I’ve toyed with calling this post “Girl Power,” but that doesn’t do justice to the topic.
In the last year, our little theatre has undergone great change. A new Executive Artistic Director stepped in following the death of the long time leader, and with that shift came a tidal wave of realignment, self-examination and fine tuning. One of the biggest changes has been that we’ve restructured our production staff positions and work flow to suit our new leader’s vision. In that change, we sought the very best people to take on roles that in some cases had been held by an irreplaceable fixture.
The people we have in key roles in our production department, I can say with certainty, are the very best. For their roles, at this time, we couldn’t have found more impressive individuals. Each one has years of lived learning plus training, and a hefty dose of the ineffable magic that courses through the veins of “theatre people”. And they are all women.
Why is that even important?
It shouldn’t be but it is. Its no secret that women are underpaid, overlooked for key jobs, discriminated against or worse in the workplace. In one of the nation’s top theatres, a lawsuit emerged from inexcusable behavior in their scene shop. Joanna Lynne Staub, our extraordinary sound designer for last season’s Mockingbird (returning for this season’s Tuck Everlasting and Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and full disclosure, one of my oldest and dearest friends), works frequently on Broadway and in regional companies nationwide where female sound designers – who get the title credit – are a rarity.
At Nashville Children’s Theatre we want our audiences to be able to see diverse lives reflected on our stage, and to see themselves in the stories we tell. And in those who tell them.
Rachael Silverman is in her fourth season at NCT, and her first as our newly minted Director of Production, a new role that centralizes the leadership of all of our production operations. With training from the venerable Juilliard School, as well as past work at companies like Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Rachael knows a thing or two. Alarie Hammock, our new costume shop manager comes to NCT by way of no less than Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Morgan Major-Pfendler, our Scenic Artist and Props Master, joins NCT having impressed both Rachael and Ernie Nolan with her expertise and training. And Randi Weisjahn, our Assistant Costume Designer wields a degree in fashion and tailoring which she used to great acclaim designing for our summer Emerging Artist productions.
We do have men our team as well. Scott Leathers, our Resident Designer for over 20 years, and Brandon Braam, our Sound Engineer. And of course, there is “Pops”, also known as Dan Brewer, the company stage manager for nearly 200 productions over 35 years at NCT and pretty much a local legend.
It is our shared belief in modeling excellence and equity that has led us to find these unparalleled colleagues and ask them to make theatre for us. We see and acknowledge their gender. We honor and respect their world views and approaches. And we know that not only are they our colleagues here everyday, but they send a tangible signal to our community – both here in Nashville and around the country – that it is not mutually exclusive to have talented women and hire the very best. We do and we did.