Name: Kate Ivins, '07
Major: Theatre
Minor: English and history
Academics: Phi Beta Kappa
Study abroad at the University of Capetown, South Africa
Activities: Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL)
University Players
Director, The Vagina Monologues
Children of South Africa volunteer

Tell us about your new gig.

I am the assistant to the artistic director at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, regarded as one of the top classical theatres in the country. I work for Bonnie J. Monte, who has been the artistic director for over 17 years. Under her leadership, the theatre has grown significantly in every way possible, and I feel lucky to work so closely with such an influential leader in the arts. She continues to be involved in every area of the theatr — development, education, marketing, etc. — which means that I have the opportunity to be exposed to all these different areas as well.

My days are always different, which is actually something I appreciate about this job. I draft letters, I help set up and sit in on auditions, I take notes for Ms. Monte when watching initial showings of our main stage productions, I coordinate staff and production meetings, and more. I am also in charge of certain elements of our summer training program, such as the Sunday Seminars (workshops and master classes that cover various elements of the industry held for our Acting Apprentices). The days are long and often intense, but I am excited to be able to contribute to an industry about which I am so passionate.

It's unheard of for someone fresh out of undergrad to hold this position. Tell us how you landed the job.

I held an artistic/casting internship in the summer of 2006, which was an incredible experience. I worked very closely with the person who preceded me in this position, and even filled in for her when she was gone. I continued to visit the theatre throughout my senior year at Richmond, and missed it and the wonderful community here very much. I was able to build a good relationship with the artistic director, and when her assistant moved on to another job in January, she asked me to take the position. A week after I graduated, I came up to New Jersey to begin!

What's the most interesting production you ever worked on?

I worked in so many different capacities in such very diverse productions while at Richmond — it's difficult to compare them. As an actor, I felt lucky to have been exposed to everything from Shakespeare (The Tempest) to Greek tragedy (The Furies) to contemporary drama (Small Tragedy). Having the opportunity to explore all of these styles in just a few years made for an incredible overall experience in terms of growth and exploration as an actor. I also felt fortunate to have worked with remarkable international artists, both in The Bald Soprano with Italian director Paolo Landi, and with the various artists from Nigeria and elsewhere involved in Tegonni. As an artist, it was incredible to be exposed to the different theatre techniques used in other parts of the world, and the experience truly fueled my already ardent passion for this art form.

How did Richmond's theatre department prepare you for your professional career?

Aside from the personal growth I gained through my experiences in theatre at the University of Richmond, I find daily that my professional work is greatly enhanced by what I learned through the theatre department. Perhaps the biggest lesson learned over the years was in problem-solving — both in main stage and student productions at UR, we were constantly given responsibilities that necessitated creative thinking and solutions in order to fulfill our visions. Here at the Shakespeare Theatre, my boss often says that "necessity fosters imagination" — I certainly learned that at Richmond, and the guidance of the theatre department professors was always balanced between sharing their expertise and experiences with us, while still letting us learn how to develop important skills on our own.

In the classroom, clearly Professor David Howson's class on Arts Management was invaluable in giving me a better understanding of how arts organizations are structured and how they function, as well as providing me with some practical "do's and don'ts" about the business. Perhaps more than anything, however, the passion that professors such as Dorothy Holland, Chuck Mike, and Walter Schoen put into their work both in and out of the classroom inspired me to continue to pursue theatre as a profession, and I am eternally grateful for their wisdom, their vision, and their support.

You're invited to dinner with the playwright for your choice. Who's sitting across the table?

If the playwright doesn't have to be alive, the answer has to be the Bard himself — though I wouldn't even know where to start with Shakespeare! If I had the choice of someone current, it would be either Sarah Ruhl or Tom Stoppard.

What has a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond meant to you?

As I continue to meet and work with artists from all types of educational backgrounds, I have begun to value more and more my liberal arts education. While I majored in theatre, I minored in both English and history, and thus had a fairly broad-based educational experience. I believe that it is especially important for artists to understand the world around them, which they, through their art, attempt both to convey and affect. Richmond's liberal arts education continues to serve me more than I ever thought it would, both in working for a business and in being part of an art form that responds to and includes all of the areas that Richmond encouraged me to study.