Jack Gianino has worked in the theatre for more than 45 years, mostly as a stage manager. His shows have included the Pulitzer Prize-winning original 'night, Mother; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Black and Blue; The Tap Dance Kid; and Love, Janis. But most likely you've never heard of him.
Which is all right with Gianino, who in his own words has "kept a low profile and preferred it that way." And besides, who other than a theatre aficionado would know anything about stage managers?
Gianino is one of the legion of theatre people — production crew, casting directors, lighting technicians, musicians — who work behind the scenes with no publicity, and yet without whom the shows we love would not be possible.
What does a stage manager do? "A stage manager is a director's right-hand man," Gianino says. "If the show runs for a while, he or she becomes the surrogate director, responsible for keeping the director's vision in the show and making sure that what the director had in mind remains on the stage." The stage manager "watches the show every night and gives notes to the actors. He's involved in casting replacements when the director is not available, rehearsing the replacements and understudies, and putting those people in the show."
But there's more. "I try to make a happy company, which is very important, both to the people involved and the quality of the show."
Gianino was born and grew up in Boston, the son of Sicilian immigrants. He had a happy childhood, but one devoid of theatre. He entered the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as a chemistry major, but in his second year, he "saw an ad in the school paper for a play being cast — a one-act, The Informer. I auditioned and got the job, and we took it to a theatre festival in Pittsfield, MA. We were driven there, and we were given lunch. And I thought, wow, I get driven around, I get a free lunch, there are pretty girls. This theatre stuff is a really good racket."
So he kept on acting. Eventually, he moved to New York, getting jobs in the city, in road companies, in stock and regional theatre. But he had married and was starting a family. So he had a chat with a good theatre friend, Norman Rothstein, who was then a production manager and was to become a producer and general manager. "And Norman asked if I would consider stage managing."
And that's how his career as a stage manager began. "I think most of it has been fun," Gianino says. "There have been a lot of ups and downs, good years and lean years, but I've been very fortunate. I met my wife through the theatre; we're still together, and we have terrific children."
Theatre, in fact, runs in the family. His wife, Lucy Martin, is an actress. His son, Gian-Murray, is an actor, and his younger daughter, Antonia, is also a stage manager. (His older daughter, Gemina, is an educator.)
"Sometimes there are disappointments," he says, "and sometimes you have to struggle to pay the rent. But I certainly wouldn't hold anyone back from going into it."
Yes, it can be hard to get a job. "But when nothing is happening, and you think there's no hope," he says, "all of a sudden the phone rings."