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Community Spotlight: Kristi Jacobs-Stanley

By Ginny Butsch posted 02-10-2015 14:53



One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

 Our latest Spotlight Member is Kristi Jacobs-Stanley, troupe director of Troupe 2075 at Mt. Carmel Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kristi has shared creative fundraising ideas, advice for those just starting a career in theatre education, and her experience working at an all-girl school, just to name a few topics in the Community.

Ginny: What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?

Kristi: My favorite play is Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour.” I worked on this production my senior year of college with a phenomenal director, Anne Kauffman. Perhaps it’s because of the experience with her that the play has such a special meaning to me. She taught me so much about character development and was a great inspiration to me. I think the themes explored in the script are as relevant today as they were in the ’30s.

Ginny: What was the first role you ever played?

Kristi: The very first role I ever played was an Ozian in a 2nd grade production of “The Wizard of Oz.” My job was to hold what I can only imagine was a cardboard door set piece for the scene when Dorothy first arrives in Oz. I would say my first substantial role was in the 7th grade as a Hot Box Girl in “Guys and Dolls.”

Ginny: Tell us about the moment that made you decide to get involved in theatre.

Kristi: So, I don’t know if I have one specific moment. I’ve been doing theater for as long as I can remember. It’s so much a part of my life I don’t think I can imagine it not being a part of it. My first professional job after college was with Missoula Children’s Theater. It was during my year-long tour with MCT that I made the decision to return to school for my master’s in theater. While on tour, I saw firsthand the power of theater. There were several special moments on the tour when I knew that theater had the power to make a positive change in the world, and there was nothing else I was meant to do. One moment in particular occurred on a Native American reservation. There was a young girl who was very quiet and reserved but was playing a part in the show that required her to be very loud and proud. All through rehearsals she would whisper her part, and I always had to sing her solos with her. When it came to show day, she told me she was very nervous and wasn’t sure she could do it, but I knew otherwise. I told her that chemically, when the body is nervous, the same thing happens as when you are excited, so to think of her nerves as excitement. I also told her that I knew she was going to do her best and that when she got nervous she should look at me, and I would give her a sign that she was doing great. When it was time for her first line, she looked at me and I winked at her, and she was the loudest I ever heard her be and she sang her solos alone! I know without a doubt that little girl has more self-confidence today because of her experience with theater.

Ginny: What is unique about your program?

Kristi: I teach in an all-girl school, so we have to reach out to the local all-boy schools for our productions. We don’t always get a strong male turnout at our auditions, so we often have girls playing boys’ roles. I did a production of “The Comedy of Errors” that was almost entirely female. We only had one boy, and he played Egeon. I think this gives our girls a great opportunity to experience and develop roles they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to prepare.

Ginny: Everyone has at least one good theatre story (a costume mishap, smoke alarms during performances, malfunctioning set pieces, etc). Tell us yours!

Kristi: Ha, well I definitely have more than one of these! The most recent occurred last spring during our production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Our fog machine malfunctioned during our final dress rehearsal. The next morning during first period, I happened to have the student who was operating the fog machine in class, so we were going to troubleshoot the problem. The fog machine has to warm up, so the student turned it on, and we moved on to other things. Well, what the student didn’t realize is that the trigger button was pressed. Once the machine warmed up, it started shooting out fog. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, except the machine wasn’t in its usual spot. It was positioned behind the curtain directly under a smoke alarm in a confined space, with the spout pointed directly up at the alarm. By the time we could get to the machine, the entire backstage area was filled with smoke, and the alarm went off requiring the entire school to evacuate!

Ginny: If you could have a different career, what would you choose?

Kristi: Race car driver.

Ginny: What is your proudest accomplishment?

Kristi: Perhaps it’s because it’s fresh on my mind, but we recently produced “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” As I was reading the script, I could hear a soundtrack playing in my mind. I reached out to two of my senior musicians, and we worked together to create an original score for the production. The girls composed all the music themselves, and this production was by far my favorite I’ve ever done. I was very proud of all the hard work the girls put into the score and the entire production.

Ginny: What is your favorite part of the day?

Kristi: Rehearsal is by far my favorite part of the day. I truly enjoy diving into a production and witnessing my students transform words on paper into a story on stage.

Ginny: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Kristi: I’ve lived in all four corners of the country and visited most places in between, and I can say with great certainty that I’m living in the only place I would ever want to live: my hometown, New Orleans. We have such a rich culture and traditions here, and a great love of the arts. There is always something to do, and you will never run out of good places to eat.

Kristi’s life in the theatre seems to be filled with inspiration, creativity and passion for the arts. The Thespians of Troupe 2075 are certainly in good hands! If you enjoyed Kristi’s interview, add her as a contact in the Community!

Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.