When Danielle Ranno enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University, little did she know she’d one day thrive in New York City as a stage manager on Broadway and, most recently, an author.
Ranno got her first taste of theater in high school at Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, and it became a passion that quickly grew and followed her to FGCU.
The passion led to professional work at a local theater before a freelance career on Broadway, where Ranno currently is stage manager of “& Juliet,” a hit musical comedy that puts a new twist on Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.”
As stage manager, she acts as a right hand to the director, documenting stage directions as well as overseeing sets, props, lights and sound and ensuring performances run safely and smoothly each time.
While enjoying the box office success and critical acclaim “& Juliet” has received, Ranno cited “The Lehman Trilogy” as one of her favorite projects. She managed close to 100 performances in New York between September 2021 and January 2022, and a six-week run of the show last spring in Los Angeles. The play about the rise and fall of a financial firm won five Tony Awards in 2022.
Ranno enrolled at FGCU as a communication major with a concentration in public relations. But because of her desire for stage work, she took on theatre in the Bower School of Music & the Arts as a second major before graduating in 2011.
During her time at FGCU, Ranno got hands-on experience of the stage world by assisting with TheatreLab productions. Her adviser, theatre professor Anne Carncross, gave Ranno her first shot in stage management at the college level in a 2009 production of “There From Here.”
“That was the first show that opened my eyes to it,” Ranno said about a theatrical career. “That was actually due to Professor Carncross because she pushed me to try it.”
There was a reason Ranno caught Carncross’ eye. “She was born to do this kind of work,” the professor said.
“I remember nudging her to grad school and New York City. She has exceeded my expectations long ago. I have watched her grow into a professional stage manager that anyone would love to work with,” Carncross said. “It’s always a joy to see your students live their dreams. I love watching her on her journey. Not only is she a fantastic stage manager, but she is also one of the most thoughtful humans I know. I am very proud to call her a student, a colleague and most importantly, a friend.”
Ranno said an FGCU production of “Our Town” particularly inspired her. Carncross would often bring in guest directors to assist with productions, which enabled students to work hands-on with professionals. One such collaborator was Mark Danni, artistic director of TheatreZone in Naples.
Ranno said she connected with Danni during their work at FGCU, and that led to her interning and later working at TheatreZone as a stage manager and a production manager.
Their connection is a big reason TheatreZone continues to have a close relationship with FGCU’s theater program and its students.
“I relied on her to handle all aspects of organization for each production, and I always knew she would go on to be very successful,” Danni said. “She has incredible insight and organizational skills and a clear and calm demeanor. She remains a close friend and still helps out at TheatreZone from a distance when available.”
Besides working as a professional stage manager in theater, Ranno also developed an interest in opera stage management, which led to her authoring a textbook on the subject. That idea was sparked during her entrance interview for graduate school at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she eventually earned a master’s in fine arts in 2019.
“At the interview, I told Leslie Lyter, then head of stage management, that when I first began working in opera, I experienced a lack of a resource to refer to on the subject,” Ranno said. “She then said to me, ‘Well, why don’t you just write it?’”
“The Beginner’s Guide to Opera Stage: Gathering the Tools You Need to Work in Opera” was published last November by Taylor & Francis, an English publisher known worldwide for educational books.
When she’s not managing or writing about stage production, Ranno said she enjoys listening to opera music, naturally, and indulging in ice cream. In fact, she claims to be an undefeated ice-cream eating champion.
“The handful of ice cream-eating contests I’ve been in, I won,” Ranno said.
–Matthew Udden is a senior communication major.