A new performing arts venue sets up shop in Carson City
What would you expect a man who has worked with bands ranging from Metallica to MC Hammer to Pink Floyd to look like? Long hair? Leather pants? A psychedelic glint in his eyes? I definitely wasn’t expecting the clean-cut man dressed in a turtleneck and khakis who greeted me in the lobby of The Upstage Center and Creative Complex in Carson City.
John Procaccini has been in the music entertainment business for 25 years doing everything from keeping track of instruments to being a stage manager. Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1970s, Procaccini always had a passion for music. In 1977, he became a roadie for the group Boston. In the early eighties, he became responsible for the sets on the road, which eventually led to co-designing sets.
“I liked doing that more then schlepping guitars,” he said.
Procaccini settled in Minden after moving here with his native Nevadan wife, Judy, whom he met while on tour with Sammy Hagar.
In 1987, after being involved in three major tours in one year, Procaccini decided it was time to slow down and start his own business. Stage Craft USA was born. The company did set design, consulting and fabrication—the actual building of sets. It had offices in Nashville and New York City, but its headquarters were in Carson City.
“Lots of entertainment people make their home within 60 miles of Carson, which makes it a good center,” he said.
In the 12 years that Stage Craft was in business, employees worked on over 2,000 wide-ranging projects.
“We did everything from MTV to Mickey Mouse, from Pink Floyd to the Pope,” Procaccini said. “It was very diverse what we did, but music was our passion.”
Last year, Procaccini decided to leave the fabrication side of the business and focus on design and consulting. Around this same time, his son became involved in live theater, and the family began to frequent a lot of local venues. That is how Procaccini got the idea for The Upstage Center and Creative Complex.
“The more we found ourselves supporting that, the more we realized that something like this was needed,” he said. “I made it into an performing arts complex. It almost offers everything under one roof.”
Nearly hidden in industrial Carson City off of Mallory Road, the Upstage complex is home to such diverse businesses as a digital recording studio, a financial office for musicians, a lighting designer and a mobile stage company. The building is nearly full and Procaccini predicted that, in about six months, there will be a waiting list to get a space.
He would really like to see a video production company and a photographer in the ranks so that the complex can offer more services for artists.
As we walked the halls of the building, I noticed that every wall was covered in memorabilia and photos of projects Procaccini has worked on, including everything from a Tom Petty signed guitar to several gold and platinum records.
I felt like I was walking through a Who’s Who of the contemporary music scene.
The main feature of the Creative Complex is an intimate 225-seat theater that can host a variety of events from dance recitals to plays. It seems a comfortable place to soak up the arts. Rows of standard gray chairs are placed far enough apart to allow people to pass without that embarrassing squeeze-by.
“There is not a bad seat in the house,” Procaccini said.
One new event taking advantage of this spacious stage, the Grass Roots Concert Series, features a selection of the best local unknowns. The first of the series in November was so popular that another will be hosted in February.
The complex also houses another one of Procaccini’s businesses, a year-old company called Chili Bop that designs and manages entertainment properties.
In its first year, Chili Bop has worked on a music tour for Nickelodeon this past summer, as well as a 15-city mall tour that was sponsored by Hollywood Records.
Currently, the company is working on two big projects, one of which involves design work for a possible Rolling Stones tour next September.
“We have been conversing about designing a VIP village for the tour,” he said. “Hard rock in style, but more Stones apropos—not so commercial.”
He also hopes to kick off a new music event next summer, the details of which Procaccini wants to keep under wraps for now.
Eventually Procaccini would like to get into band management.
“I would love to develop local unheard artists into national acts. With 25 years of contacts, I could make a lot of headway,” he said. “But ultimately developing an act starts with a good relationship; you have to really click with the artist.”
He said that Northern Nevada these days seems to be blooming with creative artistic ventures.
“Even small towns like Genoa are getting involved,” he said. “Minden has been doing a concert series and free music in the parks. Reno is doing an outstanding job.
“New venues are crucial to expanding the arts in our area, but we don’t want a saturation of mediocre stuff either."