John Giresi’s life was transformed by an introduction to the musical theater course at Indiana University.
“It changed my goal, changed my life. I became obsessed with learning as much as I could, ”said Giresi, now a teacher at Fair Lawn High School for over 30 years.
“I hope I can pass the torch and that it will be a point of inspiration for my students,” he said.
Giresi, who has developed a four-year American musical theater program in the district, was honored in the spring with a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award as an Outstanding Theater Educator, one of three in the state.
His next production is a reimagined version of “Ain’t Misbehavin ‘,” a 1978 Tony Award-winning show that Giresi says isn’t usually performed in high schools.
The original musical revue originally featured five black actors, three women and two men, performing jazz standards and set in a Harlem nightclub in the 1920s.
In Giresi’s vision, it takes place in the present and takes place in a music class, “like a ‘Glee’ setting, where the teacher presents students with historical pieces that they may not be familiar with,” did he declare.
The production will come in collaboration with the creator of “Ain’t Misbehavin ‘”, Richard Maltby Jr. Giresi has enlisted famous Broadway artists like composer John Kander to help with the productions. The show will debut next spring.
Phil Sloves, a 2010 Fair Lawn High School graduate who appeared on Broadway in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” followed Giresi’s class through four years of high school.
“I felt inspired to get up, get moving and try new things,” Sloves said. “I found this haven of peace inside his classroom. I even stopped between periods just because I felt comfortable there.
He also praised the “professionalism” of the program.
Giresi said, “I have the opportunity to work with them in the classroom teaching a wide variety of techniques, from audition preparation to performance skills, acting skills and vocals.” He also composes original songs and writes lyrics for productions.
Alondra Uriarte graduated from Fair Lawn High School in 2020 and is now studying theater and musical theater at Montclair State University.
“In high school, that’s when the wheels started to turn for me – having the AMT, where I could practice my acting and my singing. It helped me come out of my shell, ”Uriarte said.
Principal Paul Gorski said Giresi “has supported the growth and talent of countless young performing artists. His talent and dedication has been recognized by the state, and we look forward to seeing the sequel.”
Anne Poyner, director of theater and forensics at Summit High School, and Cindy Dwyer, director of performing arts at Mater Dei Prep in Middletown also graced the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn.
Shaylah Brown is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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