You know, I want to be so I wanted to be the science teacher. And you have a teacher that impacts you, right. So he definitely inspired me to be the person I am here. And it was super cool, and I’ve told him that. So that’s pretty cool.

Metta: Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it.

Mr. Chillemi: No problem!