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Women’s History Month: Q&A with ANW Staff

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By A Noise Within
March 26, 2021

For Women’s History Month, we are highlighting several of the amazing women on our staff. Whether they are in the front of house, our office, or even our stage, these women make the magic happen at our theatre.

How did you end up in the career or job you have now?

Deborah Strang (Subscriber Services Manager): Honestly, I was just at the right place at the right time. In the early days of the company, all of the Resident Artists pitched in to do whatever was necessary – whether it was Jill Hill making the flower arrangements for the lobby or Joel Swetow running the Internship Program. One day, oh I think it was in 1994, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott asked me if I could share the box office duties with her and I said yes. A few months later, I relieved her of her responsibilities and took the whole thing over. I have said it before and I will say it again, having that direct communication with our remarkable patrons and staff has made me a much better actor than I was 27 years ago. I have a much clearer picture of the work that goes on behind the scenes and the impact theatre has on the community. When I’m on stage now, my motivation and my commitment goes beyond my own little world.

Cynthia Naideau (Development Associate): It took a lot of trial and error and deep reflection. I did a few internships, dabbled in a few other fields and then started to think about what my passions were and where they came from. I realized that I had been introduced to philanthropy at a young age and carried it with me my entire life but hadn’t considered it a career until recently. Once I started working in the field I realized it combines all of the things I love: making meaningful connections, supporting good causes, and lots of organization!

Melody Moore (Front of House Manager & Volunteer Usher Coordinator): My love of theater goes back to when I was a child, It seems I always wanted to be an actress. I pursed this through college and beyond. Eventually I became interested in producing, which lead me to get a job (any job) at one of the major professional theaters in LA. The first available was an Assistant House Manager at the Los Anges Theater Center. It was a good fit and has supported me ever since.

Bridgette Ramirez (Senior Editorial & Marketing Coordinator): I self designed a creative writing major at my college, and I was looking for practical applications of my creative and storytelling skills. As I was looking for full-time work, I volunteered and then worked part-time as a grant writer for the non-profit Pomona Hope and as a digital communications intern for Center Theatre Group. I discovered A Noise Within’s job posting for a marketing assistant through an alumni Facebook group. I love working in marketing, because it always keeps you on your toes and the job doesn’t look the same day today. Of course, I also get to use my artistic side and spearhead a lot of writing projects. So that’s really fun.

Patti Anne Miller (Director of Development): I actually have a degree in Theatre Education and learned about fundraising during a Children’s Theatre internship at Portland Stage Company in Maine. My grandparents and great-grandparents were fundraisers as well for Higher Ed and Religious organizations, so I was pretty used to talking to supporters and entertaining, etc. After I moved to NYC and was producing theatre, I learned how helpful it would be to raise funds for the projects I was producing on my own and just jumped in! Since then, I have been deepening my knowledge of the field to help institutions and artists all over, and it brings me immense joy.

How has your gender identity influenced your work and your career journey? (Be it positive, negative, or both.)

Deborah: Hmmmmm. I’m not sure it has. Although I have always found that being an older woman is one of my superpowers.

Cynthia: Having worked at mostly institutions with men-identifying supervisors, I have learned how important it is to stand up for yourself, others, and causes that you believe in. I believe in the importance of a strong workplace culture and community as a direct result of the communities of women managed by men that I have been a part of. Both together and alone you can affect change at your workplace by staying strong to your beliefs and not being afraid of the history of the field that might stop you from raising your voice.

Melody: I don’t believe my gender played any real part in this career.

Bridgette: I was lucky to go to a women’s college, where I could see other women in leadership and other women supporting each other personally, academically, and professionally. I’ve also had a majority of women bosses throughout my career. I’ve carried these role models and community building values with me. However, impostor syndrome definitely still haunts me as a woman and as a woman of color. I feel like I need to be perfect to consider myself competent. It’s been a learning journey to let those expectations go and to build the confidence to give myself a voice in spaces where I’m the only one who looks like me in the room.

