Education: Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, UNC Charlotte (2010)
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
When did you first get interested in the arts/theatre?
I've always had an inclination towards art and theatre. I grew up listening to showtunes, putting on performances in the backyard with my neighbors. I got an Andrew Lloyd Weber compilation album in the 3rd grade, and I loved visualizing the musical numbers. (I still know every word of Cats.)
What projects are you currently working on?
I work as a freelance creative producer & art director, primarily in experiential marketing. Experiential marketing is a relatively new advertising strategy that immerses customers within the world of the product. I get to create 3-dimensional spaces for customers to explore. It's storytelling. It's theatrical. It's Instagrammable. (It also pays big bucks!)
Last year, I worked as an event stylist for an American Horror Story immersive event at a summer camp, designed and produced the photo ops at RuPaul's DragCon in New York and Los Angeles, designed and produced a "choose-your-own-adventure" music experience for Amazon, and worked with an Oscar-nominated production designer on a research project for a major feature film. At 32, I continue to carve out new paths in my career.
What are some of your favorite projects you've worked on?
Working at Williamstown Theatre Festival (summers 2011 and 2012) was a career highlight. I was hired as Print & Graphics Manager - but social media was just starting to "happen" (Instagram wasn't a thing yet), and I was tasked with creating content to show what happens behind the scenes. Sometimes, as a graphic designer, I struggled with not feeling like I was "part of the family," feeling like I was just advertising the end product. Williamstown put me right smack dab in the middle of it, and they trusted me immensely. I knew every single person's name who worked at the festival those summers (400+ people); I made life-long friends. I managed staff for the first time. I cried a lot. I grew so much. And I felt appreciated. Jenny Gersten (Artistic Director) and Steve Kaus (Producer) set the bar for me: I will always be in search of environments that made me feel as essential as they did. I continue to work with the people I met at Williamstown. At the end of the season, I produced and directed a company-wide Lip Dub video that captures my absolute adoration of this magical summer they created.
How did your education at UNC Charlotte prepare you for where you are today?
When I was at UNC Charlotte, I explored several different avenues. I found incredible mentors in the costume department. Bob Croghan taught me the elements of design - something I use every single day in my work. Heidi O'Hare taught me how to sew; Bob taught me how to create dress patterns from scratch. I created masks and learned to make molds. I learned the basics of millinery, and built my own hat! I was unstoppable in stage makeup. I can identify fabrics by sight and touch! I didn't end up doing costume design as a career, but it was by no means time wasted: I learned so much about myself, my learning style, and my personal design aesthetic.
What pushed my career in the direction it is now: I felt we were putting up compelling work in the theatre department, but I didn't feel our advertisements were up to par. I dabbled in graphic design for years, and I took it upon myself to learn photoshop and began making posters. We did not have a theatre marketing class at UNC Charlotte, but I carved my own path and it lead me to my first job: a graphic designer at an Off-Broadway theatre company.
What advice would you give students in the Department of Theatre?
This is your opportunity to explore. Theatre is about play. Dabble in every department. Take it seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Carve your own path. Change your mind. Keep exploring! You can't do it wrong. Collaborate with your classmates, who will become your future colleagues. Make your own work! See professional theatre. Take classes outside the theatre department. Learn everything you can. Make mistakes. Soak it all in. Do summer theatre! :)