New Theater chair leaves the stage for the office

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New Theater Department Chair Peter Grego is still getting used to his job.

According to Grego, the previous chair, James DePaul, wanted to go back to teaching. He said DePaul is also a director who wanted to take advantage of some of the opportunities that the Los Angeles theatre scene has to offer.

“We were looking for a chair,” Grego said. “I never really had that much interest in administration. I liked the teaching and the professional directing work, but this is the right personality in the department for now.”

Before he became chair, Grego was a professor in the department whose expertise was in acting and directing.

He now oversees the day-to-day details of the department.

Grego said a custodian recently approached him and took him by the arm for a walk in a nearby hallway. The custodian told him that he always used to see Grego’s smiling face in the halls of Nordhoff Hall, but now he has only sees Grego working at his computer.

“If the custodian (is) noticing that, it is a huge surprise at how much bureaucracy there is to handle,” Grego said.

Grego appreciates the professors who work with him in the department.

“It’s really a quite remarkable faculty, for primarily an undergraduate program,” he said.

One of the faculty members, Barry Cleveland, said he was glad when he heard that Grego was appointed the new department chair.

“He’s hugely dedicated to CSUN and the students,” Cleveland said. “Every decision that he makes, he makes in terms of the students, the program. I don’t think you can ask for anything better from a chair.”

Grego said he wants to see the all of the students, faculty and staff in the department to collaborate more.

We’re working to make the line of communication better,” Grego said.

In terms of the plays that are produced and staged by the department, Grego said he believes only a select group of students actually see them.

“I think the students that are assigned to classes that are associated go,” he said. “Theatre is a hard sell. It’s an acquired taste.”

He is also involved in discussions about the new Valley Performing Arts Center, set to be built on the grassy field adjacent to Cypress Hall, formerly the Music Building, and the Matador Bookstore Complex. The university is in the midst of a massive private fundraising blitz to raise half of the $100 million construction cost.

“It is a public and private facility,” he said. “The state is involved and outside funding (as well). If you wanted to see a major touring production today, you’d have to go downtown. (The new VPAC) will be the largest theater and only theatre in the San Fernando Valley that could house a touring Broadway musical.”

Grego has been working in theatre since 1967.

Grego said he was sitting in the library one day and overheard a conversation between three women talking about how they needed a director that could do a play.

“I became a director at that moment,” Grego said.

His transition into becoming a professor started when he was working for a theater one summer in Pennsylvania and decided to teach at Pennsylvania State University.

Grego taught there for 32 years. He then started a program in the Florida School Of the Arts, then to CSU Bakersfield and then finally to CSUN.

Grego’s credits include such plays as the American premiere of “My Life,” a play from South African playwright Athol Fugard. Grego received an Artistic Director’s Award for the production of the play. He has also received outstanding achievement in directing from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for the Lee Blessing play “Eleemosynary.”

Grego’s work has also been featured in China. A CSUN hip-hop production entitled “Blasting Holes In The Night” was done in 2004 for the Third International Experimental Theatre Festival.

“In some way, it’s still the art form where you are still in the presence of other human beings,” Grego said. “When that event that is happening on stage somehow connects to the audience’s unconscious, when that circle is communicated,” he said. “They’re looking for some theme that is going to make some difference on the rest of humanity.”

John Barundia can be reached at jcb44123@csun.edu.