Born and raised in Oakland, Calif., Brian Grove attended California State University, Hayward, where he received a bachelor’s degree in technical theater. He moved to New York City three years ago, after working for several years as a production stage manager with dance companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Brian has also been a stagehand for 20 years, and spends a good deal of his spare time freelancing at BAM.
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day?
I’m a third-year this year. Prior to my first day, I tried five different subway combinations to find the most efficient route between Brooklyn and Juilliard. I arrived 10 minutes early at the temporary entrance on 66th Street, and got so lost finding my way to the office on the fifth floor that I ended up 10 minutes late. Pretty embarrassing for a stage management type.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
Grand Vizier, you know, Tricia Ross’s gig. I’m not sure exactly what her title is, but she seems to be in charge of everything, so that would be sweet. I have a feeling it would turn out like the end of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, though. She’d come back to the workshop and be like “Aaargh! You are in so much trouble!”
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
I worked for an amusement park in Oakland that was aimed at the under-8 demographic. Everything was surreal, bright colors, and very small. I’m 6-foot-2 and don’t especially like large groups of teensy children. I was basically the scary giant who bumped his head a lot. But it was fun working in an alternate universe of sorts.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
Well, in the real world, I’d probably end up working somewhere. But assuming there was nothing available ... I’d go to the climbing gym, maybe visit the library, do some laundry. Some sort of mix of physical, mental, and practical. I try to find that blend every day, but it’s a tough hustle in New York City sometimes.
Many Juilliard staff members are also artists. If that applies to you, how do you balance your job and your artistic endeavors? If it doesn’t apply, did you ever consider pursuing an art, and why didn’t you?
In general I’ve been an abject failure as an artist, in the traditional sense. Sculpting, painting, drawing, dancing, acting ... and musically, I’ve tried voice, violin, flute, clarinet, guitar, and piano. All mediocre at best. What I came to realize back in college is I’m more of a craftsman. I really enjoy making other people’s creativity come to life, and I’m pretty good at it. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to find the artistry in the craft, and people have been willing to pay me to do it. Shazam! No conflict between job and art!
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
I avidly follow international affairs and U.S. foreign policy in particular, and I’m very interested in our place in the world and how we use our influence. I have also been a runner since I was little; last year I knocked out a 24-mile run on Thanksgiving by attempting a lap of Manhattan. I ran until I couldn’t walk and then nearly froze to death in my sweaty clothes on the way home. Intense behavior is best coupled with superior planning!
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I can balance almost anything on my chin. I specialize in stepladders and stacks of those white plastic folding chairs frequently found at wedding receptions.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
Nothing fazes New York, nor is New York impressed by much of anything. You have to ask or demand or work to get everything you need. Your résumé is never strong enough. Your expenses are never low enough. Even your sense of justice is irrelevant most of the time. This city really is sink or swim, and I needed a dose of that when I moved here.