Statera Mentorship: Meet the Central Coast Regional Coordinators

Mentorship is at the core of Statera's mission of taking positive action to bring women* into full and equal participation in the arts. We’re so excited to share that Statera Mentorship is now in California’s Central Coast Area, serving both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. We caught up with Regional Coordinators Emily Trask and Karin Hendricks to talk about the newly formed Central Coast chapter. Here are some quick stats before we dive in:

Central Coast Chapter Founded: Winter 2019
Dates: Class I runs from July 1 - December 31, 2019
Application deadline: Class I mentor/mentee applications are due by June 1, 2019
Website: Statera Mentorship: Central Coast
Instagram: @stateraarts_centralcal
Facebook: Statera Mentorship

Central Coast Regional Coordinators (left to right) Kitty Balay, Emily Trask, Jennifer Zornow, and Karin Hendricks.

Central Coast Regional Coordinators (left to right) Kitty Balay, Emily Trask, Jennifer Zornow, and Karin Hendricks.

STATERA: What do you see as the greatest need and/or the most common need for mentorship relationships?

Emily Trask: I think that as women in our society and in our profession, we are taught early and often to question our instincts and quiet our voices to make them more palatable.  However, I believe that as a woman and as a theatre artist your voice is your strongest, most valuable muscle and tool -- literally and figuratively.  Having a mentor to help you identify, exercise, and utilize that unique voice and those inherent instincts is invaluable - particularly in a field that is sowed with so much gray area.

Karin Hendricks: To speak specifically to our arts community in the Central Coast of California, we have the challenge of being relatively spread out. The distance between each professional theatre and training program leads to a lot of disconnect between us. Many established theatre-makers in the Central Coast are familiar with other established theatre-makers, but in many cases have never met face to face. Bringing Statera Mentorship here will provide the much-needed opportunity for the Central Coast to strengthen as an arts community. By building a bridge between artists, the Statera Mentorship program will also be able to expose mentees to diverse artistic experiences and will provide them with valuable new perspectives on their art and their career.

STATERA: Tell us about your work in the theatre / or in the arts.

Emily: I am a Resident Artist and the Literary Associate/Hurlbert Artistic Fellow at Pacific Conservatory Theater/PCPA.  As professional actress and theatre artist for 15 years, I have worked all across the country – from Broadway houses to site-specific Guerilla Theatre pieces, to film, television, voice-over and commercials.  As a director, I have directed readings, workshops, and productions professionally and academically.  As a dramaturg, I am a freelance script consultant, a production dramaturg, and have been a contributing scholar to publications, programs, and on-line resources.  As an educator I have taught theatre in Graduate Programs all the way to Grade Schools, with a focus on the Classics and New Work.

Karin: I am an Assistant Professor of Acting and Performance at the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I teach mostly performance-based courses including Acting, Voice and Diction, Dialect, Musical Theatre, and Community-based Verbatim Theatre. I am also a director for Cal Poly’s mainstage season. Outside of the University, I work in the local professional theatre scene as a director, an actor, a dialect coach, and a Verbatim Theatre playwright.

STATERA: Can you share about your journey to the Central Coast arts scene?

Karin: I moved to the Central Coast after completing my MFA at UC Irvine in 2009. I served as a Resident Artist and Head of Movement Curriculum at PCPA (The Pacific Conservatory Theatre) for 9 years where I performed and instructed actors in training. PCPA is where I co-founded an ongoing Verbatim Community-Based Theatre project- Community Speaks!, which has been performed annually with PCPA in the Central Coast since it’s 2009 inception. Recently I made the choice to step away from PCPA and engage fulltime with the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal Poly. I am so pleased to be living in the beautiful Central Coast of California and to be witnessing it’s growing arts scene!

Emily: Midwest born and raised, I grew up in Wisconsin and graduated with a Bachelors in Theater/Literature from Grinnell College in Iowa. I went on to receive my Masters in Fine Arts in Acting from the Yale School of Drama.  My professional dream was always to be a member of a resident company - so after living and working in New York City for a few years, I joined the Acting Company at the Tony Award Winning Alley Theatre and, just this year, relocated yet again to join the company at The Pacific Conservatory Theatre – where I not only get to act, but teach as well (another great passion).  My incredible husband, Michael, and our ancient cat, Ramona Salami, hope we won’t be relocating again any time too soon 

STATERA: What is your own most memorable mentorship experience?

Emily: I don’t think I could isolate it down to one specific moment, experience, or individual.  I have been incredibly lucky to have had amazing female mentors at every stage of my artistic journey – women whom I admire artistically and as human beings.  However, my first mentor of the kind (other than my remarkable mother) is an amazing woman and friend named Bev Denor.   

