Friday, November 21, 2014

New Faces at Westport Country Playhouse

by Chad Kinsman, Artistic & Management Coordinator

With everything that’s happening at the Playhouse during the end of 2014, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to introduce to you a few new faces you’ll be seeing a lot more of in 2015! Our small-but-mighty staff has three new additions - Community Engagement and Education Programs Coordinator Courtney Lauria, Marketing Associate / Group Sales Erin Focone, and Institutional Giving Manager Emily Shufrin.

Erin, Emily, and Courtney.

Artistic & Management Coordinator Chad Kinsman recently sat down with Courtney, Erin, and Emily to learn a little bit more about them as they begin their Playhouse journey.

Where were you before starting at the Playhouse? 

Courtney: In August my husband and I moved to Wilton, CT from New York City.  I lived there for just under 10 years, working at Broadway.com for 8 and a ½ years.  I was the Broadway Classroom Coordinator, putting together workshops for students to learn various skills from Broadway actors.  I’m also a playwright and spent most of my time in New York working with Ensemble Studio Theater, I was a member of Youngblood until I became “oldblood”.  Upon moving to Connecticut I had to leave a wonderful writers group, Mission to dit(MARS), which was based in Astoria, Queens.  They do amazing work with Queens based playwrights.  Lastly, I was in the 25th anniversary cast of the off-Broadway show Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen, let alone, be a part of. 

Erin: I graduated from the University of Vermont in May and then after graduation I came here to the Playhouse and was the Marketing Intern all summer. I was lucky enough to be offered a position as the Marketing Associate at the end of the summer!

Emily: Prior to my arrival, I worked at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.  There, I was responsible for all foundation, corporate, and government giving.

What interested you about working at the Playhouse?

Courtney: My theater “home” was Ensemble Studio, and I knew when we were moving to Connecticut I wanted to find a new theater “home”.  I know a lot of actors who have come up from the city and worked at here at the Playhouse. The reputation it has is stellar.  Based on the plays that they have done, and the way this theater opens its door to include everyone in the community – I knew it was a place I wanted to be a part of.  Recently my husband and I saw Things We Do For Love and the caliber of work, my goodness – Westport Playhouse should be called the furthest Off-Broadway house, because the work is just so refined.

Erin: I grew up a few towns over from Westport so my parents had taken me to shows here when I was younger, but it wasn’t until many years later when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do after graduation that I became “re-interested” in the Playhouse. I was very excited at the opportunity to start as a Woodward Intern this summer because the focus on the intern program is all about education, which was perfect for me. I knew I wanted to work in theatre but I wasn’t quite sure where I fit or what I wanted to do. This summer gave me a “crash course” on all the different positions and opportunities in theatre and really excited me for the future.

Emily: My husband and I recently started a family.  I was drawn to the Playhouse’s strong commitment to young audiences and their families.  I saw the Playhouse as a place where I can both fulfill my passion for theatrical philanthropy, and also hopefully spark a curiosity for the arts in my son.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Playhouse so far?

Courtney: Hands down, the people.  Everyone has been so nice and encouraging.  Before I even accepted this job I got an email from one of the staff just reaching out and letting me know that whatever choice I made, it was a pleasure to meet me.  Everyone has been so supportive and friendly.  I started the week before The Gala – the playhouse was buzzing with activity, and there was so much to do.  The staff still made the time to explain things to me, and really set me up for success. 

Erin: I love getting to work in such an esteemed and historic theater. This is my first professional job and my first job in theater as well, so I feel very lucky to be working here!

Emily: From the amazing team work to the high caliber of theatrical performances, it is hard to choose one aspect of the Playhouse to be my favorite. However, I am constantly wowed by the Playhouse’s many community partnerships and their dedication to Fairfield County’s audiences—specifically families, students, and educators. It is refreshing to find a community that demonstrates high arts involvement and acknowledges the important role the arts play in our lives. And, I am grateful for my family’s opportunity to join this vibrant community.

What are most looking forward to at the Playhouse in 2015? What are your goals for the year?

Courtney: The fall 2015 production of Broken Glass, celebrating the 100 birthday of Arthur Miller is very exciting.  I’m also very eager to work on our Family Festivities, which started on November 16th.  Going to the theater, making it a family event, I want that to be tradition for our community.  The Westport Country Playhouse and it’s grounds are beautiful.  My goal, not just for the year, but my ongoing goal is to creative wonderful opportunities for family’s to come and have shared experiences.  Making memories, watching theater together.  Also I want to dazzle the staff with my pie making abilities when we have Staff Thanksgiving.

Erin: I am just looking forward to being with a season from start to finish. My internship this summer started right before the 2nd show of this season, so I am really excited to be with a season all the way through.

Emily: I most look forward to meeting the many wonderful patrons and philanthropic supporters that make Westport Country Playhouse tick. They are truly the heartbeat of the theater and I genuinely hope to get to know each of them on a personal level. In the coming year, I look to expand the Playhouse’s institutional giving by identifying additional corporate and foundation support.

If you could rename your position based on your first few month’s experience, what would you call it?

Courtney: I think Community Engagement and Education Programs Coordinator fits, but for right now I feel like I (personally) should be called “The Wide-Eyed Optimist”.  I don’t know everything yet, but I am optimistic that someday I’ll get it. 

Erin: Gala Associate.

Emily: I aspire to become the “Grand Master Wizard of Light Bulb Moments.”

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