Tag: Actor’s Express

Why We Support the Arts – Chelsea Steverson, C4 Atlanta Operations Manager

Each of us in the Atlanta arts community has a unique and inspiring story about our relationship with arts and culture. C4 Atlanta would like to share our own personal accounts of what the arts means to us at and what brought us here:

Chelsea’s Story —

Chelseas first summer in Atlanta.
Chelsea and her best friend, Rachel, hanging out during her first summer in Atlanta.

If you had told me 6 years ago that I would one day be the Operations Manage for an arts service organization, I would have laughed in your face. 6 years ago I was simply trying to graduate with my BFA in Media and Performing Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design and figure out what my next acting gig was. In no way was “non-profit administration work” part of my vocabulary as I was dedicated to the idea of being a professional Shakespearean actress or nothing at all. Of course, things change, priorities shift, and you simply can’t deny “your calling”.

Of course, all stories have a beginning and I would be doing both myself and you a disservice if I didn’t divulge a little history into how art shaped me into the lady I am today.

You can take the girl out of the South, but not the South out of the girl.
You can take the girl out of the South, but not the South out of the girl.

I would like to say that I lived a normal, small-town childhood, but that would be a lie. Coming from a military family the world I existed in was always black and white, and because I grew up in the small farming community of Blackshear, Georgia this was easy to do. No one thought outside of the box, everyone attended church on Sunday, and your personal business was never kept secret for long. This was all I knew until a few weeks prior to my 7th birthday when my whole life changed. I was diagnosed with Burkits Lymphoma, a type of Nonhodgkins Lymphoma…. in layman’s terms…cancer.

For the next year of my life I was poked, prodded, and tested only to be pulled from the 1st grade early. Chemotherapy was the only answer, and within weeks of beginning treatment I had lost every speck of hair on my body.

I mention this not because of what I learned during my time in and out of the hospitals, but what I learned when I came back and had to begin 2nd grade. As one can imagine, I was ostracized immediately on my first day back. No one understand why I was the only one kid who got to wear a hat; why I couldn’t participate in recess; and why the “girl” from last year now looked like a “boy”. Needless to say, I learned the hard way how to be my own best friend.

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Chelsea Steverson, 7 years old, wearing her new hat with the bow.

As a young girl, my self-esteem was quickly smashed and socializing was a thing of my past. My nights were plagued with nightmares of humiliation and my days were lonely. Therefore, I looked to my education and reading a way to entertain myself. Unfortunately, my quickly rising grades and high academic level was more fuel for my peers to make fun of me.

At the beginning of my 3rd grade year I was encouraged to audition for the school chorus by my church youth leader. After mustering up the courage and buying a new hat with a bow to cover my peach fuzz of a haircut, I  went out for the auditions. To my surprise I was accepted, but what I didn’t realize is that moment would change my life forever. Chorus rehearsal were filled with an energy and friendliness that I had never found before, and the people accepted me regardless of my hair. This was my first step in finding performance as a outlet for expression and rebuilding my damaged self-worth.

Because all Storm Troopers look better in a sundress.
Because all Storm Troopers look better in a sundress.

As one can imagine, being diagnosed with cancer caused me grow up very early. I was faced the concept of death early on and had to deal with many problems and situation that an average 7 year old should never have to face, but I found an outlet in art. Performance was the first, and from there I found painting, writing, and acting. If you had told 7 year old Chelsea sitting in the bathroom crying during recess that 10 years down the road that I would graduate from high school at the top of my class with a scholarship to a private arts school for acting I would never have believed you. Truth is, those experiences of misunderstanding from my peers taught me to value each and every person for their uniqueness while art taught me that being unique is perfectly okay.

I have spilled this story forth not to induce pity, but to express a sense of pride I have in myself and the art that I make. All of my priorities stem from these early life experiences and how they have shaped me into the person I am today. It led me to college and helped me find a life purpose in the arts.

In 2007, I begin my journey through the Savannah College of Art and Design. There are no words to prepare a small-town southern girl for the experience of private art school. It was single-handedly the best 4 years of my life. The education was great but the opportunities and the people I met left the most important impressions on my young adult life. Where else could I share a beer and have a single conversation that encompasses both Star Wars, Buddhism, and gender equality? This was a truly revolutionary time for me.

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Backstage fun time at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Chelsea (left) as one of the witches in Macbeth.