Patti: I find it really easy to be feminine in fundraising. I love my femininity and leaning into it, but I found that very challenging in the producorial world of theatre. Other people had this view that to be a leader and handle budgets you somehow needed to be firm, shrewd, scary. I think those thoughts are silly, but I did find that when I stepped more into a fundraising role there was less questioning of my authority because I could back my confidence up with data. Sad story, but true. Another thing about my gender identity that is valued in this field is the ability to connect and nurture relationships. It is a huge part of fundraising and therefore my managers have always valued my ability to switch from organization and data to personal connection and storytelling. Two very different parts of the brain need to be activated, which keeps my job fun and always keeps me on my toes!

What accomplishment are you proudest of?

Deborah: Although I had never even used a computer before running the box office, I led the transition from a box office that used little pieces of paper to track ticketing to a fully ticketed program and then later helped design our first fully integrated system that included box office, education, and development. And I had to learn how to do it on the job.

Cynthia: Surviving this past year has been an accomplishment itself! But aside from living a healthy existence, I am proud of myself for finishing both my Master’s program and 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training during the pandemic. I am excited to see what I can accomplish next – the best is yet to come!

Melody: I honestly think I am most proud of the work I have done at A Noise Within. I feel like my years of experience combined with this wonderful theater family have brought out the best in me.

Bridgette: At A Noise Within, I would say writing and editing for our comedy video series for Noises Off and Real Goddesses of Argonautika. It seems a little silly to say, but I had such a blast working with the actors and bringing out the humor in the scripts that this remains one of my favorite professional projects. In general, the accomplishment I am proudest of is writing my first novel in high school. It’s a bad novel, but the fact that I finished something so astronomical feels good and encourages me to continue my current writing projects.

Patti: You know there isn’t just one moment for me. I love knowing that the funds that I raise provide people with wellbeing, the ability to express, and fun! There is certainly a sense of accomplishment that comes from hitting goals and raising big bucks for the company, but what I remember when things get tough is the health insurance for artists, happy hours the staff can go to, and the amazing art and experiences facilitated by raising money for an organization. I experience true joy from helping other thrive and live their best life and there are so many ways this comes up in my job. Many people will ask me if I find my job “soul sucking” because they think I just ask people for money repeatedly, but really, the opposite is true. I find intense joy from connecting people and art, and that is what I get to do all the time in my job!

What is your advice to other women in your field?

Deborah: Don’t be afraid to say yes, even if you don’t know how to do something.

Cynthia: Never stop learning. There is an infinite amount of information out there so when you feel like you’ve reached mastery of something, learn about something else. Sign up for a free webinar, read a new book, ask a coworker for a lesson on their software expertise. Having a hunger for learning not only keeps you up to date on the newest trends in your field, but also shows your desire for growth.

Melody: Just remember what is important. I often go into the House before anyone is there to just sit, look around me, soak it in, and remember.

Bridgette: Informational interviews are more important than you know! I still practice some of the things I learned from women that I talked to about their work. You get so much insight about which jobs work for you and which ones don’t without having to necessarily try them out yourself, and you learn how you can prepare for the job that you actually want. Also, prioritize self care – whether it’s by taking mental health breaks, taking a walk, meditating, or jamming out to your favorite song. It’s a daily and ongoing process. Check in with your body and know that your value isn’t based on how much work you get done or how well you do it.

Patti: Keep showing up in whatever way you want and normalize being whoever you want to be without compromising being amazing at your job. I can wear a dress, and be happy and fun, and show empathy and listen, and crunch numbers and make tough decisions all at once. Humans are incredibly capable if they see their full potential. Don’t diminish your big dreams and goals because of who you think you are or what other people think you should be. The more authentic you are to who you are and what you feel, the more your community will benefit from learning from you. There is nothing to be ashamed about if you show up as your true self.

Bonus question: What do you like to do for fun?

Deborah: Go see plays, of course. Read, walk, travel.

Cynthia: I love cooking, hiking, talking to my cat, practicing yoga, and playing games (board games, puzzles, Nintendo 64, pretending to know how to use an Xbox controller, etc.).

Melody: I love camping at the beach.

Bridgette: Read books (obviously). Eat food. Play copious amounts of Among Us. I also produce a podcast called Nerd Alert Girls with my friends where we talk about Marvel movies and shows.

Patti: Honestly, I watch garbage TV. The Bachelor franchise is top of my list, but I also indulge in some classy, scripted works like Grey’s Anatomy and Bridgerton 🙂

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