By Josh Resnek
Lisa Cocciardi grew up in Everett in a single family home on Jackson Ave. She attended schools here – the Webster School, the Parlin and Pope John, graduating in 1987 and then going out into the world to seek out her reason to live.
During the first week of April, her production company will be staging a play, ‘Compound Fractures,” at the Boston Playwrights Theater at 949 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
It is a triumphant return to where she went to college for Cocciardi, who attended Boston University.
It is, in a way, a defining moment at this time in her life.
She is articulate. She is warm. She is real – like the play she is producing.
If there is one thing that defines her life, she insists, it is coming from Everett, having been a part of the Everett experience.
If you didn’t grow up here in a place like JacksonAve when this city was a far different place than it is today, then you can’t quite imagine what it was like.
“My Everett life as a kid coming of age was extraordinary,” she said. “It was fun. I played with all the neighborhood kids. My brothers and I were friendly with all the kids who lived on the street, There were the McLaughlins, the Messana’s, the O’Briens and the Thistles,” she recalled.
“It was real. These were real people, good families with a strong moral compass. They trusted one another. They helped each other out. There was a camaraderie then. The world I live in now isn’t like what I grew up in. There was a real sense of community here. Everyone took life seriously back then,” she recalled.
Cocciardi describes her upbringing as middle class. Her father, Peter, the first in the family to attend college, became the well-known financial planner. He went to Boston College. Her brothers Peter, Steven and Paul all went to college and are successful today.
Peter went to Colby, he’s a well-known and respected attorney in Everett. Brother Steven went to Bentley and is into finance. Her brother Paul went to Keene State. He’s in the marble business in Westwood.
Her paternal grandparents Joseph and Carmella Cocciardi were both born in Italy.
Joseph was an artisan furniture maker. Her mother’s parents, Mary and Tony Botto both came from Italy.
Tony Botto worked for the City of Everett in the Water Department. Mrs. Botto owned a dry cleaning business on Elm Street in Woodlawn.
Cocciardi describes herself as very close with her brothers.
“I had a good upbringing, a good solid family with working parents,” she added.
Creative and driven, she studied in college at Boston University’s School of Communications, a top tier place to educate oneself about all things having to do with media and the stage. She received a degree in advertising and moved to New York City in 1992.
It was a recession year, a difficult time for many in business who later went out business – but not for Cocciardi.
She got a junior management level job at LINTAS. Thus began ten very successful years in marketing and advertising at which she became very adept.
Cocciardi did well. She continues to do well but now she’s concentrating more on the stage, making use of everything in her life that came before in an effort to reproduce some aspects of her upbringing and life experience and to being this onto the stage.
“I wanted to write, to express myself, to do something more than advertising,” she recalled during an interview at the Leader Herald recently.
“I attended classes at night at Playwrights Horizons on Theater Row on 42nd Street,” she recalled.
She said she loved New York City, its energy, its intellectuality, its madness and fun at the same time. “I ended up doing readings and a one act play produced at the Beckett Theater,” she said.
It was called “Here’s To Me” – a one act play about 20 something girls that took place in a small studio apartment. Two actresses playing young women going through their lives were trying to piece together where their missing friend had gone. Through the course of their conversations, their friendship unravelled.
Cocciardi continued writing plays in New York.
She did some readings. Then she tried sitcom writing.
She found her voice, so to speak.
“I got sidetracked a bit. I wrote some sample scripts for sitcoms. It helped me get back to playwriting, which is difficult,” she said.
“Compound Fractures” is a two act play. At the heart of it it is about a woman facing down her midlife crisis at 40. She is an extremely successful advertising executive but wants to pursue a different dream.
“Think about trying to pursue a different dream?” Cocciardi said wistfully.
“Think about what it takes, what guts it takes to move from a successful career to try something different.”
The lead in this two act play is surrounded by her closest friends and family.
Unfortunately, they are the ones who build the wall that she needs to blast through to get to where she is wanting to go.
The stakes are high for her freedom – as the stakes are high for all of us traveling through our lives to be who we want to be.
Reminds this writer a bit of the famous Henry James quote: “We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”
“Compound Fractures” is produced by 2 Sharp Quills, Lisa Cocciardi and Judith Strang-Waldeau. It is their second play – and hopefully a great success.
Half the success is just getting it into production and on the stage in Boston.
“Compound Fractures” playing in Boston at the Boston Playwrights’ Theater, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, April 5-7. Tickets available at door, $35. Students $20. Order by phone: Ovation Tix (866)811-4111 or on the web at web.ovationtix. com/trs/pr/1004507.