I spent my summers in undergrad acting for Shakespeare companies across the US including the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ. Upon graduation I moved to Atlanta to fulfill an internship with the local theatre Actor’s Express. As many free-lance artists, I found a day job in corporate retail and was quickly moving up the internal managerial ranks. By 2012 I was managing the number one store for Paper Source in the nation. Sounds perfect right? Unfortunately I was deliriously unhappy, and not just with my day job. I was finding myself unfulfilled by acting both on stage and on screen. After much soul searching and the normal mid-20’s breakdown I realized that I loved art but I loved the ARTIST more.

Its the people and the minds behind the work that were really inspiring to me. I found that more and more artists in my life (myself included) felt like they had no control of their artistic careers and were wondering around a diluted and often unfriendly market. I had found a new calling…. the artists and their needs. There was untapped inspiration in the idea that my efforts weren’t specifically focused on just the product of art, but instead supporting the people and their process of making it.

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Chelsea Steverson as young Lara Croft, DragonCon 2015

In 2014 I took myself back to grad school to answer for this hole in my life. SCAD welcomed me back with open arms, and I found a new home in the Arts Administration field. Here I was able to use my innate skills in business while also being more active than ever in the arts. Thanks to my graduate degree I’ve had the chance to work for organizations like The Atlanta History Center, Arts for Learning at the Woodruff, Actor’s Express, and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.

When I’m not busy wearing my administrator hat I run a small arts collective, Catalyst Arts Atlanta, perform with theatres around Atlanta, paint in the comfort of my own apartment, spend my summers at arts/music festivals, and let my nerd flag fly actively cosplaying at DragonCon each year. Additionally, I’m honored to serve as the inaugural chair of the Ambassador program at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia.

Chelsea advocates for arts funding at a local Commissioners Meeting.
Chelsea advocates for arts funding at a local Commissioners Meeting.

I am a very blessed and lucky woman. I’m educated, have the best friends and family in the world, and have been in remission for almost 20 years. I have many people to thank for where I am today, but mostly I want to say thank you to each and every person that loves and supports an artist. I am who I am because of the arts, and so I dream of being an ambassador for the arts. Thanks to C4 Atlanta I get to actively work towards that goal everyday.

 

 

Jessica De Maria shares thoughts on combining Administration and Artistic Practice

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

Jessica De Maria, Development Manager, Actor's Express
Jessica De Maria, Development Manager, Actor’s Express

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Jessica De Maria.

Where do you work and what do you do? I’m the Development Manager and Special Events Coordinator at Actor’s Express. I’m also a performer, writer and teaching artist.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? That changed daily when I was a kid! When I first went to college, I wanted to work in Educational Programming-I planned on designing curriculum for television programs like Sesame Street.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? Gene Kelly. I’ve seen every single one of his films, and would watch my favorites over and over. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on earth who loves THE PIRATE. I still light up whenever I see him on screen…or talk about him…or watch collections of YouTube videos.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so fortunate to have many mentors throughout my life who have all truly helped me profoundly at my many stages of growth. If I had to chose though, I’d say the biggest influence was the director of my high school Drama program, George Loizidas. He of course was the first to really cultivate me as a performer – but the major lesson he taught me was humility. He made it very clear that I should always be humble, appreciative and look at the larger picture. Not just with relation to theatre, but in all things. He schooled me with some serious tough love, but it worked. He kept me honest and he gave me true confidence.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I’ve been interested in the arts my whole life. I’m from NY, and my parents made it a priority for me to see at least one Broadway show a year. It was usually a Christmas or a Birthday present. We also saw local theatre all year round. Seeing theatre and appreciating music was a priority. I also studied dance, acting, piano and voice as well. I can’t imagine growing up without art and music as a daily part of our lives. I’ve been in Arts Administration for about 4 years, my current position for 2.

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Promo photo from THE LAST TIME WE WERE HERE, co-written by Jessica that went to the New York Musical Theatre Festival

How is art a passion for you? It’s my every day. If I’m not at the Express I’m rehearsing, teaching or writing. It has to be a passion. The hours are long, the pay can be tough to swallow and the schedule is 7 days a week. Working in this profession brings me to life. I feel like I get to use every skill set I possess on a daily basis, hone them and perfect them. To me, the arts are the last great thing that brings people together on a human level-that directly engages us with one another, physically, emotionally-and therefore it has the power to affect change in us and in our community.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? Well, just like in any other professions, we still have so much progress to make. I feel there is equality in salary in the arts for women that may not exist elsewhere-but I’m still looking for more women to be represented as heads of arts organizations. I’m looking for more women playwrights to be produced, more great parts for women onstage. I’m looking for the same protection for women in the arts (formal sexual harassment and discrimination policies on the books for example) that we have in other professions. I am glad, however, as a woman to work in a profession that I feel IS progressive for the most part and willing to hear my voice.

