University of South Florida

Who knew? On-stage role gives glimpse of USF Health colleague’s side interest and talent

We all know our workmates at work, but few of us know how they spend their spare time. It can be a fun surprise to learn about our colleagues’ hobbies and interests.

One such example is with Robert Pelaia, deputy general counsel at USF, who provides legal support services for USF Health. He recently held a role in the local production of The Drowsy Chaperone, produced by mad Theatre of Tampa and held at the Straz Center of Performing Arts in Tampa (here’s the Playbill from the performance).

This play follows a show-within-a-show structure, creating a musical within a comedy that pokes fun at the many facets that characterize musical theater. The plot includes mistaken identities and dream sequences, looking at a fictitious “famous” musical through the eyes of a fan of musical theater. As he narrates and plays that show’s soundtrack album, the musical comes to life in his living room. The original U.S. stage performance of The Drowsy Chaperone opened on Broadway in 2006.

In the recent production in Tampa, Pelaia played Aldolpho, a character who is a bit of a womanizing cad who is very impressed with himself, and who takes part in a ploy to derail the wedding of the two main characters in the fictitious musical. Like other roles in The Drowsy Chaperone, Aldolpho’s character employs Vaudeville-style acting and good comic timing, and Pelaia met that mark as he played Aldolpho.

Participating in community theater is not new for Pelaia – he has been acting since he was in elementary school and involved in community theater for a few decades. In high school, he connected with community theater group in his hometown in New Jersey and, at the start of his career after college, he connected with community theater in Jacksonville. In Tampa, he’s in touch with theater groups throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Pelaia’s acting interests cross all genres and he has acted in a full range, from drama to musicals.

He urges others to get involved in community theater but to know that the commitment can’t be taken lightly.

“Rehearsals are nearly every evening of the week, so getting involved in a production that isn’t nearby means you will drive a lot for a few months to get to rehearsals and then go to every performance, which can typically run for several weeks, including at several weekends,” he said.

With a full-time career, he is careful when choosing productions with which to be involved.

“For me, it has to be a show I really like and the location is also a key factor,” Pelaia said. “It’s a big commitment of time and it has to fit into your schedule.”

Pelaia appreciated the positive response he received for his involvement and role in The Drowsy Chaperone.

“I’m honored by the outpouring of support,” he said.

And now that his USF Health colleagues know about his talent for acting?

“We work with people every day and yet we have no idea what they do in their spare time,” he said. “So, while it’s rewarding to share my interest in acting with others, it’s a great opportunity to hear what their interests are, too.”

Images courtesy of Chaz D. Photography

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