It was a little red tape recorder that first thrust Grant Baciocco into the world of entertainment.
Growing up in San Bruno and Burlingame, Baciocco was given the recorder as a gift from his parents. It became his first stage. Since then, he’s been exploring the world of performance through any means — comedy, music, podcasting and now puppets. Baciocco will be part of the upcoming performance of "Stuffed and Unstrung,” which opens Aug. 18 at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. The local will take on the challenge of improv while using puppets when he joins the cast from Aug. 25 through Aug. 27.
Working with 80 puppets from the Jim Henson Company wasn’t Baciocco’s goal when he started performing. He simply knew it was fun to use the little red tape recorder.
Baciocco, who now lives in Southern California, noted it became a joke that "I realized at an early age that I couldn’t talk 24 hours a day. [Through the tape recorder], I could give my voice a break and still hear myself.”
Those recorded sessions weren’t practice for anything necessarily. Baciocco would record different stories, jokes or his mom when he was in trouble. The latter became an inspiration for a comedic song he later wrote which, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, tells children it’s fun to tape record your mom when she’s yelling at you and play it back to her friends.
His tape recorder allowed him to replay comedy acts and shows, like "Weird Al” Yankovic or "Dr. Demento,” without realizing the influence that may later have.
It was music that first caught Baciocco’s eye. He wasn’t a musician but had big goals of becoming a rock star for a band called The Killer Shark. Without musical lessons, that seemed unlikely.
"I’ve always loved performing. It’s funny because I didn’t really do it until I was at [Burlingame Intermediate School] and got a part in the play,” he said, adding it was a small part and almost everyone took drama.
During his sophomore year at Burlingame High School, Baciocco truly embraced his love of the stage. A new drama teacher took over and decided to tackle "The Real Inspector Hound,” a short one-act that follows two theater critics named Moon and Birdboot. Baciocco played Moon.
It became a family affair from there. Baciocco noted his mother had long enjoyed musicals and his father often helped build sets. It was no surprise that Baciocco went to California State University at Long Beach to study theater, performing and directing.
Baciocco has never balked at the opportunity to perform. While in college, he entertained crowds aboard The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. He had taught himself to play guitar in college which allowed him to create comedy songs. Now he’s often performing comedy. But it’s not always about auditioned jobs.
"I really like podcasting and new media and creating stuff for the web. In Hollywood, people are constantly going ‘Will you make my show?’ and ‘Let me act in your thing.’ With podcasting, you can do it yourself. The only investment is time,” he said.
That’s where "The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd,” a podcast that started in 2004, began. At its peak, the family-friendly podcast had 85,000 downloads a month. It helped Baciocco get a foot in a the Jim Henson Company. Baciocco pitched the idea of podcasting for the company. One of the people with whom he worked suggested Baciocco be trained to use the puppets. That called for improv training, which he did in 2007.
"At least once a week I get to go over and play with Jim Henson puppets,” he said.
Now, as part of the "Stuffed and Unstrung” cast, he gets to bring that fun to a Bay Area stage. Described by Baciocco as "Whose line is it Anyway?” with puppets, the show works with audience suggestions. A number of puppets are available for use and audience members get to see both the puppeteers but also what such a scene would look like if it were on television. Those on stage do the setup as if it’s for a show, in front of a camera which is also projected on stage. The six people aren’t spread out on stage, but crammed together the way they would be for a television show, giving fun insight into the world of puppetry.
"Stuffed and Unstrung” runs Thursday, Aug. 18 through Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets range from $30 to $65. For tickets visit https://tickets.shnsf.com. For more information about Baciocco visit www.MrGrant.com.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.