my alumni experience

The Behind-the-Scenes Director

Gregg Carville '95

The Merrill Auditorium is the premier performing arts facility in Portland, Maine. Known to locals simply as “the Merrill,” it seats almost 2000 people, is home to the Portland Symphony Orchestra, boasts a world class pipe organ, and is a venue for ballet, concerts and theater. Overseeing the logistics of bringing in hundreds of performers a year is the daunting task of the technical director, a position held by Gregg Carville '95.

When Gregg arrived at Colby-Sawyer he wasn't sure which career path to pursue. Making good use of the liberal arts curriculum, he explored a wide range of subjects, including history, business and art. It wasn't until his senior year and the gentle prompting of the registrar that he finally declared a major, opting for arts management. In high school Gregg had acted in a few plays and helped build sets, but he hadn't considered a theater career. Encouraged by his college advisor, Fine and Performing Arts Professor Jerry Bliss, he began to audition for student plays. “At some point,” Gregg recalls, “Jerry said, 'I need someone to light a show.' And that's how I was thrown into the world of technical theater.”

Starting with the first show of his sophomore year, Gregg designed the lighting for seven shows over his Colby-Sawyer career. After graduation, he went on to New York University, where he received a master's in lighting design. New York City was exciting but not a place he particularly wished to call home, so he returned to Portland, Maine. When the position at the Merrill opened up, Gregg was thrilled to be able to find work in his field right in his hometown.

As technical director, Gregg facilitates the use of the space by all kinds of groups that perform for one night or more before making way for the next group. With performances scheduled 250 days a year, it's a continual balancing act to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Fall is a particularly heavy time, with 40 to 50 shows passing through the Merrill from October through New Year's Eve.

Ironically, Gregg credits his career to the fact that Colby- Sawyer does not have a theater major. While his peers at NYU typically arrived having lit one or two shows, Gregg already had much more hands-on experience, benefiting from the relative lack of competition and his own hunger to learn as much as he could. “There's always something new to learn,” he says. “If you don't learn something in theater then you're not really trying.” When asked what advice he would pass on to others considering a career in theater, he cautions, “If you have the desire to do anything else, you do it. I've been blessed—or cursed—with the desire to do this. And I wouldn't change it.”

-Mike Gregory