New Year, New Larkees!
As we turn the page to welcome the arrival of 2020, here at The Lark we also welcomed the arrival of three new Larkees! We are thrilled to have Manny Rivera, Anika Massmann, and Jennifer Haley working with us now. This month, I interviewed them to get to know them better, and to officially introduce them to our community!
WENXUAN XUE: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What’s your role at The Lark and what do you do outside of The Lark?
MANNY RIVERA: I am a trans Salvadoran-Puerto Rican theater maker and am The Lark's 2019-2020 Artistic Programs Apprentice. Outside of The Lark I am typically Stage Managing for QTPOC theater artists.
ANIKA MASSMANN: I’m the Development Apprentice. Outside of The Lark, I consider myself primarily a dramaturg. I run a new small play publishing collective called Table Work Press and I work with Nora at The Amoralists as the Artistic and Development Associate. Beyond that I have a lot of indoor plants and I collect scented candles. I've learned to keep them separate from one another.
JENNIFER HALEY: At The Lark, I’m the Communications and People Coordinator, which includes managing the Box Office, working on online content, and helping people communicate better both internally and externally. Outside of The Lark, I go to Chinese class, sometimes I write, I work out. I do front of house work at WP Theater, including bartending, box office, or general house management. Sometimes I also tutor SAT.
WX: How did you find your way in the theater field and The Lark?
MR: I grew up in Brooklyn and as a young person attended Abraham Lincoln High School. Around my sophomore year they began to offer an after school theater program where I met my first mentor, Mel Nieves. It was a sports-oriented highschool so it was a pivotal moment for me. At the time I was struggling with homelessness and very quickly connected theater making to my healing as a young queer person. Mel helped me apply for Stella Adler's summer Outreach Program and when I got in, it changed my life. I haven't stopped doing theater since then. My relationship to The Lark began last Fall where I directed, Desarrollo by juliany taveras for their annual Playwrights' Week. I was pretty blown away by the amount of support and hospitality I was met with. Since then I've worked as a director for The Lark's México/U.S. Exchange Program and Donja R. Love's Youth Writer's Group.
AM: I have always been passionate about supporting playwrights’ as a dramaturg. I first learned about The Lark as an intern at New Dramatists in college. The Lark was described as a cool, innovative playwrights’ support organization, so I started to follow The Lark’s programming. I finally got to visit The Lark during the México/U.S. Exchange last year, and I felt even stronger about the work that The Lark does. When Nora told me about the open apprenticeship position, I was thrilled. I actually applied for an apprenticeship my senior year of college, and I’m so excited to finally be a part of this community.
JH: I got involved in theater when I was in middle school. I auditioned for a play. It was a weird play, and I remember I got to wear poodle skirt for it. But I got to do it, and it was really fun. Then I was fortunate to go to a public high school that had a pretty robust theater department. There were these two audition-only theater classes. They were super selective. You had to prepare two monologues and a song. It was really stressful and intense. But I did that in high school. Then I went to college and worked in the theater department doing technical production, and also interned at Off Broadway theaters here in New York.
After I got back from living in Shanghai this year, I was looking for a job and I realized I really liked being in theater. Having spent a year not doing theater, I really missed that environment. So I started applying to jobs at various Off-Broadway theaters. I knew I didn't want to work in education, but I was feeling that’s the only job I'm really qualified for, so it was a little bit tricky. But I knew that I wanted to work in theater. I like theater people because they just have a can-do attitude about things. If they have things they want to do, they just get their friends together and do it. But I also acknowledge how difficult it is to make theater in New York. I think that's what makes The Lark unique in that it’s not putting a financial restraint on people. That’s very attractive to me as I was applying.
WX: How do you feel about joining The Lark’s mid-way through the season? Excited? Scared? Happy? Anxious? Or neutral? I wanna know all your feelings!
MR: I'm excited to support The Lark on the admin side of things. I thought I would be more anxious jumping in mid-season but it helps to have already cultivated a relationship with the folks I'll be working with. It feels like an organic transition into the role.
AM: So far everyone has been wonderful, kind, and supportive so I feel really well taken care of. I feel very grateful for the environment here. I think it could be daunting but also exciting to get to jump in part way through and get to hit the ground running. Just coming off a year of working at another theater service organization, I'm really interested in organizational structure and organizational ethics. It’s exciting to enter The Lark at a time when there’s an important ongoing conversation about these issues.
JH: I think when you start a new job anywhere, you plough into the middle of things no matter what. For me, the biggest challenge has been learning my own work environment, learning the office culture, learning how we communicate with one another. But now, I feel like I've been here for a few months, I feel more comfortable around people, and because of that, I now have enough knowledge to make a better impact. I think being thrown in the middle of the season was somewhat of a good thing, because when I arrived, we almost immediately started ticketing for an event. There wasn’t any down period. I could immediately start learning the job, which was ideal for me.
WX: What is your new year resolution for 2020?
MR: At the moment I'm having some great conversations around Autonomous Relating as defined by Juno Mariah. I'm looking forward to studying/rehearsing new ways of relating and supporting the autonomy of my lovers, friends, and collaborators in the upcoming year.
AM: I have been in a long process of allowing myself to have a path that’s not super linear. In the new year, I want to lean into that a little bit more. The thing I keep saying is I want to experience constructive failure more often. For a long time, I’ve avoided taking big artistic, professional, and personal risks, because I'm afraid of not having a positive story to tell at the end of it. I'd like to become more comfortable with navigating failure and doing things for my personal benefit rather than for my resume or for my elevator pitch. I also would like to generally be open to more experiences and less focused on knowing what's going to happen all the time.
JH: I think at The Lark, I want to grow in my job. There are aspects of my job that I haven't necessarily had the opportunity to do yet. So I'm excited to learn more about what my job actually is and to hopefully make an impact, whether that be through our online content or organizational structure.
Personally, I would really like to actually be better at committing to my own interests and projects. I haven’t consistently sat down and actually studied Chinese or done any writing. There are things — like my job that are obligations — but all of my personal projects are just projects. I think I can get to them later on my own time, but then I realize I don't have my own time because we live in a world in which we over-schedule ourselves to seem more productive, but actually I'd like to prioritize my own projects.