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The new man behind the curtain at the Sebastiani

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Tony Ginesi, a master of lighting design, is now in the spotlight himself as he steps into the role of general manager of the historic Sebastiani Theatre.

Ginesi worked many hours at the theater lighting special events and now he’s working there full time.

Longtime Sebastiani manager Roger Rhoten has relinquished his day-to-day responsibilities to Ginesi but will remain a familiar face at the theater as its executive director. He will be working with the board of directors on fundraising and theater improvement projects. He will also have time for long-put-off performances like “Rhoten’s Magical Medicine Show,” which he’s putting on at the theater April 28 and 29.

“I’ve known Tony since he was a youngster – he’s a natural,” said Rhoten. “He’s good with people, he has all the necessary skills with lighting and sound. I’m happy to have him and I feel very confident.”

Ginesi, 36, had been working for his father’s special events company Illusions Lighting Designs since 2002. He also co-founded the nonprofit theatre company Narrow Way Stage Company with his brother Chris Ginesi and friend Nick Christianson, producing plays throughout the county for 10 years. He continues on as the technical director of the local performing arts group Cirque de Boheme.

Ginesi is the son of Larry and Claire Ginesi. The family moved to Sonoma from San Francisco when he was in sixth grade. He went to St. Francis Solano School and Justin-Siena High School and then studied film editing and cinematography at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

In keeping with a life that has been all about movies and plays, Ginesi met his wife Tricia Meyer when she was working at the Disney Store in 2000. They married in 2008 and have two daughters Mia, 8, and Gemma, 2. Tricia is a registered nurse and works at Kaiser in San Rafael. His mother is also and registered nurse.

Ginesi has “never wanted to be on stage” and thrives behind the scenes. Even when he was a kid and was involved in Witchie Poo, the annual Halloween show at the Sebastiani, he worked on lighting and sound, never performing. He also did lighting for Broadway Bound Kids when he was young. When he was in Justin-Siena’s theater program, he was always part of the productions but never acted.

He has been “inspired by” Rhoten since he was a kid, and even learned magic tricks from Rhoten, a longtime magician. Ginesi considers Rhoten a mentor and a friend and looks forward to working with him in his new career.

Ginesi will be booking all of the movies and live shows and you will see him selling tickets at the door. “We want to keep the hometown vibe going,” he said. “We have a very loyal and dedicated crowd.” There are plans under way to improve the theater, including adding dressing rooms to make it more suitable for live performances, which are more profitable than movies. They also hope to sell wine and beer in the near future.

Ginesi wants the theater to be a center of the community, with a focus on helping kids. “We want to get the kids up on stage. It’s a good skill to have to not be afraid to get in front of a crowd,” said Ginesi.

He is very enthusiastic about his new job, which he’s been training for the past six months. “I love creating and getting to know people. It is a great feeling of being part of the community.”

Ginesi also noted that tourists stop and look at the theater, built by Samuele Sebastiani in 1933. “We want to figure out how to get them to come inside,” he said, explaining they are always looking for new ways to add to the slim profit margin.

“We are not in danger of going under but we are not making much money either. Just kind of surviving,” he said.

“I’ve always been a small-town guy,” he said. He and Tricia own a home here and will likely stay “forever.” They recently had Gemma’s birthday party at the Sebastiani, running a home-owned copy of “Lilo and Stitch” along with popcorn and cake. “The kids ran amok in the theater. It was fun.”

Ginesi said he “jumped at the chance” when Rhoten asked him if he’d be interested in the position.

“I’m excited and have to temper myself,” said Ginesi. “I want to do this and I want do that and have to tell myself to calm down.”

He said it’s a good feeling and he has nothing but great plans for the future of the Sebastiani Theatre.

“Sonoma has so much history and this theater is a part of it. I so happy to be involved.”