Adams State Theatre Department set stage for DiSanti


Article by Linda Relyea

Rocco DiSanti

From the Adams State University Theatre Main Stage to Broadway in New York and across the globe, alumnus Rocco DiSanti '05 lives his dream. Currently based in New York City as a freelance projection designer and member of the United Scenic Artists Local 829, DiSanti has worked on and off Broadway, in regional theaters across the country, and around the globe designing projections for theater, opera, and dance.

"I've worked in Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Israel and other places I'm sure I am forgetting," DiSanti said.

The Adams State Theatre program and affordable tuition originally attracted DiSanti. "Adams State did a wonderful job preparing me for a career in theatre. A theatrical designer needs to know more than just our craft." In classes including art, science, philosophy, history and literature, he experienced new methods of understanding and appreciating the world. "Most importantly, my education taught me how to reason and apply various disciplines to my design process."

DiSanti fondly recalls several professors who assisted him during his college career, including the late Dr. Stuart Hilwig, professor of history; Dr. Carolyn Harper, emeritus professor of theatre, Dr. Paul Newman, emeritus professor of theatre; Dr. Carol Guerrero-Murphy, emeritus professor of English; Dr. David Mazel, emeritus professor of English; Dr. John Taylor, professor of theatre; and Jim Willis, adjunct professor of theatre.

"Dr. Hilwig was a major influence," DiSanti said. "His history and philosophy classes taught me to look at a problem from many different angles and not to rush to judgement." Harper's Shakespeare class was the "absolute best source of knowledge concerning the bard." DiSanti still applies those lessons today when designing Shakespeare. "On top of that, Dr. Harper taught me many lesson's outside of class about myself, life, and the world."

Guerrero-Murphy's poetry classes, brought DiSanti "out of my shell and helped me trust my creativity." Mazel's various English classes gave him a great foundation in literature and critical thinking. Taylor, Newman, and Willis showed him the capability of theatre and introduced DiSanti to "so many amazing playwrights. They helped fan the flames that are my love for theater and gave me the drive to pursue a life in the arts."

Newman said lighting design is both an art and a science, and "Rocco excelled at both at Adams. He cleverly engineered a video projector problem by wiring a computer's pop out CD tray as a moveable shutter to block the light spill."

Theatre helped DiSanti discover himself. "Suddenly there was this art form which allowed the audience to connect with stories in a way that television and movies can't match. Theater helped bring me out of my shell and become part of something amazing. I formed friendships and created art. Nothing compares to it."

Taylor said during the first years in the new Theatre Building, DiSanti helped take the program to the next level. "He is a great reminder that there are many ways to pursue a career in theatre and the entertainment industry," Taylor said. "I couldn't be more proud of Rocco and pleased to call him an ASU graduate."

In the professional world, DiSanti said some of his favorite projects include design for the Broadway Premier of Wit by Margaret Edson. "This was a show that I first read while a student at Adams. I couldn't imagine that I would someday get to work on it on Broadway." And an Arthur Miller play called Incident at Vichy, "with the wonderful director Michael Wilson." Broadway HD filmed a performance and now anyone can watch it online.

"The world premiere of The Columnist by David Auburn and staring John Lithgow was one of my most memorable Broadway shows," DiSanti added. "The design team really came together and made something incredibly memorable. Working with such great designers such as John Lee Beatty, Kenneth Posner, and John Gromada, was an experience I'll never forget."

The Snow Geese, starring Mary Louise Parker, was another favorite for DiSanti. PLSN did a great article about the design collaboration, Snow Geese Inside Looking Out.

"Right now I'm working on a large scale interactive children's show," DiSanti added. "It is a twelve room adventure that takes children from a forest to the bottom of the ocean."

His resume of shows include: Broadway: The Snow Geese, The Columnist, Wit, Collected Stories, Time Stands Still. Off Broadway: Incident at Vichy (Signature), Desire, Lift, Inner Voices, Wide Awake Hearts (59E59) Completeness (Playwrights Horizons); A Second Chance (The Public) and more. Regional: Fly, The Threepenny Opera, Spin, Company, A Second Chance (Signature Theatre). Kansas City Swing, Lift, The Adventure of Fishy Waters In Bed With The Blues (Crossroads). AWARDS: Nominated for a 2012 Henry Hewes Design Award for Completeness.

When a student recently asked how he approaches design, DiSanti said: "Theater is a complicated form of art and is made up of individual disciplines, each piece lifting the other to create a whole that is greater than its parts. If any piece distracts from bringing the others together it must be cut away and forgotten. If the whole is found wanting, the missing element must be found or will be left incomplete."