The Day – The head of Goodspeed’s paint shop has taken up another type of painting while the theater is closed due to COVID
Carla Tiezzi has been with Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam for about 15 years. She started as an apprentice and eventually became the paint shop manager. She painted a multitude of sets there, from the dazzling show stoppers on “42nd Street” to the impressive colossus of the title “Show Boat”. She has worked with a number of renowned set designers.
All of this busy activity changed in March 2020 when theaters had to close stage productions due to the pandemic. That meant that Tiezzi, like so many others who had jobs in the arts, was unemployed.
Tiezzi says when things first closed, “I think I felt like everyone else – like, oh god, this is going to affect so many people and we’re not going to work again.”
During the summer she realized that they would not be returning until there was a vaccine.
“It’s just this scary thing that we all want to deal with,” Tiezzi says. “I give Goodspeed a lot of credit for trying to get some social media events going and doing the best they can under the circumstances.”
While she was on leave, Tiezzi looked at other jobs but not many are available and she needs to balance balancing those jobs with the risk of COVID. She kept in touch with some Goodspeed people. She says some took part-time gigs but got COVID even though they are fine now.
Many other Goodspeed employees who have been on vacation are “just holding their breath … thank God there’s a stimulus package going on,” she says.
In the meantime, she has taken free classes, created small acrylic paintings, and done house projects like cleaning closets.
As with so many people during COVID, Tiezzi is supported by unemployment benefits. She has been able to defer paying the mortgage on her home in Middletown since April thanks to the CARES Act, which protects homeowners with government-secured mortgages.
“This is the only way to survive. If I had to pay that mortgage I would probably have been thrown out of here, ”she says of the house she bought 8 1/2 years ago.
Your way to Goodspeed
Tiezzi, who grew up in Meriden, attended the Parsons School of Design / The New School of Illustration and took a theater design course that she loved there. But the school wasn’t really focused on theater, so a career in that industry didn’t cross her mind. All she knew was that she loved to draw, and illustration seemed like the ideal path for her back then.
However, after graduating with a BFA in Illustration in 1992, she kept thinking back to this theater design class, even after returning to Connecticut from New York. She wondered how to paint backdrops. She started with cold calling and was hired as an apprentice at Goodspeed.
“I could draw, but theater painting is a completely different animal. … I learned at work, ”says Tiezzi. “It’s not art. There are skills in it, but you should really create what the designer wants. … You are an extension of a designer, just as your hand is an extension of what the designer wants to create. “
After this apprenticeship, she moved to LA and painted sets for four years, mainly for TV, film and theme parks. She came back here because her former Goodspeed boss was planning to move on in 2006 and brought Tiezzi as assistant to the scenic artist with the idea that she might eventually take over. This is exactly what happened because Tiezzi has been in charge of the paint shop since 2008.
Your job is to be the connection between the designer and the people who paint the set, and to work with the designer to bring his images to life. (There are different designers for different shows, although many return to Goodspeed later for more productions.) She also handles administrative tasks like budgets and time management.
After the construction workers have built the set at Goodspeed, the parts are taken to the paint shop. Tiezzi has two employees and an apprentice and, depending on the size of the show, also brings in freelance painters.
Tiezzi says she missed her painters last year.
“We just all get along and they have different strengths. It’s a really good team, ”she says. “We are having a good time and we do everything and they are just so talented. I feel for her too. They fight too. They are like me, they do small projects and paint here and there. “
Zoom in and paint
Tiezzi says it’s funny because people always wish they had more time to do things. During the pandemic, she had the time – but not the financial means. She started taking an online course at Middlesex Community College but then became concerned about spending money. The government offers free online courses, so they instead took part in topics such as team building and leadership, project management, and improving Photoshop skills.
Tiezzi also regularly attends Zoom meetings her ex-boss holds to learn from other industry professionals how, for example, people in the television and film world are dealing with COVID testing and various work issues after getting back on the set.
She also painted and created small acrylic pieces.
“I’m an artist, but it’s been a while since I picked up a small paintbrush … I found some painting supplies that I buried and (painted) in a box to keep my mind moving and my hands in Keep moving. I do computer stuff, but I feel like I need something different, a different outlet. “
Regarding the return to Goodspeed, she says: “I’m looking forward to going back to work and hope to use the skills I learned on vacation. In the meantime, I will continue to look for other work or small painting appearances that I can do from home. “