Pali Stage Technician Builds for the Stars at the Grammys

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Bianca Cherry, Staff Writer

Pali stage technician Dean Wright worked as an assistant carpenter at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards last month, constructing sets for some of the biggest names in music.

Hired by the school last December, Wright brings professional experience to his job at Pali where he organizes dance, theater and orchestral presentations for the Visual and Performing Arts department. At this year’s Grammys, he led a crew, installed flooring and shaped the intricate sets for the star-studded lineup of performers, including Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Megan Thee Stallion. 

“We basically walked into the empty convention center and set up every stage and all the curtains and all the columns,” Wright said. “We had five stages, and acts would do their performance, then we would take their stage off and put the next stage on and assemble them.”

The entire process took three weeks, the first two dedicated to building and the last one dedicated to taking it all down, Wright said.

“My favorite thing is always the last day when the space is empty again,” he said. “It’s always this weird feeling in the air when just like two days ago there was this gigantic set here, and hundreds of people were doing their thing, but then it’s all gone again.”

This year’s Grammys was not Wright’s first rodeo. He is part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, a union that supplies him with production jobs. He has worked on many Broadway shows, concerts and other high-profile events, including the 2020 Grammys.

However, Wright said his experience at this year’s event differed dramatically from the previous year. What used to be a job filled with fun celebrity interactions offered fewer opportunities to mingle with the stars, due to restrictive social distancing guidelines.

Wright explained that production staff and performers were separated into three zones — Zone A for talent, Zone B for building and Zone C for stage.

“Usually in a pre-COVID-19 world, there’s a very equal chance that Kristen Bell and l are going to be eating next to each other at the cafeteria,” Wright said. “With the zones now, that does not happen… There’s no opportunity to schmooze at all.”

Despite the COVID-19 limitations, Wright said that working for this year’s Grammys was still a rewarding experience.  

“It’s really nice to see the thing you made show up on national TV,” he said. “It is a truly fleeting moment that will never happen again so it’s really interesting to be a part of it.”