During my Senior Year of High School, the local theater in my hometown was doing Our Town.  I hadn’t done much theater up till that point, but I had read the play Our Town in my High School English class and had loved it so much I decided to audition.  Unfortunately, it turned out we were going to be out of town on the day of the auditions.  Bev Denor was directing the play, and although she had never met me before, she decided to be kind and let me audition for her at a separate time.  However, due to scheduling constraints, it had to be during store hours at her bookstore (La De Da Books and Beans Shameless plug for the best Indie Bookstore in North Eastern Wisconsin)!  I knew so little about theater and even less about auditioning that I actually brought my giant English text book with Our Townin it and read a scene right out of the book for my audition!   Instead of judging this wide-eyed, English Textbook toting, redhead, Bev was supportive, wonderful, and saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself.  She cast me as Emily, and over the next years Bev and I became artistic partners in crime.  She fostered my artistic spirit and appetite with support, encouragement, and friendship… and she still does.  

However, if Bev hadn’t been willing to “hold space” for that emerging artist all those years ago, I truly believe I wouldn’t be the artist or person I am today.

STATERA: How did you become connected to Statera Mentorship? 

Karin: I had the incredible opportunity to present my paper, The Story Matters: Supporting Gender Equity through Conscious Theatre-Making, at the Statera Conference in Milwaukee, October 2018. At the conference, I reconnected with one of my favorite people from my graduate program at UCI, Erika Haaland, who is the National Co-Director of Statera Mentorship. Erika and I chatted about getting the Central Coast involved with this incredible program. The mentorship program that Erika and the other National Co-Director, Minita Gandhi, have created with Statera is so amazing that I wanted to be a part of bringing it my area.

Emily: I actually worked with Melinda Pfundstein and Shelly Gaza my first summer at The Utah Shakespeare Festival!  So, I have been aware of the great work Statera has doing. I also worked with Minita Ghandi at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre a number of years ago (she was actually my understudy in a production of Tartuffe).  However, it wasn’t until Minita and I recently reconnected while she was back at PCPA this past season doing her play Muthalandthat we began the Central Coast Mentorship conversation.

STATERA: Talk to us about your leadership style and why you're called to work in this capacity for your community. 

Emily:  My experience as a woman in the theater has been profoundly challenging and also deeply rewarding.  I think my leadership style and why I’m called to Mentorship is encompassed in that very dichotomy: challenge and cost coexisting with joy and the reward.  I believe honesty and benevolence are not mutually exclusive, but are rather an indomitable combination.

Karin: Some of my personal journey as a young artist was spent longing for a mentor who would support me without judgement, and who had my best interest at heart. I would have loved for this mentor to not only be able to address my questions, concerns, and passions about being an artist in my industry, but to be able to give me a womxn artist perspective. I’ve always wished that I had more womxn artists in my life that could help me navigate difficult choices and circumstances that womxn specifically face. There were also times throughout the years that I needed to be lifted up as I was feeling hopeless in my career and could have used extra support. It’s truly a privilege for me to be in a position in which young artists ask me for my advice and guidance and I get the opportunity to lift THEM up.

STATERA: What recent personal projects or upcoming projects are you excited about?

Emily: We are very excited to be launching our Central Coast Mentorship Program this July! I am also excited to share that I will be concluding a run of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder in the Solvang Theatre with PCPA this June, followed by (what promises to be) a fabulous production of The Importance of Being Earneststarring my amazing Co-Regional Coordinator, Kitty Balay, this August. 

And as Literary Associate, the fall I will be helping to usher back in an exciting play reading series at The Pacific Conservatory Theatre called Interplay:  Three fresh plays, with dialogue around the dialogue.  This September on the Central Coast. And you can find me at  emilytrask.net.

Karin: My writing partner, Christian Arteaga, is the recent recipient of the Define Americans Arts Fellowship. Christian and I will be working over the next several months to apply the fellowship resources to an original Community-Based Verbatim play about his experience as a young theatre-making “dreamer” in America. I will share more information as we go!

Interested in learning more about Statera Mentorship? Visit www.stateraarts.org/mentorship. Apply by June 1st to be a mentee or mentor for the next Central Coast class at www.stateraarts.org/central-coast-mentorship. And if you have questions, please visit Statera Mentorship: Frequently Asked Questions.


*A NOTE ON INCLUSION AT STATERA

Women: Statera recognizes the limiting nature of the binary use of woman. We serve and welcome anyone on the gender spectrum who identifies either always or some of the time as a woman. We also serve and welcome those who identify as non-binary. 

Intersectionality: StateraArts works through an intersectional lens for gender parity. We understand and acknowledge that systems of oppression and discrimination are interdependent and span all social categorizations such as race, class, gender, ability, religion, parental status, size, age, and sexual orientation as they apply to a given individual or group. Addressing one spoke of systematic discrimination or disadvantage means holistically addressing them all.