The Delray Beach Playhouse's artistic director Randolph DelLago celebrates his 40th year at the theater
Take a drive down historic Swinton Avenue in Delray Beach and tucked away at the end of a quiet residential street, in Lake Ida Park, you’ll find the iconic Delray Beach Playhouse — a community theater that’s been around since 1947.
Randolph DelLago, its artistic director, has been working at the theatre for forty years. In 1982, he moved here from Wilmington, N.C., where he was working at the historic Thalian Hall, a theater and performing arts arts center.
The Playhouse's green room — a show business term for the place where performers lounge when they’re not on stage — has posters from past productions on its walls and hundreds of books on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. There, amid the theater's history, he spoke to WLRN about his own trajectory.
“The Delray Beach Playhouse had lost their resident director and they were auditioning other directors,” DelLago said. “I was chosen to do their last show — Arsenic and Old Lace — and it was a huge success. I’ve been here ever since.”
As a young man, DelLago always thought he’d be an English teacher. Until one day, a friend dragged him by the hand to the high school theatre. His friend convinced him to take a small part in The Miracle Worker.
The play was set to open on Nov. 22, 1963 — the day John F. Kennedy was assasinated.
“It was a very strange day as you can imagine,” DelLago recalled. “At one point during the play, I heard grown men sobbing. I was certain they were crying about the death of JFK. And it occurred to me that the theatre was an extraordinary place — and I stayed with the high school theatre group until I graduated from high school,” he said.
Shortly thereafter, he was cast in a high school performance of South Pacific. “I wasn’t a singer, but I had to sing. And apparently, I had a voice that could be heard,” DelLago said.
The second night of the show, he was approached by someone from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He wanted to give DelLago a full drama scholarship. “Well, I planned to go there anyways and study English, which I did, but I minored in drama and received the scholarship," he said.
Dellago truly enjoys what he’s doing. He loves working with the talented pool of amateur actors in South Florida — many of them have been performing in his productions since he started at the theatre in 1982.
“This theatre is only about the play. What makes this theatre unique is it has always had a professional director and professional technical director,” he said. Other community theaters may not have a professional staff, and perhaps the quality of the productions reflect that.
DelLago said he has no plans of retiring anytime soon. “I can’t imagine retiring," he explained. "If you really love what you’re doing — and I do — why would you want to stop doing it?”