As an English major at Southern Connecticut State College in New Haven in the early 1970s, Gary dreamed of going on to graduate school in another state to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. A commuter, he was looking for a big adventure that would take him away from his small hometown of Shelton, Connecticut. As the summer prior to his senior year approached, Gary even purchased a book that listed summer internship opportunities around the country, thinking he might begin with a somewhat smaller adventure before pursuing graduate school possibilities.
Around the time he was poring over those summer listings, a friend whom Gary knew only as Duke, a Vietnam War veteran who bore a closer resemblance to Jerry Garcia than to a soldier, suggested to him that he audition for a play in the college’s theater department. Having always been involved with singing and music, Gary followed Duke’s recommendation and auditioned for his first stage production. He immediately fell in love with both the theater and a fellow cast member, and the rest is history. As fate would have it, Gary decided to marry that cast member and together Gary and his wife, Fran, embarked on their own joint big adventure, dedicating their lives to family, careers in education, and creating great local theater in their community.
The talented couple would go on to direct approximately two hundred productions during the course of a 43 year career. After directing the Shelton High School Drama Club for eight years, the couple founded the highly successful Youth CONNection Players in 1983, a summer theater company for high school and college students, and their life in the theater culminated when they founded Center Stage Theatre in 2005, building a small community theater into a thriving non-profit with a half million dollar budget.
Along the way, Gary was recognized by Long Wharf Theatre as an Outstanding Theatre Educator as well as the Shelton Jaycees who named him Educator of the Year in the late 1980s. As a couple, Gary and Fran have been recognized for their service to the community, having received the Silver Seal Award from the Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Millennium Award, given by the City of Shelton. Additionally, they were recognized by the Lower Naugatuck Valley Boys and Girls Club with the Raymond P. Lavietes Service to Youth Award in 2009, and they were inaugural honorees, inducted into the Shelton High School Hall of Fame in 2017.
Now retired from both the worlds of education and theater, Gary is realizing his early goal of becoming an author.