Stars Behind the Stars: Janelle Caso ’17
BY Robbie Armstrong, April 2, 2021
Stars Behind The Stars is a bi-weekly series featuring theatre makers behind the scenes.
This week, we sat down with Alumna Janelle Caso ’17. Caso is a Cancer whose recent work includes Coal Country and Romeo Y Julieta at the Public Theatre.
Tell me about your first time in Theatre.
Janelle Caso: That was in high school. I was lazy and didn’t want to walk home so I’d hang out by the theatre. The theatre teacher, Ms. Fox lured me in and I became a Stage Manager. I ended up doing the show Bye Bye Birdie at my high school. At that point I was in the shows and working as the stage manager. We did Brigadoon and Jekyll & Hyde too. Growing up in New Jersey, theatre was always a part of my life. My first Broadway show was Moon Over Buffalo with Robert Goulet and Lynn Redgrave. There was a moment in the show where an actor disappeared through a trap door and I was in awe of the stage magic. That was the one moment I could not stop thinking about. I went to the stage door after the show to meet the cast. That’s when I met Lynn Redgrave and told her that I was going to do this as a career.
How does being a Cancer appear in your work?
JC: I’m a water sign and my best friend is Rachel Zucker ’17 who is also a Cancer. This is where my compassion and my care for a company comes from. Being a Cancer is extremely vulnerable. Cancers wear their emotions on their sleeves. I’ve been in rehearsal and crying because of the beauty of the show. That empathic trait allows me to connect to the show, the cast, and the entire company.
Tell me about your time working in Philadelphia.
JC: Right after college I moved to Philadelphia with some friends. I worked with the New City Stage Company as their resident Production Stage Manager. Then I went to the Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival. I realized that there wasn’t much else to do in Philadelphia. I wanted to move up in the field and I wanted to be reinspired. I felt very connected to Columbia because my grandmother went there. She was a teacher and social worker who had immigrated from Cuba and studied at Columbia. It was the only school I applied to for stage management.
How did you get started at The Public Theater?
JC: I was doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with [Associate Professor] Michael Passaro. I was subbing on that show right after graduating from Stage Management school. I did a workshop of Romeo & Juliet in spanish and then I moved on to Oedipus El Rey. I’ve done three shows with them during the pandemic which has been great and I’m so grateful to be working. I’m very at home at the Public and I like the people there a lot.
Tell me about some of your shows at the Public.
JC: Most recently I worked on Romeo Y Julieta, a bilingual radio show that we put on during the pandemic [directed by alumnus Saheem Ali '07]. It was a challenging show with a 25 person cast, over Zoom, which ain’t cute. It ain’t cute because there are internet issues and complications with learning new technology. With so many actors on a virtual platform, issues come about. It was hard for me because with some of those issues, I couldn’t really help anyone.
One of my past shows, Oedipus El Rey was absolutely incredible. It was a life affirming moment for me in the theatre. All the cast were latinx cast members and all of the crew members were women. It was a great show and a great team.
How was Mlima’s Tale?
JC: I worked with [Adjunct Assistant Professor] Linda Marvel on that one. It was a small cast and all of the actors were playing multiple characters and the movement of the show gave me a very fun deck track. It was my first time working on a raked stage which was sometimes tough on the actors and crew. There were two times where the actors went up on their lines and I had to scream/whisper the lines to them. The actor who played the elephant role was freezing on stage because that theatre was particularly cold and he was covered in clay makeup. That show also had some automation in it so there were many moving parts.
What’s your favorite theatrical experience?
JC: This is so corny, but I really loved Les Miserables the first time I saw it. I saw Les Miz and Phantom of the Opera on the same day, which is a lot for one day. I’ve seen Les Miserables at least 7 times. I saw Arturo Louis at Classic Stage Company and it was truly incredible. In this show, the main character became an evil dictator by the end. I like to see shows multiple times. I saw Bright Star four times. What I loved so much about that one was that it was a simple story, a simple set, and it was magic.
What’s next for you?
JC: I just finished a reading yesterday. I hopefully will be going up to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival this summer. It will be an outdoor performance under a tent. My hope is that I can go back to Coal Country at the Public. It’s a beautiful show.