Greg D’Amico, a 20-year-old dramatic art major, lost consciousness and died on stage at 9:30 p.m. on May 10 while performing at the Studio Theater in Snidecor Hall.
Doctors at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital pronounced D’Amico dead at 10:21. The cause of death has not been announced, pending the outcome of an autopsy.
When he fell, D’Amico was onstage performing in “The Potboiler” before a crowd of 50 to 60 people. He had been improvising and “at the top of his game” all night, dramatic arts Assistant Professor Irwin Appel said, and at first it seemed like part of the performance. When D’Amico did not get up, someone called 911.
D’Amico was also scheduled to star in a May 11 variety show for Queer Pride Week at UCSB. Organizers from the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity postponed the variety show, instead using Isla Vista Theater as the site of a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. on Friday. At 2 p.m. on May 11, D’Amico’s friends and teachers gathered at Hatlen Theater to grieve with Greg’s parents, Tom and Donna D’Amico. Greg D’Amico’s brother and sister were not able to attend.
A senior from Walnut Creek, D’Amico was five weeks from graduating from the selective Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program. Chancellor Henry Yang said the degree would be conferred posthumously. After gradation, D’Amico was to attend the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York, NY, where he had a scholarship. Donna D’Amico said her son was vibrant, passionate and loved to perform.
“Greg knew he wanted to act from the time he was 6 years old,” she said. “Actually, when he was three months old he played the baby Jesus. … In first grade, he was the turkey in the big black hat in the ‘Little Red Hen,’ but he managed to know every one else’s part and direct it. In third grade, he was the wolf, but he was the wolf in his version of ‘the Three Little Pigs,’ and the wolf was a vegetarian. In fourth grade he was invited to go down and guest star as the wolf because the third-graders were not getting how to be a wolf. … He went and auditioned for a movie when he was about age 2, and he was highly insulted that we did not get him an agent.”
As a child, Greg D’Amico was always acting, Tom D’Amico said.
“I tried to get Greg into baseball when he was about 7 or 8,” Tom D’Amico said. “We put him on a Little League team. He was up at bat, and sure enough, the pitcher hits him with a ball. Greg falls to the ground. He’s writhing in pain; everybody came running out of the stands. And we get there, about two feet from him, and Greg popped to his feet and took a bow.”
At UCSB, D’Amico was well known and respected in the BFA program, Appel said.
“There’s no question to me,” Appel said, “that Greg exemplified the spirit of the department.”
D’Amico was also popular in the school’s gay community.
James Bramlett, a 22-year-old former UCSB student, met D’Amico at a Thursday night gay men’s group two-and-a-half years ago. Bramlett said D’Amico wore loud, colorful clothes and sometimes put on a blue wig and dressed up as “Lady Isis.”
“You’d always see him tearing up the dance floor and being really coquettish with all the guys,” Bramlett said. “He had fun. Period. That rubbed off on everyone else. He would be the life of the party.”
Bramlett said D’Amico’s lively and accepting nature could be traced back to his family.
“His parents loved him openly, even though he was gay,” Bramlett said. “Many of our parents would shun us for that fact. I would like to thank his parents for loving him so he could give us that gift of love that some of us have never received.”
“He was the highlight of my life,” Tom D’Amico said. “I’ve got two other children, and they’re also the highlights of my life, but Greg occupied that special place. He was a kind and gentle person. He loved everybody. He was always standing up for someone else’s rights. He was everything I ever wanted a child to be. … Greg was such a delight. I could talk to him for hours. He’d call me up almost every day – it was just incredible. He always told us how much he loved us.”
“Always tell your parent you love them when you hang up the phone or when you visit,” Donna D’Amico said. “The last thing my son said to me was, ‘I love you, Mom.’ ”
Most of the 150 people who gathered in Hatlen Theater, and later in I.V. Theater, remembered D’Amico for his humor and energy.
“Right now, he’d be laughing at all of us, with our puffy eyes,” Bramlett said. “He’d say, ‘Girl, you need to put on some mascara.’ I can see him right now, looking down, having a blast and being really proud of himself, saying, ‘Yeah, I did good.’ “