Remembering Sandie Grassino
Like many of my fellow alumni at Northwest High School, I was shocked and saddened to read the news that Sandie Grassino has died. Students in the drama program affectionately referred to her a “G.” I didn’t get to know her until my senior year when I signed up for Drama 1.
That class was just what an introvert like myself needed. Because not only did I poke my head out of my shell, I actually got involved in two of the high school productions and on stage for one of them. More about that later in this post, but first back to that drama class.
A few things stick out to me about my time in that class. We had to do a dialogue with another student in the class. But the conversation was the same for all of us. The duo had to come up with characters and create a scene. Me and my partner, a girl named Jenny, made the bold decision to do Dorthy and the Cowardly Lion. We were just getting to know G at that point and learned quickly that The Wizard of Oz was her all-time favorite. We were reminded as G had a way of doing, not to screw up this classic for her. We practiced our scene and each came in costumes that looked pretty darn good (sorry we didn’t have smartphones back in 1990) and we nailed the scene. G applauded us and gave the performance an A.
When in G’s drama classes, it’s a natural progression to work on the performances. That fall the department was doing Neil Simon’s Fools. I didn’t have the courage at that point to audition, so instead, I helped with the set and ticket sales. During those performances, I fell in love with the process and knew then I wanted to be on stage for the spring musical.
What’s in a nickname?
I tried out for Sugar (inspired by the film Some Like it Hot) and I got picked for a handful of roles, that included some dancing and singing. I was essentially an extra; like a keystone cop and a dirty old man. My only speaking role was as the train conductor and that’s where I picked up my nickname. G had a nickname for everyone and when I struggled with my cue on when to start speaking during rehearsal early in the process, G motioned for me to start talking. Despite her obvious cue, I was still confused and said, “Oh, I go now? Oh, okay. Oh yeah.” From that moment on I was known as ‘Okay’ to G and my castmates. When we reconnected on Facebook some 20+ years later, she still called me Okay.
That’s one of the many things I admire about G. We were all her kids. Yes, there were times when we got some tough love, but honestly, we needed it. I never once doubted that she loved us and cared about us inside her classroom, on stage or outside of school. Whether it was rehearsal or class time, you were accepted for who you were under G’s watch. It was one of the few places in high school where I could truly be me. I know others feel the same way.
More Memories of G
Weeks before graduation, I was inducted into the International Thespian Society. One of the requirements on induction night was to do an individual performance. My ‘master’ wanted me to dress like a cat and meow the song Memories from Cats. I did it while playing with a ball of yarn. Again, it was a moment of stepping outside my comfort zone. But with G overseeing it all, it made things less uncomfortable.
I’m glad social media provided us all the opportunity to reconnect decades after leaving NHS. I chatted with G a few times via messenger and she was quick to comment on photos or posts I made. I know she was proud of me as I am proud to say I knew her. She helped in the evolution of this self-professed geek. Thanks, G and Godspeed. You will be missed.
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