Rochester Magazine: [Signing “good morning” in American Sign Language].
Marco Magno: Good morning to you.
RM: You’re learning sign language?
MM: I’m trying. I realized, while learning languages all over the places that I’ve been, something that fascinates me is communicating without words.
RM: Like your ballet career?
MM: Correct. Yes. So that you don’t need all these walls ... to translate the closest you can in another language, like German, or Swedish, or French. You just express.
RM [butchering the Italian pronunciation]: Sono passati due anni. Come ti piace Rochester?
MM: Yes, I have lived here two years. How do I like Rochester? I think it’s the perfect size for me because I lived in Minneapolis, and it’s too frantic all the time. Always. Going to work or moving around. Whereas here I can focus just on work.
RM: So would you say my Italian there was perfect?
MM: It was good. Yes, yes. A little bit more confident. It was fine. Not to worry.
RM: You grew up in Italy.
MM: Milan. And then, for the last 12 years in Italy, I moved to Florence. It was a good childhood. My parents were fairly present even though they were busy. My father was a lawyer. My mother had a PhD in philosophy; she was a professor. And so we needed to speak well. We had to be very, very proper. They caught me once speaking a dialect or something. It was the first and last time that I tried to speak like that.
RM: Tell me about when you first decided you wanted to be a ballet dancer.
MM: I was 15 when I saw The Nutcracker on TV, and I was like, “I want to do this.” My parents were quite upset. I mean, they were kind of old guard. They said, “Oh, no.” So, for almost a month, I didn’t speak a word to them. I just said, “Good morning. Good night.” I knew dancing was something I had to do.
RM: Your parents must have bought in at some point.
MM: They wanted me to go to college. So I sort of came to terms with them, saying, “Okay, I do this for you but I keep dancing.” When I started dancing, they realized the effort, and physical effort, that you have to put in. It’s not just jumping around on stage. They realized that it’s quite a job.
RM: You danced professionally for years.
MM: Yes. All over Europe. When I was 27, I broke a foot while doing a class. I just exited without any kind of regret. I think it was the right time for me to stop. And therefore afterwards, I just focused on costumes and other stuff.
RM: How often do you get back to Italy?
MM: I haven’t been there since 2009, since I moved to the United States. I received my citizenship and passport last Sunday.
RM: Congratulations. How was that process? I mean, that has to be kind of scary and daunting.
MM: It is. It is. It is.
RM: I’ve heard most Americans couldn’t answer the questions that you have to answer on the citizenship exam.
MM: Right. I asked a couple friends the hundred questions, and there were many they didn’t even know.
RM: Is the test verbal?
MM: Yes. They talk to you at a little table. They ask you why you want to stay, about all these kind of things. And then they ask you 10 questions of those 100. You write down an answer to show you can write. It was a little bit scary in a way because these political times are quite difficult. But the next day came the communication that I was accepted.
RM: You’ve worked with some pretty big costumers on some pretty big productions, like I Dreamed of Africa and A Knight’s Tale. You worked with Sophia Loren on Francesca and Nunziata. Do you take your job with you? Do you see people on the street and think, “Oh my God, I can dress that guy so much better”?
MM: Not much. Not anymore. When I came over to the U.S. in 2009, I was like, “Hmmm. People with the PJ trousers at Walmart.” This kind of style was terrifying.
RM: I’m going to give you some facts about three different co-workers at Rochester Civic Theatre. Don’t answer until the end. First fact: In the mid-’80s, this person bought a $1,200 VCR and a $39 copy of Purple Rain and used that as a pickup line when the bars would close. “Hey, do you want to go to my house and watch Purple Rain?”
RM: Fact for coworker number two: This person regularly watches the TV show “Castle” while riding their exercycle and thinking about gluing wooden shower curtain rings on furniture to resell it.
RM: Fact for coworker number three: This co-worker has an alter ego who regularly performs elaborate numbers on various stages in town.
MM: OK. I’m going to guess number three is Daniel Zellar. Number one I will guess is Doug Sween. And for number two I’ll guess Sinead Chick.
RM: No. Actually, all three are Sinead Chick.
MM: No! You’re joking!
RM: Yes. I’m kidding. The VCR thing was Brent Ackerman. The exercycle is Doug Sween. The alter-ego was Daniel Zellar.
MM: Okay. Well, in my defense, I have to say Brent just arrived. I don’t know him very well. I don’t see Doug very often. But good to know this because now I can make fun of them.
RM: That’s the whole point of this. I’ve done my job here.