An engineer by day, alumnus Brett DiCello commands the spotlight at night. Thanks, Mom.
By John Canale
Brett DiCello’s theater career started with a bribe when he was six years old.
“My mom said she would take me to McDonald’s if I went to an after-school theater group called Creative Experiences,” DiCello recalled. “I played Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I had this gag where I’d yawn and say, ‘I need a nap.’ The audience would laugh.”
He can still hear it.
“I enjoyed getting that reaction from the audience so much, and I still do!”
During the day, DiCello ’18 puts his biomedical engineering degree to use as an associate development engineer at Invacare Corp. in Elyria, Ohio. At night, he turns to his theater degree and takes to the stage as a working actor all over Greater Cleveland.
Over the years, DiCello has taken on such well-known roles as Tony in Grease and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. While at Case, he was a mainstay on the Eldred Theatre stage and since graduation has been in a variety of productions at Cleveland Public Theatre. Last December, DiCello was part of Teatro Publico De Cleveland’s production of Xmas Cuento Remix, a Latino take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which he played a caroler and a police officer.
While DiCello credits his mother for the start in theater, she also played a role in his development as an engineer. As a senior in high school outside of Pittsburgh, PA, he won a performing arts scholarship to Case Western Reserve and his path to Cleveland was set. But his mother had one more bit of advice.
“She told me there was no way I was only going to get a degree in theater,” he said. “I had to add another major.”
Growing up, DiCello, who currently lives in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, had always had a love for science. In high school, he discovered biology and became more interested in the medical side of engineering, which led him to study biomedical engineer-ing at the Case School of Engineering.
“I was always drawn to physics and sports science,” DiCello said. “Biomedical engineering includes a lot of biomechanics, so it was a great fit for me.”
On Case Quad, he learned to blend both of his passions. While pursuing his engineering degree, DiCello performed sketch comedy with IMPROVment, the campus improvisational theater troupe. He also performed in a half dozen stage productions in the Eldred Theater, still managing to squeeze in a co-op at Philips.
DiCello has appeared in a number of musicals in his career, but it’s the roles he takes in non-musical plays that mean the most to him.
“In musicals, you can always have your character develop with the additional help of the songs and music,” DiCello said. “When you’re in a play, the only tools at hand you have for character development are language and acting.”
DiCello’s favorite role (so far) was that of famed American painter Mark Rothko in the play Red. The role was so near and dear to him that he also took on the role of director just to play the part.
“It was my fifth year at Case and we put it on in the Black Box Theater,” DiCello recalled. “Rothko was interested in the psyche of an artist, why they do what they do. I am also drawn to these elements of art.”
The intersection of art and engineering will continue to be a driving force, DiCello said, as he sees the contrasting fields complementing each other.
“With engineering, there are tangible outcomes,” he said. “You can help save a life, help someone breathe better. But I also want to continue to find the purpose of art.”
And to think it all started with a Happy Meal.
To give your regards to Brett DiCello, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Canale is a freelance writer in Greater Cleveland.
Brett DiCello honed his acting chops with CWRU’s IMPROVment comedy troupe.