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Arts and Entertainment

New technical director makes his mark

By Denebola
Published: September 2008

By Becca Goldsteinden_09242008_a0031.bmp

His office is pretty empty now. The walls are bare and there is an empty bookshelf in the corner, along with a filing cabinet and a computer, but Joe Grassia, South’s new tech director, is looking forward to his new job. Regardless of the little time he’s been working here, Grassia is already impressed with the students at South and how much time and energy they put into South Stage.

Growing up in Sherborn, just 30 minutes west of Newton, Grassia has “always been a carpenter and he had the “full collection of Fisher Price power tools growing up. In high school, Grassia was primarily involved in theatre through the performance side, only working on the technical side when he had time. It wasn’t until attending Pace University in New York City when he took a workshop that he really got involved in technical theatre.

After college, Grassia worked for both his alma mater and for a professional theatre company in the city as well as running his own window dressing business in which he set up window displays for stores. “I was one of those guys who got to go into toy stores at three in the morning and play with toys, he said.

Despite rarely getting more than five hours of sleep at night, Grassia loved the job because he got to “build ridiculous displays. Grassia’s favorite show to work on was an off-Broadway show, Black Bird, that Grassia describes as “crazy, insane¦a beautiful piece of work.

Grassia started working at South over the summer, and while he is thoroughly impressed by the students, whom he describes as “very passionate, he hopes that he will be able to convince kids to step out of their comfort zones. He is a firm believer that the “more you know about theatre, the better off you are. Grassia would “love to see people who normally do tech auditioning for a part and “actors coming to tech and experiencing what it is like.

Due to lack of interest, there are no Tech Theatre classes running this year, but Grassia is optimistic that there will be in the future and is looking forward to teaching a class should it come back.

Even though it has only been a few weeks since Grassia started here at South, he is already making strong connections with many of the students.

Senior Gaul Porat, who worked with the previous tech director, Ryan DuBray, for three years, said “we’re learning a lot of new techniques thanks to Joe because he just has a different background than Ryan. Also, Joe is very organized and smart as well as worldly and well traveled.

Grassia is indeed a world traveler. In addition to visiting Timbuktu and Mali and spending a dollar a night to sleep on the roofs of local homes, Grassia spent two and a half years in Lesotho, a country in Southern Africa, working in the Peace Corps.

He spent time with the natives there, teaching them techniques in farming and giving treatment and medication to the many victims of HIV/AIDS.

While in Lesotho, Grassia and his friends created a language based on letters reminiscent of musical notes. Upon returning to the United States last November, Grassia decided he needed a reminder of the way of living he had grown so accustomed to. “In Lesotho he says, “they have a different sense of time; it’s considered extremely rude to not stop and talk with everyone you run into on the street. Grassia was so intrigued by this idea that he decided to have the sentiment tattooed onto his left forearm in the language he created. His tattoo is easily visible, encouraging strangers to stop and ask him what it means; much like the strangers who stopped him on the streets of his village in Lesotho to talk.

Grassia and the tech crew are already hard at work on the set for The Miracle Worker, this year’s fall show, staying at school every day to work on the lighting, sound, and set while the actors rehearse. Grassia is looking forward to many things in the upcoming months because, as he says, “a good group of people playing with power tools to make pretty stuff. What could be better than that?

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