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? I gain a tremendous sense of fulfillment when Actor’s Express is awarded a grant based on any package I have written. I have a great love and passion for the organization and I try to imbue everything I write or say about AE with that. So when there is a financial award that allows us to improve programming and further our mission, it’s just amazing. To know that I’ve persuaded someone to support us through writing just makes me want to high five everyone ever. Looking back, I would have settled into this role administratively sooner. I sort of tried everything, and avoided development and fundraising as a primary responsibility because I felt there was too much pressure involved. There certainly is a great deal of pressure and a heavy sense of responsibility-but I also use so much more creative thinking, writing, and true strength and passion than I thought I would. Plus there’s a brilliant and clear sense of completion and success. One thing I know I did right was chose Actor’s Express as my home theatre. AE has such a clearly stated mission of inclusivity and accessibility for all. It’s a theatre that champions the voices of the marginalized and pioneers great new works. AE truly believes that art can have a profound and immediate impact on the community. As I look around at the climate our country exists in at present, this mission is more important than ever.

 Jessica De Maria as Beggar Woman in SWEENEY TODD at Actor's Express
Jessica De Maria as Beggar Woman in SWEENEY TODD at Actor’s Express

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? I really love that there seems to be this sudden burst in homegrown projects and new work. One of the major benefits of being a part of this community, is that it is small enough and close knit enough for people to take big risks, and feel supported in them. Start up companies like The Seedling Project and the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival are perfect examples. Having outlets like these has promoted the consistent development and creation of new work coming out of Atlanta which can only improve our national profile.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I love collaboration. I hope to contribute a strong sense of that. I enjoy finding creative ways to partner with other organizations-both on the inside and the outside of the arts community. I hope to continue to promote all sectors of the city working together to grow Atlanta into the world class arts city it can be.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

Actor’s Express: www.actorsexpress.com
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Promo Photo for WHAT’S PAST by Jessica De Maria and Chase Peacock, a new musical in development.
Bio?
Jessica is a graduate of Oglethorpe University and currently serves as the Development Manager and Special Events Coordinator at Actor’s Express in West Midtown Atlanta. Jessica previously spent time in the offices of Horizon Theatre and Georgia Shakespeare before making her way to the Express. Jessica is also a regular performer, most recently seen in SWEENEY TODD at Actor’s Express. You can catch her onstage next in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA at Theatrical Outfit, followed by KISS ME KATE at Stage Door Players and THE THREEPENNY OPERA at 7Stages. She is the co-author of THE LAST TIME WE WERE HERE (with Jeremiah Parker Hobbs), a selection of The New York Musical Theatre Festival 2015 and currently slated for three workshop performances at Synchronicity Theatre in June. Her current work in process is the new musical WHAT’S PAST, written with Chase Peacock.

Collins Goss Talks About Raising Awareness for Atlanta Arts

As you may know, March is National Women’s History Month, and yesterday was International Women’s Day. Last year, C4 Atlanta shared the stories of women arts administrators in our city as part of a project with the National Women’s History Project called “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”.

C4 Atlanta is excited to curate this blog series for the second year in a row! We will be highlighting women’s stories on our blog and on our social media throughout the month of March and into April. This year we have expanded the project to include the stories of more women and to share a diverse range of experiences, including women nationally as well as locally. Sharing women’s triumphs challenges stereotypes within today’s society and overturns social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre
Collins Goss, Development Manager of Horizon Theatre

With that being said, we’d love to introduce our next leading lady, Collins Goss.

Where do you work and what do you do? I work as the Development Manager for the Horizon Theatre Company. I am in charge of all of Horizon’s fundraising efforts, including the annual fund, major gifts, foundation grants, government contracts for services, and special events. I also work closely with our Board of Directors, and I do a chunk of the project management work for Horizon’s community-based projects.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Honestly, I never really had a set goal. Most kids would list teacher, nurse, vet, doctor, but I never had a specific thing that I knew I wanted to do.

