Christopher Zullo Seeks to Bring Live Entertainment to the Green After COVID Hiatus
Spotlight Stage Company (SSC) had just found its groove and had begun making a home in North Haven when COVID-19 changed everything. Christopher Zullo, director and co-founder of SSC, has been involved in theater for as long as he can remember and for the first time in his life, live performances disappeared.
“March 14 rolled around and the plug was pulled on everything,” says Christopher. “This whole entire experience of the pandemic and live events being shut down has been pretty tricky, especially for our company because we were so new. A lot of people involved with us are teachers and were still trying to figure out how to educate their students. We needed to take a breather, but now everyone is itching to get back on stage.”
Though performing has been off the table, it has never been far from Christopher’s mind. He has been in constant communication with his team, which includes fellow co-founders Sandy Mascia and Jennifer Kaye, along with Lauren Turenne, Cheyenne Santello, and Matt Durland.
With Connecticut’s numbers reaching the point where some reopening has been allowed, the team began to discuss SSC’s next performance. The company was in the process of producing three shows that were all put on hold due to COVID and while Christopher intends to resume each of them, the number of people in the cast, orchestra, and crew doesn’t allow them to go on at this time.
“We thought about what’s impactful enough to the community and the audience but small enough for a cast, band, and crew so we can do it somewhere outside,” says Christopher. “Songs for a New World is a small but mighty show that’s appropriate now with how people are feeling. There are 18 numbers in the show and they’re all different stories from 1492 on the deck of a Spanish sailing ship to 57 stories up in the air on ledge of a building. The stories change so quick it’ll give you whiplash.”
Christopher has fond memories of the show as he performed in an off-Broadway production 12 years ago. He notes that the show focuses mainly on four singers, along with backup singers, as well as dancers to “really bring the story to life.”
SSC will host the production on the North Haven Green on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17 with tickets soon to be available through www.spotlightstagecompany.com. The show will be held outdoors in a socially distanced environment following state health guidelines. Christopher is looking to get local businesses or food trucks involved.
“We try to make an event more of an experience and really immerse you in the show,” says Christopher. “We’re looking to make it an impactful couple of hours were people can cut the edges of their real world away. The North Haven Green is a beautiful community space and we’ve had a lot of success and luck in North Haven in the past.”
While Christopher lives in Higganum with Brian, his husband of seven years, and their two dogs and three cats, he has enjoyed getting to know the Town of North Haven. This is not the first time SSC will be performing on the green as it brought Fame in the summer of 2019. Christopher is thankful to First Selectman Mike Freda and the administrative team in town for their support.
“We wanted to make a splash when there was nothing going on in the arts and we were overwhelmed with how well-received it was,” says Christopher. “The more we were able to create a season and get more people involved, it seemed like we were really onto something.”
SSC was founded after Christopher and Mascia had spent time together on the board of another theater company. They began to discuss organizing their own company.
“We want to be different, inclusive, educational, and provide an environment where everyone can learn something,” says Christopher, who also works with Mascia on Can U Sing USA, a virtual singing competition. “It doesn’t matter what your performance background is, if you’re a kid or adult, or whether it’s a hobby or you want to go to school for it, we want to build everybody up.”
Christopher has a wealth of experience to share with those who have a passion for the arts as he has worked professionally in film, television, and theater for more than 15 years. He has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in Romeo & Juliet and has been a member of the Screen Actors Guild since 2009.
Christopher has also danced with various dance companies in Connecticut, New York, and Florida including LaMar Productions, Main Street Ballet, Thrive: The Essence of Dance, and Cirque Le Masque.
After SSC’s production of Fame on the North Haven Green, Christopher and his team had a full season planned. The company partnered with Stand Up and Speak Out, an anti-bullying organization, with Christopher writing and directing the project.
Stand Up and Speak Out had toured local schools including North Haven and was preparing a live world premiere at the High Lane Country Club before COVID-19 put it on hold.
SSC was also preparing Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat with costumes, music books, and set pieces already being prepared for a May 2020 performance. The 35-person cast and 10-person orchestra is now on hold with hopes of performing at a later date. SSC was also slated to produce Once On This Island in August.
“All of us in the company were also all involved in other shows at schools or community theaters and everybody lost the ability to do everything,” says Christopher, who also enjoys running. “For us, we’re down three shows at this point. We all felt like a fish out of water because we were stripped of something that is so normal to us. We were ready for our season to start and it was over before it began.”
With Songs for a New World now in the works, Christopher, his team, and the cast are all excited to “get back into shape and flex our artistic muscles.” The team is busy preparing and the cast is rehearsing in preparation to bring a live performance to North Haven. Tickets will be available online later this week and should the show need to be canceled due to a change in health mandates or weather, refunds will be offered.
“Everyone involved has been waiting to do something and everyone is so excited,” says Christopher. “This one is let us get our feet wet again. It will also allow us to learn what this process will be with COVID restrictions, so we have more of an idea for when we want to do a bigger show. We’re hopeful that when 2021 rolls around, there will be a little more normality to our state and the arts industry.”
For information, visit spotlightstagecompany.com.