How is your background as a performer influencing the decisions you make for your theater?
My experience professionally has exposed me to more theater repertoire so I have a lot to pull from. In our area, as far as musical theater goes professionally, like at Virginia Musical Theater, they do a lot more classics and less contemporary work. I want to appeal to the younger generations here too. My exposure to new stuff is helping me influence the season, and what audience will like. Some are less well-known, but that are the new classic. Eventually "Hello Dolly" is not as relevant today and that’s what art is about.
"More important than the talent is the personality
of the people you work with"
As far as hiring in the industry, in every situation I’ve been, in any production, more important than the talent is the personality of the people you work with. You have to have the right group dynamic. I’ve seen a lot of divas, and I will never hire divas. You think you have to hire the best performer, but you have to hire people that are not jaded. I want to hire people that I see myself reflected in so that we’re all in the same place.
"You can't hire someone based on their experience"
Sometimes having more experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the better candidate. You can’t hire based on experience. That’s a mistake that a lot of people make. People might have been in the industry longer but they’ve just been getting through. It doesn’t mean they’re good. You have to look beyond that. There is a lot to be said for experience and I’m not denying that, but it can’t make up for certain things: any weakness you had ten years ago you still have. It can’t just be all on paper. You have to talk to people, and see how you communicate together.
I didn’t want to base someone on the fact that they were in the industry a long time, but that they wanted to do the job and were good for it. It’s easy for me to say that when I’m young and I don’t have as much experience, so it’s easy for me to give other people like myself the chance. Maybe it’s possible if I were older I would want someone at my level in terms of years paid. But I think if I can do it, this person can too, even if they have less experience.
Is owning your own company on the way of your performing, or does it help it?
It’s great actually! It takes up my time and everything, but I’m at a point in my life where I always said I don’t want to direct, I don’t want to teach. I had to prove something to myself as a performer. Now I know I can do a two-hour one-woman show because I did it. I’ve proved to myself I’m where I want to be as a performer. I’m still growing and learning and improving, but I don’t have to prove myself anymore. That feeling freed me up emotionally to do other things.
"I've proved to myself I'm where I want to be as a
performer. That freed me up to do other things."
Since then I’ve learned that I have other talents: business, producing and directing, instead of just performing. I always knew I was a good coach, but I didn’t know I could do the other things until I allowed myself to do that. With owning my company, I could do a show and cast myself! I also really enjoy cabaret work, on a small scale, and I have the channels to publicize that through the theatre.
So it’s really helped, because I’m building an audience for the theater, and I am the face of the theatre, and therefore I’m building an audience for myself. Most directors that own theatre are not performers, so that makes a difference. That’s been what’s gotten us a lot of support, is me performing after a speech to get sponsors. If I cast myself as something, because I am the face of the show, people will come for that.
"I just happen to be the right person for the job"
What should performers consider before opening their own company?
I think I could and list all the attributes and qualities that I have to do this, but it’s so much for than that. So much is circumstantial. I’m not saying you can’t climb any mountain, but in my case, there is a niche in Chesapeake, because we are the only and first theatre company. The groundwork was laid as I had a lot of connections in the area, it’s a homecoming, so people are able to welcome me that way.
So it’s circumstantial and psychological. It’s the right time, and I just happen to be the right person for the job. But it’s not me. If it weren’t the right circumstances, I probably wouldn’t even had the idea. It can be done, but you’ll start smaller and work harder. We’re moving really fast. We’re needed so we’ve gotten a lot of support.
"It's an exciting time"
Any last thought?
On a personal note, it’s just so nice to feel that you’ re finally doing what you are called to do. I was called to perform and I’ll continue to do that, but it was never everything. There were road blocks, and signs that were pointing me in a different direction. It’s nice to know that I am on the right path now. It’s exciting to be at the beginning of a journey this way. I’m at such a good spot in my life. I’m taking note and just go: “remember this.” Once the company grows, we’ll go back and remember this. It’s an exciting time.