By May S. Ruiz
Giselle Boustani-Fontenele had an amazing summer. No, she didn’t do anything daring at some exotic locale like swim with sharks at Ambergris Caye in Belize, or climb the peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Giselle spent ten weeks as The Pasadena Playhouse’s Community Organizer (CO) summer intern. She did, however, brave the daily commute from her home in Tarzana to Pasadena.
For the first time, the internship program at The Playhouse was financed through a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission (LACAC). Gisele reported to Seema Sueko, Associate Artistic Director, who joined The Playhouse in January 2014 from the Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company in San Diego. Ms. Sueko originated Consensus Organizing for Theatre as a means to build partnerships with the community which, in turn, translates into higher ticket sales.
During her internship, Giselle learned about Consensus Organizing by asking questions and by watching Ms. Sueko and Victor Vazquez, The Playhouse’s Real Women Have Curves (RWHC) Community Organizer. She attended meetings with potential RWHC (the first show slated for the 2015 season) CO partnerships. According to Ms. Sueko, “…our summer intern had an up-close opportunity to experience CO and support these efforts.”
Giselle created the Master Colleges and Universities CO contact spreadsheet, a document which consolidates contact information for all the schools The Playhouse has collaborated with in the past or which have shown interest in becoming CO partners. This document lists institutions, including Stanford, USC, The Claremont Colleges, Azusa Pacific University, Cal State L.A., Pasadena City College, and others.
Another interesting job Giselle worked on was preparing the Dramaturgy Starter Kits (DSK) for Real Women Have Curves and Breaking Through. A DSK is an internal document created by the Artistic Department for The Playhouse staff which helps them frame and promote the stage play or musical they are putting on. This includes information such as the themes of the play and the inspiration for it. Giselle interviewed the artists of two shows – Seema Sueko, who is directing RWHC; Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Playhouse and director of Breaking Through; Kirsten Guenther, playwright; and Katie Kahanovitz, who is working on music and lyrics along with Cliff Downs.
Additionally, Giselle produced two Learning Community gatherings involving 10-15 trainees who, like her, received their internships from the LACAC. She produced one of these gatherings herself, and the other, she assembled with a fellow-intern in the Pasadena area, Jessie Fontana-Maisel, who apprenticed at California Alliance for Arts Education. In the first Learning Community, Giselle led a tour of The Playhouse, facilitated the Q&A Session with Sheldon Epps and Seema Sueko, and handled logistics.
Giselle also worked on Walk and Learn Notes, an internal document with information for staff members on how they can ensure the safety and security of The Playhouse. This document includes emergency contact information, among other things. She was also involved in managing the reservations list of over 240 guests for the reading of Fabric at The Playhouse; assisting in preparations for CO receptions during Waterfall and CO rally meetings for RWHC; and assisting with RWHC auditions. She also took on stage managerial duties for the reading of Fabric on the night the stage manager could not be present.
A theatre enthusiast herself, Giselle conducted interviews with Director of Finance Meredith Min, and Producing Associate and Company Manager Kirsten Hammack to learn about their positions and their work – invaluable information for someone who might want to start a theatre company in the future. From Ms. Min, she learned how to keep track of accounts and ticket sales; the importance of creating balance sheets and P&L (Profit and Loss) statements. With Ms. Hammack, she learned about the requirements and details concerning various unions like the AEA (Actors’ Equity Association), the SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Society), and the USA (United Scenic Artists); writing contracts for artists; and maintaining a clear head in times of stress.
Meet and Greet for Real Women Have Curves fell on the last day of Giselle’s internship. She was there to welcome the artists and the community who came to listen to the table read.
This month, Giselle will head back to Boston University as a junior where she is pursuing a joint degree in Anthropology and Religion, and a minor in Theatre. She can’t wait to talk about her transformational ten weeks at The Playhouse with her Acting and Performance professor and mentor, Johnathan Solari. He had encouraged her to intern at a theatre company during the summer.
As a high school student at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, Giselle was deeply involved in its theatre department. She was president of its International Thespian Society and performed in many productions – Shakespeare and contemporary plays, and musicals – under the direction and guidance of John Beckman, Jill Cunningham, and Frank Dion.
Giselle hopes to continue learning about and pursuing her interest in theatre while at Boston University. She aspires to take a Stage Directing MFA program in the future.
So Giselle didn’t scale the mountains or swim in the deep this past summer, but she certainly got fully immersed in a rare and exciting theatre adventure.