MANKATO -- Almost a decade ago, Paul Hustoles remembers being impressed with the boundless optimism and energy of a "gypsy" stage performer fresh off a long performance career.
That performer was Paul Finocchiaro, a Boston native who graduated from the Boston Conservatory, where he excelled in musical theatre and dance. After earning a master's degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Finocchiaro lived the unsettled, wayfaring life of a stage performer. From national tours of "West Side Story" to regular gigs performing for a production show at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Finocchiaro developed an impressive and versatile resume over the course of 17 years in the business.
But Hustoles hired Finocchiaro for more than his resume -- knowing even then that the day would would come when the gypsy performer would leave again.
"He had this energy, this positivity that was exactly what our program was looking for," said Hustoles, chair of Minnesota State University's Department of Theatre and Dance, who added that it will take seven part-time staff positions to fill Finocchiaro's role in the department while looking for a full-time replacement. "We knew we'd have him, but we didn't know for how long."
The answer to that question became apparent when Finocchiaro accepted a position with the University of Tampa's theatre department in February.
But don’t think for a moment that the Minnesota State University Department of Theatre and Dance would let the popular and well-liked instructor walk away that easily. Before he leaves, Finocchiaro will direct a pair of Highland Summer Theatre productions – including “A Grand Night for Singing,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue that opens Wednesday, and Neil Simon's comedic drama "I Ought to be in Pictures" later this month.