To help revitalize The Greenwich Odeum, which reopened at 59 Main Street in East Greenwich in January for the first time since 2007 after undergoing extensive fire code updates, WPRO radio personality John DePetro is spearheading a new live interview series.
The series, “Live at the Odeum with John DePetro,” will kick off May 8 at 7 p.m. and feature three prominent people, including former Governor Donald Carcieri, Alex and Ani CEO Giovanni Feroce, as well as Fr. Bernie Healey, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, who also serves as Chaplain of the Rhode Island Capitol Police.
“To me, all three of them are leaders and I consider each of them very successful individuals,” said DePetro. All ticket proceeds will be donated to the Odeum. “When they talk about events that shaped them or stories about things that influenced them, it makes for very good conversation. They have the ability to tell a good story.”
DePetro will interview guests one-on-one in front of an audience for 30 minutes apiece, encouraging them to share stories and facts about their backgrounds. Instead of passing around a microphone for audience members to ask questions, they will have the opportunity to tweet inquiries to DePetro via Twitter at @JohnDePetroshow, with DePetro selecting the most interesting questions.
He thinks the 400-seat Odeum is the best setting for what he anticipates will be a successful event.
“It’s the perfect size theater,” said DePetro. “It’s big enough, but still an intimate setting for something like this. And there’s a little bit of an East Greenwich tie.”
Each of the guests has an East Greenwich link: Carcieri grew up in East Greenwich, and according to DePetro, is “very knowledgeable” about the town.
“His dad was a big player in East Greenwich,” DePetro said of Nicola J. Carcieri, a football and basketball coach at East Greenwich High School. “His father was a big influence on the community and the Carcieri family continues to be. He’s had a lot of different experiences and it will be interesting to talk about the town and how it’s changed.”
Feroce’s tie to East Greenwich can be found at 232 Main Street, where the company, famous for its popular (and made in America) jewelry, operates a prominent store. DePetro praised Feroce for giving the local economy a boost with the shop.
“Alex and Ani is such a hot company right now,” DePetro said. “Feroce talks about the importance of Main Street and I like that.”
But Feroce’s background is extensive. In addition to having more than 20 years of experience in the retail and consumer products industries, he’s a retired United States Army Major, who served two tours in Iraq.
As for Fr. Healey, he’s fairly new to the area. In August, he took over as Pastor at Our Lady of Mercy, located at 65 3rd Street in East Greenwich, after Monsignor John W. Lolio unexpectedly passed away last year.
“He’s not just a normal parish priest,” DePetro said of Fr. Healey. “He knows the state issues inside and out.”
Fr. Healy, who was raised in the Edgewood section of Cranston just a few blocks from DePetro, is still in the process of getting to know East Greenwich. He has enjoyed it so far, especially life at the parish.
“The people here are wonderful,” said Fr. Healey. “It’s a vibrant, lively place with lots of nice people and families. We have a great school and the teachers are excellent. There’s a real spirit of life and faith around.”
He’s looking forward to learning more about the town, as well as gearing up for the speaking event. Since proceeds will benefit the theater, he’s pleased he’ll get the chance to educate people about himself while helping the community alongside Carcieri and Feroce.
“It will be nice to see Gov. Carcieri and Mr. Feroce, who is a member of our parish,” Fr. Healey said. “His children attend our school. All around it should be a nice evening.”
DePetro agrees, and hopes the audience will join him and his guests at BESOS following the show. BESOS, the event sponsor, is just four blocks away at 378 Main Street.
“I’m really hoping people take advantage of a full night,” said DePetro, suggesting that people enjoy dinner at one of Main Street’s many restaurants and cafés before heading to the Odeum. “That theater could really act as an economic generator for Main Street. If that theater were going three or four nights a week, that’s 1,000 people a week coming to the town. It helps everybody.”
So why is DePetro concerned with giving East Greenwich a boost? He has lived there for the last 13 years.
“I live in the town and I want to do something that makes sense,” he said. “There’s no one doing a speaking series. Once in a while, maybe you’ll see something like that at Brown and it can be a very good form of entertainment. Because of my job, I get to meet people that I think are very interesting and tell good stories, so it really started from there.”
He said there are times during radio segments that interviews have the potential be far more captivating, and in depth, in front of a live audience. He praised his lineup of guests for their knack at storytelling.
“All of these people are very, very well skilled in the art of being good conversationalists,” DePetro said. “I’m more of a mechanism to get them to tell their stories. It’s been really fun to put it together with the speakers. They’ve been very receptive.”
Other shows are scheduled for May 22 and June 5, with author Bill Reynolds, head of Rhode Island State Police Col. Steve O’Donnell, and author Robin Kall to appear May 22; and Judge Frank Caprio, URI’s new men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley, and local businessman Nicholas Janikies, who owns Quidnessett Country Club, as well as 99 Burger King locations, set to star as guests June 5.
“Plus, you get me onstage, which is priceless,” DePetro said with a laugh. “Already, there’s been great interest and I see where this could be a once a month series. We want to walk before we run, but people seem to really like the concept. It lends itself to the size of the theatre and to East Greenwich.”
Tickets are $15 and available at TheOdeum.org or Odeum box office at 59 Main Street. Learn more about the Odeum at TheOdeum.org.