Student director soars with Theatre UAB productions, KCACTF honors

After co-directing Theatre UAB’s production of “Angels in America,” Hayley Procacci will graduate Dec. 15 and head to New York to make a movie.

post hayley procacci 416Hayley Procacci has always loved stories. 

From listening to stories as a child to acting out her favorite movies in the living room, she says that, growing up, she gave her mother “no choice” but to let her live her life in the theater. 

“Acting let me strip down whatever was going on from my day and learn about humanity by walking in another person’s shoes,” Procacci said. “I thought everyone should hear more stories because, to me, it teaches empathy and community.” 

This month, Procacci, of Orlando, Florida, will graduate with a degree in theater from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her work in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre was recognized this semester when she was chosen as the student co-director for Theatre UAB’s most recent main stage production, “Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches.” 

It is a rare honor for students in the department to be entrusted with the mantle of directing, and this ambitious undertaking was well-received: Procacci is nominated for an “Excellence in Directing” honor by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. 

Through extensive mentorship, the Department of Theatre is committed to creating opportunities for students who plan to pursue a career in directing, says Professor Karla Koskinen, who teaches acting and directing and worked with Procacci. 

“It is the exceptional student who has demonstrated a record of achievement in directing that is allowed to direct a mainstage production,” Koskinen said. “Hayley directed an individual project, ‘Gruesome Playground Injuries,’ was an assistant director on ‘Silent Sky’ and participated as a director for the KCACTF Ten-Minute Play Competition where her work was singled out by the respondents, before being invited to co-direct ‘Angels in America’ with Jack Cannon.” KCACTF also nominated two students in the play for Irene Ryan Acting awards and another for stage management. The student dramaturge and costume designer were also nominated for KCACTF honors. 

In the past 10 years, just three other students have been invited to direct a Theatre UAB main stage play in the department: Luke Harlan directed “The Laramie Project” in 2008, Dustin Cañez directed “How I Learned to Drive” in 2010, and Rebecca Jones directed “Women of War” in 2014. 

Cannon says he was immediately on board when he was approached with the idea of having Procacci as a co-director. He had worked with her in the past as a student and an actress in plays and was impressed with her “commitment, assertiveness, talent, and her never-ending willingness to learn and grow as an artist. Hayley lived up to those past impressions and surpassed them. 

Read more graduating student stories from UAB News

“‘Angels in America’ is one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ plays,” Cannon said. “It challenges the most experienced of artists. She met the challenge with unrelenting passion and insight. Hayley ultimately led a company of more than 30 actors, designers and technicians to not just a successful production but also one that surpassed all expectations.” In fact, the show had near capacity crowds almost every night of the two-week run. 

Working as a student director alongside her professors was unique, riveting and inspiring each day of the process, Procacci says. 

“I was able to learn from my peers who were actors cast in our show, as well as learn multitudes from my co-director and professor, Jack Cannon, and the entire team of talented staff members,” Procacci said. “I am humbled to have been given the opportunity and to work in such an immersive and passionate environment and be given trust on a show like this.” 

After graduation, Proccaci plans to move to New York, to audition and create her own shows, and to work with other like-minded artists. She has a contract to shoot a movie, “Quiet Nights,” in June 2019. Procacci says watching “Angels in America,” her final Theatre UAB show, open was an experience she will never forget, and she is grateful to have made an impact. 

“I am proud to give the company this show, and was inspired by the choices and inner life of the play each time I saw it with friends and family,” she said. “I am thrilled to have worked on a show of this caliber, and hunger to eventually bring more stories to life that deal with social justice, new works and experimental techniques in my future endeavors.”