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Shades of Gray

State of the Arts


Published March 24, 2004 at 5:00 p.m.

The apparent suicide of monologist Spalding Gray was a wrenching loss. According to Alison Granucci, a friend of Gray and a former Burlingtonian, the loss is made more poignant by the fact that in his final performances -- a work-in-progress presentation of Life, Interrupted at New York's P.S. 122 last December, not long before he disappeared -- Gray was beginning to reveal a side of himself that had never been seen on stage.

"It was so tender and raw and a little tentative," Granucci says of the monologue, which dealt with the aftermath of the devastating 2001 auto accident that left Gray with a broken hip, a leg brace and possible brain damage. "It was Spalding talking, it wasn't Spalding playing Spalding talking."

Granucci, a dancer and massage therapist when she lived in Vermont, knows first-hand about the after-effects of trauma. She was a victim of one of the most notorious crimes in Burlington history: In 1990 a drifter robbed her Church Street office, then shot her and a friend execution-style through the head.

Granucci met Gray through the Flynn Center, which hired her to be his masseuse in 1996 when he was performing It's A Slippery Slope. She continued as his massage therapist, traveling to New York from Burlington to work with him before performances.

He also encouraged her to continue writing about surviving the attack, although the resulting book, Shot Into Life, has yet to find a publisher. "He related to my experience even before his accident," Granucci says. Afterwards, she helped him with physical therapy and visited him in the hospital. "He was the only person I'd ever seen other than myself with a shaved head and his scalp stapled shut."

Gray was always able to translate even the most miserable experiences in his life into art. Why, this time, was he unable to find that kind of refuge?

"In this last monologue about the accident, you could see him really working to have it make sense," Granucci says. Following the December performance, she went out with Gray and friends. "Someone said something about fate. He grabbed onto that and said he was now living his fate out, and there was basically no hope… He was trapped in something he couldn't find his way out of."

Granucci now manages special projects for the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, for which she's co-producing (with Eve Ensler) a mega-conference about women and power the weekend of Sept. 11 in New York City. She also works for Arlo Guthrie, whose Great Barrington, Massachusetts foundation and arts center is housed in the church made famous in "Alice's Restaurant."

For Granucci, Gray will always remain a role model. "He would say out loud things people would never dare admit. I really admired him for that."

bowing out

In the seven years he's been in Vermont, Tim Tavcar has been piling up the credits: directing for Vermont Opera Theater, conducting the Vermont Gay Men's Chorus, running the Vergennes Opera House. The actor-director-singer-conductor won a Bessie for his first local directing gig, Lost Nation's Side by Side by Sondheim.

Why so busy? "When you're a solitary gay man alone in Vermont, you have to do something or you'll open a vein," he suggests.

Now Tavcar's saying goodbye to all that: on April 1 he starts a new job as executive director of theater and music at Astor's Beechwood Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. He'll be leading the mansion's resident acting company in historical re-enactments and period-theater pieces. He may also land on TV; the company is being filmed this summer for a "Victorian reality show" on Rhode Island's PBS affiliate.

At 56, Tavcar's hoping this will be his last major move. "For the first time I don't have to do four or five jobs. I can do one and be paid better."

As a parting shot, he's hosting a Farewell-to-Tim concert next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Montpelier's Unitarian Church, starring performers from "some of the organizations that have meant the most to me since I've been here." Could be a long night.

matteson avenue

Chalk up another success for hot young dancer- choreographer Paul Matteson and the Dance Company of Middlebury, his alma mater. Beating out more than 30 other school ensembles, the Midds, performing Matteson's "As You Are," were chosen to represent the New England region (along with Harvard and Temple) at the National College Dance Festival at Washington's Kennedy Center June 1-3. Vermont dance fans who haven't yet seen Matteson's work should move on down to the FlynnSpace on April 2; he's showing the same set of dances he presented at Middlebury earlier this year, including an astonishing rough-and-tumble duet, !Bullseye!

‘big' news

This just in from the New York Post: Ron Galotti, the former Conde Nast publishing mogul who was the inspiration for Mr. Big in Sex and the City, has up and moved to Vermont. Pomfret, to be exact. Can Carrie Bradshaw be far behind? . . . Meanwhile, New York City has noticed Firehouse expat Pascal Spengemann. Last week's Sunday Times reported "a who's who of the New York art world turned up" for a recent opening at his new, tiny gallery, Taxter & Spengemann, despite competition from the Whitney Biennial and Armory shows. Co-owner Kelly Taxter said one collector offered to buy the whole show.