Actor Marcia Pizzo is currently playing Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra with Marin Shakespeare Company, for whom she's played roles in the past such as Lady Macbeth, Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Rosalind in As You Like It. A longtime Marin resident who attended Redwood High and College of Marin, Pizzo got her BA in theatre arts at UCLA and her MFA from American Conservatory Theater. She's recently been seen in First Day of School at SF Playhouse and Round and Round the Garden and Rock 'n' Roll at ACT, and before that in Restoration Comedy at California Shakespeare Theater, another company she's done a number of shows with in the past. She's also appeared in shows at Marin Theatre Company, the Mountain Play, Pacific Rep, Pacific Alliance, 42nd Street Moon, the Stage Door Theatre and Theatre on the Square.
What was your first show out of school?
I think my first was the Mountain Play, The King and I. I started doing musicals, which wasn't what my plan was. When I graduated from ACT, I was so, "I'm going to spend my life doing Shakespeare, Shaw and Chekhov. That's it." And it just doesn't turn out that way. But I love musicals, so that was fun. I got pregnant during that show. I was corseted and [in a] hoop skirt, and I had a mike pack on my back, and I think by closing I'd ripped the back of my dress.
You've done many Mountain Plays.
I went to College of Marin—it wasn't where I wanted to go, but financially I had to go to junior college. But they had a fabulous drama department, so it worked out beautifully because I had all these fabulous roles on my résumé so when I transferred from there to UCLA I got really good roles. The gentleman who directs the Mountain Play, Jim Dunn, was a teacher [at College of Marin], so every time I work on the mountain it's like working with my dad.
Where did you grow up?
I've lived in Marin since I was five. I grew up in Greenbrae. I was born in Miami. Both my parents worked so I had a nanny, and she had a Southern accent. So I had a Southern accent when I came here, and they made me go to speech therapy in first grade to get rid of it. I live in Mill Valley now, and I went to ACT for my master's degree, so everything's been local except for UCLA.
How did you get into theatre?
I just always knew I wanted to do it. I feel fortunate: I have two children, and a husband who I met in the theatre. We're a team, and I feel fortunate that I can do my work, because it's hard to make a living. I've been able to have a family and raise children and never give up my career. Now my little boy is at Marin Theatre Company doing theatre camp, because he's determined to be an actor. I said to him, "Well, sweetheart, that's great. Follow your dream, but it's really hard to make a living." He said, "Oh, mom, I'm not going to be an actor like you—I'm going to be like Dustin Hoffman." "Oh! Great—do it fast, and hire me!"
Are there things that you would like to be doing more of?
I would like to be able to do Chekhov. I've never worked at Berkeley Rep—it's the one theatre I've never worked at—and I'd love to make my way in there because I love what they do there and I love that space. I wanted a film career when I was younger, but so few opportunities have come up here and because I always had a child I wasn't in a position to go to L.A. That's something I'd like more opportunity to pursue maybe. It's so different, though. What I really long for more than anything is to be a part of an artistic family. I have had a taste of that at ACT. Working with their core acting company and with Carey, I have experienced the joy of having an artistic home. I hope someday to be a part of some theatre's core ensemble.
If you hadn't gone into theatre, what would you would be doing?
We play this game sometimes in my family, and I always come back to performing. Like a ballerina, that was something that I dreamt of doing when I was young. I took a lot of ballet. Another thing I loved was art history. My little guy who wants to be an actor, out of the blue he said to me, "Mom, is a marine biologist a day job?" I said, "Yeah, I guess I'd consider that a day job." he said, "Great. I'm going to be a marine biologist for my day job and an actor."