By Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer
After a successful spring season, Players, Manhattan College’s performing arts group, is stepping into the year with a new board of leaders and an entirely new director. Will Erat, a performer himself, is looking forward to getting to work with the program and collaborate with the community.
Erat has performed in both Off-Broadway and Broadway shows including “Catch Me if You Can,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Touring has also been a large part of his life, as he got to explore many different locations all around the world, traveling with performing arts groups and even touring with the influential composer Philip Glass for three to four years. Erat mentioned how he was in Germany the day that 9/11 took place.
“We were going to change money in a bank in Hanover, Germany, and they had a big TV. We thought it was like an action movie or something,” Erat said.
Learning is very important to Erat, as he believes he is still learning himself. Dabbling in directing is not a foreign concept to him, even though he considers himself to come from a more performance-oriented background.
“I mean, I want to learn more,” Erat said. “I want to learn on the job … I don’t want to say fake it till you make it because I’m not faking anything. I know how to do this. But there’s nothing like learning by doing and that’s what I’ve always done.”
Originally from Boston, Erat grew up in Philadelphia where he originally discovered his passion for the arts. He started off his career in the Philadelphia Boys Choir, where he caught the “performance bug” as he calls it. Many years later, Erat attended Northwestern University with a scholarship for his vocal abilities and began his journey into professional theater.
“I got a lot of opportunities in Northwestern, it was a really wonderful place to be and taught me a lot of professionalism,” Erat said.
Players also recently introduced their new Student Board for the 2022-2023 school year. The Players Board makes decisions for the club as a whole, while advocating for the general membership.
The relationship between the board and the director is crucial for the show business process, which is why the board was actually able to sit in on the hiring process, explained Annie Brennan, Players’ newly-appointed house manager.
“I thought he had a lot of really great things to say during the interview. He’s had a lot of great experience that would be really interesting to learn from,” Brennan said.
By involving the students into the hiring process, Erat felt that it set the tone for what he was walking into.
“That shows that the students own the Players,” Erat said. “So, I think that’s great. I took that as a big positive.”
The beginning of the 2022-2023 school year was a bit of a rocky start for Players, when they found out their previous director was not returning, three weeks before the first day of classes. With tensions running high, they were able to find a new director, and create a learning experience out of it, explained TJ Perez, production manager.
“It was very nice to be included too, and it was a great experience to sit in and to get to ask questions and have a say in the future of the club,” Perez said.
This new directing position has encouraged excited attitudes directed towards the season. Erat mentioned how he hopes that he can create a safe environment that tackles issues inside and outside of the performing arts world.
“I think there are ways to talk about anything respectfully, and we should be able to do that. I want to create a safe space in my rehearsal room, in the theater, so that we can do that.”
With so much experience and knowledge in the field of theater, Manhattan College Players is excited to welcome Erat into the family. For Erat’s part, he cannot wait to teach students about what he loves.
“My acting teacher in college always said, ‘It’s not going to be interesting and no one’s going to watch unless you’re living on stage.’ So you have to be able to really inhabit the part, you have to be able to know it well enough so you can let it go and just be. So I want to teach kids how to do that and I think I know how,” Erat said.
Players announced their upcoming play as “An Enemy of the People,” and encouraged all students to audition. Auditions take place on September 27 at the front of the Black Box Theater located on the fifth floor of Thomas Hall.
RJ Giannicchi served as a student director for Players last year. Now a senior, he also expressed his love for the club, and encouraged students to try it out.
“Players was one of the most welcoming and open clubs that I’ve ever been a part of here at Manhattan College. It’s a club that I think everyone should join, or try at least once.”