Skiba happy to land role in retirement-community-set ‘BOCA’

It’s hard to believe — with 30 stage productions to his credit since retiring from his government job in 2011 — but Dennis Skiba once had stage fright.

“I dabbled with the idea of acting way back in college, and I did try out and got cast for ‘Our Town,’ but then I chickened out,” said Skiba, a Troy native who will be in his fourth production at Curtain Call Theatre in “BOCA,” opening Thursday night in Latham. “I think I wanted to experience the whole process to see if I could get cast. But then I got cold feet.”

That hasn’t been a problem for some time. Since landing a role in the Classic Guild Theater production of “The Verdict” back in the fall of 2011 in Schenectady, Skiba has barely been offstage.

“I worked for the federal government for 34 years and during that last year I had these soul-searching discussions with myself: ‘So, what are you going to do when you retire?’ ” said Skiba. “I thought taking a few acting classes would be a good idea and I really got into it. I’m having a lot of fun with it and I’m not gonna give it up anytime soon.”

In Jessica Provenz’s 2021 play “BOCA,” set in a retirement community in Florida, Skiba plays two characters, each dealing in their own way with the realization of being in their late 60s. The play is directed by David Bunce. Also in the ensemble cast are Pat Brady, Gary Hoffman, Melissa Putterman Hoffman and Susan Katz.

“One of my characters is ‘Mo’ and he’s a guy with a real sunny disposition, always high on life and eternally optimistic,” said Skiba. “The other guy is Bruce, a corporate lawyer whose wife has just passed away. So he’s a widower, a hot item, or what they call him in BOCA is ‘fresh meat.’ He’s decisive, very assertive, sharp dresser, very smart and a good golfer with a low handicap. So they are two very distinct characters.”

Playing different personalities in one show isn’t easy, but it’s a challenge Skiba relishes.

“Each character has a different look, so I have a couple of quick costume changes but it’s nothing I haven’t done in other shows,” he said. “I’m not the only one playing more than one character and we’re all having fun. We have a cast of seasoned veterans and I guess I would throw myself into that category.”

Skiba says the play includes a little bit of everything.

“It’s a place that can offer up the fountain of youth, and ‘BOCA’ is described as a Garden of Eden where the skies are always blue and the temperature is always a perfect 75,” said Skiba. “It’s a very funny play but also very touching in parts. It’s about a bunch of retirees who are trying to make a happy life for themselves, but it’s not always easy.

“It’s like a series of vignettes,” continued Skiba, who is now a Latham resident and is performing in his fourth Curtain Call production. “It’s a cross between a ‘Golden Girls’ episode and a Carol Burnett sketch, with a little of Mary Tyler Moore thrown in. It’s a very well-balanced play.”

Skiba, who also has performed with Schenectady Civic Players and in Saratoga Springs with Home Made Theater, is also getting into the directing aspect of theater. In May of 2022 he directed “Exit Strategy” for Harbinger Theatre at the Albany Barn, and the following month he was in charge of the Sand Lake Center for the Arts production of “The Lyons.”

“Now I also find myself serving as a coordinator for a drama club in Troy,” he said. “I’m enjoying everything I’m doing.”

So much so, in fact, that he still loves to practice his craft. His first acting class was with Lora Lee Ecobelli of Ballston Spa and he continues to work with Patrick White of Albany.

“I’m always trying to perfect my craft, like any athlete trying to get better at the game he plays,” said Skiba. “I worked with Lora Lee for a couple of years and I’m still doing acting class with Patrick. It helps. It’s fun. So I will continue to take acting classes.”

Provenz is a graduate of Northwestern University and a Lenox, Massachusetts, resident who works as director of development for the Barrington Stage Company. She’s also an accomplished playwright, having served as playwright-in-residence at the Juilliard School, where she studied under Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman. “BOCA” was first produced at Great Barrington Stage in August of 2021 under the direction of Julianne Boyd.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that the show is “both funny and at times quite surprisingly touching … blessedly devoid of all forms of moralizing, a la Neil Simon.”

‘BOCA’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through Dec. 17; performances Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be one Saturday matinee on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $30
MORE INFO: curtaincalltheatre.com or (518) 877-7529

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