The playhouse’s staff has been in transition since playhouse founder Jeff Kingsbury departed in April 2011. The board of directors has been essentially running the theater, well known for its musicals and for its youth theater program Kids at Play.
The executive director post, which was Kingsbury’s position, has since been divided into two roles: the artistic director, who makes the creative decisions, and the managing director, who is focused on the day-to-day running of the theater, from its finances to its marketing.
O’Neill was named to the managing director post this month; the artistic director position remains unfilled. Longtime musical director Troy Arnold Fisher was serving as acting artistic director, but he is currently on unpaid administrative leave.
The Olympian talked with O’Neill about her new position and her work on stage and off:
As managing director, what are you in charge of?
I’m managing the business side. My major function right now is to be there day to day as the main communication link for the public, the staff and the board.
The board is still functioning as an executive board. It is a volunteer board; the members have jobs and lives in addition to the incredible amount of hours they’ve been putting in. I get to be there and make sure that everything is functioning like a well-oiled machine.
Further out, my function will be ensuring that we’re able to uphold the high artistic standard while maintaining a solvent budget. I’ll also be doing marketing and sponsorship and donor relations.
I am a passionate lover of the arts and an artist. I’m there to balance the money and the magic.
Tell me a bit more about your past work behind the scenes.
Much of my professional skill set is customer service and audience services. I have a great deal of event experience, a great deal of retail experience, a great deal of general customer service and fundraising experience.
I worked for six years at (The Washington Center for the Performing Arts) all over the administrative side of the building. I gathered valuable experience there and worked with some wonderful people.
Olympia knows you mostly for your on-stage work. Which groups have you worked with?
It feels good to be known for my performance work. It’s something that I have to do, so it’s great that people want to see it. I graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2002, and I graduated with a very tight group of like-minded performers and people who had directed or written for stage or screen at the academic level. We created a couple of small cooperative groups, The Audition Is Dead and the Alleged Theater Project, which did productions primarily at The Midnight Sun.
I was in the first three seasons of Saul Tannenbaum shows. I have worked with Prodigal Sun Productions. I’ve also been in every Lord Franzannian’s vaudeville spectacular; one year it was a video, because I couldn’t perform live. I’ve worked with Theater Artists Olympia, and I’ve worked with Olympia Family Theater.
Of course, much of my local performance is with Tush Burlesque, and that’s something that’s super important to me. It’s started a really positive conversation in our community. In the arts, we deal with everything. We have to be really honest with each other. That has taught me a lot.
I’ve done a lot of emcee work and a lot of announcing. It’s still presentational, it’s still on stage, but it’s totally different. I get such a huge kick out of all of it. That is why I keep doing it and why I’m willing to try different things.
Is this the first time you’ve worked with the playhouse?
I actually did their props for Kids at Play this past summer. That was such a wonderful experience. Seeing the commitment to high-quality art was so inspiring to me. It definitely started a good relationship that led to this position.
And I’m appearing in “Nuncrackers.” They offered me the role at the end of the summer, before any of this happened with the job.
It’s really a big, exciting month for me at the playhouse.