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Women in Theatre Share Stories from Behind the Scenes during Women's History Month

Women in Theatre panel
Theatre professionals gathered to share their stories at Behind the Scenes: Women in Theatre at the Apollo Theater. Photo courtesy of Karli Cadel.

March 13, 2012 - An enthusiastic audience was on hand at the Apollo Theater on Monday night to take part in the latest panel discussion from the “Made in NY” Industry Series. Presented by the Apollo Theater Education Program, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, The Broadway League and the League of Professional Theatre Women, Behind the Scenes: Women in Theatre featured a diverse group of accomplished women at the top of their fields in the theatrical world as they shared insights into their careers.

Stephanie Klapper, a casting director who described her job as “an actor detective and shopping expert,” has worked on numerous productions, including Dividing the Estate and Bells Are Ringing. “We like to think of ourselves as designers,” she said. When she finds the right person for a part, “there’s something so intuitive about it.”

“I tell stories without words,” said choreographer Wendy Seyb, whose work has appeared on Broadway and HBO with The Pee Wee Herman Show. Working with the writer, director and musical director, she tries to figure out what the story is telling the audience and translate that into dance. “My job is to make [the actors] look great,” she said.

Linda Twine described how when she was fresh out of grad school, she was living at the Y and working as a piano player. She came to the attention of Cheryl Hardwick, the musical director for “Saturday Night Live” at the time, who was also working on The Wiz. Hardwick was looking for a sub to play for the Broadway musical, and she wanted a woman, and Twine got the call. She’s since gone on to have a successful career as a conductor and musical director for productions like The Color Purple and Caroline, or Change.

Carin Ford, a sound engineer who’s worked on 15 productions and is currently with Carrie the Musical, spoke about the complicated nature of her job, controlling the volume of each person on stage as well as the musicians in the pit. She’s in charge of anything audio for the show, including the sound effects.

Mari Nakachi always loved the theatre, but worked as a corporate lawyer before making the switch to theatrical producer. Her credits include Time Stands Still and Dinner with Friends, and as part of her job she raises the money for a production and puts the team together. She also explained that she sees more female producers now than she did in 1999, when she started.

Women in Theatre panel
From left to right, Linda Twine, Wendy Seyb, Carin Ford, Amanda Pekoe, Stephanie Klapper
and Mari Nakachi stand on the legendary stage of the Apollo Theater. Photo courtesy of Karli Cadel.


Klapper added that today she finds it’s more acceptable to have kids and be a working mom. “You just have to prove it that much harder,” she said.

The panel was moderated by Amanda Pekoe, a marketing and advertising executive who founded the Pekoe Group, a full-service boutique company that creates inventive marketing strategies and media solutions for its clients. When she asked the panelists for a piece of advice they wished they had gotten when they were younger, their answers revealed the determination each of them had displayed to pursue their dreams.

“Study, observe, learn and have a Plan B ready,” said Twine.

“Don’t second guess yourself,” said Nakachi. “Read a lot, and see as many shows as you can. They don’t all have to be Broadway.”

“You need to be flexible, and open to possibilities,” said Klapper.

“Make sure you’re up on the latest technology, and learn how to talk to people and listen to them,” said Ford.

“Just keep doing the work you want to do,” said Seyb.

Listen to a podcast of the discussion at apolloeducation.org/teens/career-panels.

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