By Julia Parmley
In fall 1994, Carl Graci, B.B.A. ’05, stepped on the GW campus to pursue his dream of becoming a biological researcher. In between science classes, Graci took a work-study job in the office at Lisner Auditorium, and after just three months he knew he didn’t want to work anywhere else.
In his 15 years at Lisner, Graci has worn a variety of hats on and off the stage—everything from ushering to overseeing the 1,490-seat auditorium. Now Lisner’s marketing manager, Graci helps select and bring in talent and oversees ticket sales, catering and logistics for events. Graci says his job is different every day, and it’s this variety that has kept him at Lisner for more than 15 years. “I am constantly challenged and entertained, and it has been that way since I got here,” Graci says.
In the past year, Lisner has hosted President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a live taping of NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don't Tell Me,” a broadcast of Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and the 9th Annual Flamenco Festival of Washington, D.C., and will welcome former Vice President Al Gore, legendary Brazilian vocalist Gal Costa and the Sesame Street Muppets, among others, this academic year.
Q: Do you have a favorite show at Lisner?
A: I’d have to say David Sedaris. The Oct. 7 show this fall was be the fifth time we’ve had him at GW, and he is a really nice guy. He doesn’t use his old work but instead reads aloud from his new work and notes when people laugh to assist in editing. I also really enjoy the shows in which I can involve GW students. [French American singer] Madeleine Peyroux met with students from a GW vocal class after her recent show and when author Margaret Atwood is here on Oct. 30, students from GW’s Department of Theatre and Dance and Department of Music will perform with her on stage.
Q: What is a typical weekend like for you?
A: If there are shows going on, I am usually at Lisner, helping out with logistics and tickets. When there aren’t any weekend shows on campus, I am usually around town watching other performances. I live close to the 9:30 Club, so I go there a lot for shows, as well as the Kennedy Center.
Q: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Brazil! We’ve hosted a lot of Brazilian music at Lisner, so it would be incredible to experience it firsthand. Also, I’ve heard good things about the people and food, so that would be great too. But I’d need a translator!
Q: Have you traveled anywhere recently?
A: I recently went to Buffalo, N.Y., to visit my family and see one of my friends get married. In July I went to Los Angeles to see my sister. She works for a director. I don’t know how we both got into the arts, because our parents aren’t artistic at all!
Q: How do you pass the time on your commute?
A: I take the bus from Columbia Heights to campus, so I usually listen to new music that agents have sent. I’ve found that the bus is my favorite place to explore new music. When my iPod plays two songs in a row that sound really good together I sometimes get ideas for new shows.
Q: What is your favorite place on campus?
A: The courtyard on the side of Lisner. It is not as crowded as Mid-Campus Quad or Kogan Plaza. It’s also nice to visit because I work in the basement in Lisner, so it’s good to remind myself that there is light outside! I also enjoy eating at Tonic—it’s almost a requirement for everyone at GW!
Q: How has GW changed since you’ve been here?
I think this is a great question, because it’s interesting to compare how GW has changed versus how GW has changed you. Obviously the campus is larger, with some incredible new buildings. However, the more time I spend at GW the more I realize how much the campus can be like a family – so never hesitate to reach out here, because someone is there to help you out or simply cheer you on.
Q: What’s your worst fashion mistake?
I’m sure my college days presented daily fashion violations, but my worst design disaster came about in a marketing piece. In the days before digital proofs, I didn’t always receive full color drafts. This didn’t always work out; hanging in my office is a blue postcard highlighted with teal ink, representing the most repulsive postcard to ever promote the Kronos Quartet.
Q: What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Working with many non-English speaking artists provides a wealth of opportunities for embarrassment. Some assume you speak their language, so I’ll smile and nod and then frantically search for a translator. Some artists have very specific last-minute requests. I’ve never misinterpreted what has become the closest thing to a universal request: “More coffee.”