Who was your favorite artist/writer/performer growing up? I loved to read growing up, so most of my favorite artists were writers. I could not get enough of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series as a teenager. I really, really loved classic lit like Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, Peter Pan, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? I have been so lucky to have had several wonderful influencers and mentors. I had two teachers in high school who blew my world wide open: one was from South Africa and one was from Queens. They somehow ended up teaching in South Georgia where I grew up, and they exposed me to a world much larger than I had known. My biggest influences, though, are definitely my parents. In my completely unbiased opinion, they are the greatest people on earth who give and love unconditionally and who get up every day to make the world better even when it is really hard and no one says thank you. They taught (and still teach) me so many things, but “thank you” was a big one. Everyone is worthy of your attention and gratitude no matter who they are.

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work? I took dance lessons from preschool through high school. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy being a dance patron. I got into theatre the way a lot of kids do: my friends in high school were in the one act play and spring musical. I wanted in on the fun too. The alternative was playing basketball or jumping hurdles, and no one wants me to do either one. Yikes. I think I started unofficially working in some aspect of arts admin in high school and just never stopped. I am still not quite sure how that happened.

How is art a passion for you? Art is something that you can enjoy all of your life, and there is always a new show, art form, or artist to discover. The ability to keep discovering is what makes art a passion for me.

What are your thoughts on equality and representation of women in the arts? I work in an office of all women, and this has been the norm in most of my jobs in arts admin. I don’t know if that is typical or not, but I think it is awesome. Working in the arts full time is not easy. The hours can be long and the days frustrating, but women get stuff done and totally defy the odds. 🙂

Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park
Horizon Theatre presents Avenue Q to local audiences at Piedmont Park

What in your profession has  given you the greatest satisfaction or fulfillment? Looking back, what would you have done differently? What would you do again? The first thing that comes to mind is working on Theatre in the Park last summer. Horizon produced Avenue Q in Piedmont Park for a five night run in June 2015. That’s right. We produced a full scale Broadway musical outside in the middle of Atlanta in June with 28 puppets, a band, and 11 actors. Most of the tickets were given away for free, and we had more than 7700 people join us in the park that week. Moments like this are the reason I got into this business. All these people from all over the Atlanta area left their houses and Netflix to come outside, sit on a blanket, eat a picnic, and watch puppets sing about growing up and finding their purpose. Would I do it again? Heck yes.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta? Atlanta artists and administrators just make it happen in Atlanta, and their work is amazing. No one seems to take no for an answer, and I think that is pretty cool. There has been a lot of talk about Atlanta’s public art scene, and I am really excited to see what comes out of this. We have tons of space that could benefit from an art intervention: the Little Five Points plaza (Horizon is tackling this one starting in April, so stay tuned!), MARTA stations, and so many more.

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community? I would really like to be a part of raising awareness of all the arts offerings in Atlanta and the impact the arts have on our communities. There are several individuals and arts organizations that are committed to advocating for the arts whether it is on the government level, among business leaders, or with individual patrons. I am really excited about an audience development project I am working on with the Atlanta Intown Theatre Partnership (AITP). AITP is made up of Horizon, 7 Stages, Actor’s Express, the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern and Theatrical Outfit, and we are committed to pooling resources and doing things together that we could not do as individual theatres. Currently we want to raise live theatre going as a top of mind thing to do among 20-40 year olds who live/work/play along the Atlanta Beltline. We are still in the very early stages of the project, but I see tremendous potential for success.

Where can I learn more about your organizations and work (websites, social media, etc.)?

www.horizontheatre.com

Twitter: @horizontheatre

Facebook: Horizon Theatre Company

Instagram: @horizontheatre

Little Five Arts Alive Program launching in April 2016: http://www.littlefiveartsalive.com/

Bio?

Collins Goss (Development Manager) joins the Horizon Theatre Company after working for the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance. At UA Theatre & Dance, she served as the digital communications, marketing, and patron services managers throughout her three years. She has also worked for the Texas Shakespeare Festival and Rose of Athens Theatre in Athens, GA. No matter the location, audience development and communication have been the focus of her work, and she is excited to be a part of the staff and community at the Horizon Theatre. Collins completed her MFA in Theatre Management from the University of Alabama in December and has BA degrees in English and Theatre from the University of Georgia.