Today we’d like to introduce you to Celise Kalke.
Celise, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am currently the Managing Director at Synchronicity Theatre. Our tag line is “Smart. Gutsy. Bold. Theatre”. That’s a great phrase to have in your head as you prepare for a busy day. We are one of Atlanta’s foremost mid-sized theatres, devoted to uplifting the voices of women and girls. I became the Managing Director after thirteen years at the Alliance Theatre as the Director of New Projects, managing the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwright Competition and the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab. I also worked developing new plays in world premiere productions.
Before that, I was the Literary Director at the Public Theater in New York working with new work and on Shakespeare in Central Park productions. My first full-time job was at the Court Theatre in Chicago working on classic plays.
After almost 20 years working on the literary/artistic side of things and with so many new writers, I’m now broadening my skill set while digging into an exciting mission. I was honored to be brought in to work with Co-Founding Producing Artistic Director Rachel May, whose work I’ve admired since I moved to Atlanta.
I love the way theatre brings people together, and helps communities define themselves through the shared experience of live performance. I also love dynamic arts communities going through periods of change. Atlanta has grown exponentially as a theatre center since I moved here in 2005, and that growth has no ceiling. It’s a great time to move into a leadership role.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’ve been continuously employed as a full-time theatre artist since 1999 – which is miraculous, really. I’m very lucky to have worked with an incredible group of theatre artists, from George C. Wolfe to Tarell Alvin McCraney and JoAnne Akalaitis to rising star Madhuri Shekar. I’ve watched a generation of writers find a space on our nation’s stages and in Hollywood. At the same time that I was working full-time with large theatre companies, I had a freelance life with Independent Art Here in New York, Next Theatre in Chicago, and I have taught for years Actor’s Express and Working Title Playwrights here in Atlanta.
Getting a job in theatre is about being in the right place in the right time. Building a career is about always treating every artist as if his/her work is vital to the project, and working very hard. My main struggle, because I’ve been fortunate to go from job to job smoothly, is striving to balance the exciting work of making theatre with self-care and having a family. In Atlanta, that struggle is easier than other theatre communities, because so many great theatre artists here have families.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Synchronicity Theatre – what should we know?
Synchronicity Theatre is the theatre company in Atlanta devoted to uplifting the voices of women and girls. We are smart, gutsy and bold: three words that define our productions, our approach to work, and our role in the Atlanta theatre community. Synchronicity was founded by three exciting women, but the company’s growth has been due to the vision and hard work of our Producing Artistic Director Rachel May, and an incredible staff. Social activism has been a bedrock of our work, ranging from the nationally known Playmaking for Girls program, our community partnerships, and of course our programming choices.
Synchronicity is known for producing new work through our Bold Voices series, and dynamic and challenging shows that families can enjoy together. Since 80% of our shows are written by women, and men still dominate producing lineups nationally, fulfilling this mission means making smart choices. So for me, moving to manage this incredible company with a great track record of producing new work through programs like the Stripped Bare Arts Incubator Project, SheWrites New Play Festival, and in our main stage productions, was a smart choice.
Because of the specificity of our mission and the boldness of its execution, we are fearless about tackling tough social issues on stage. We produce our work in an intimate 137-seat theatre at the Northern edge of Midtown, across the lobby from a lovely restaurant. It’s a comfortable setting to explore theatre with your family, or take a risk on a new play that will make you think and draw you in!
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I was first mentored by an incredible dramaturg and arts management teacher, Barbara Tumova. When I lived in Prague, the Czech Republic, I was teaching English and got involved in theatre through DAMU, the theatre academy in Prague. She introduced me to an exciting group, Misery Loves Company, that did bilingual theatre in Prague, but also to her own theatre network. She supported many Czech, English, and American women in their theatre careers, and I am indebted to her for taking me seriously when I was first starting out, and helping me to envision a successful career in the United States.
When I moved back to America, I studied at Brooklyn College with Mona Heinze Berreca, who is still a friend and mentor. And I was incredibly fortunate to have landed an internship at the Public Theater’s Literary Department working with Morgan Jenness, Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, Shirley Fishman and John Dias. They are four of the most influential and important theatre producers and dramaturgs in the country, and they all made sure I used my time in New York to its best advantage. I am also indebted to Kristin Marting at Independent Art Here, Jason Loewith at the Olney and Freddie Ashley at Actor’s Express for freelance opportunities that kept my artistic skills sharp. And I’m grateful to Susan Booth for hiring me at the Alliance and bringing me to Atlanta!
- Synchronicity Theatre tickets range from $16-$41 for single tickets and can be found at www.synchrotheatre.com
- Address: Synchronicity Theatre
At Peachtree Pointe
1545 Peachtree Street NE Suite 102
Atlanta, GA 30309
- Website: www.synchrotheatre.com
- Phone: 4044848636
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Headshot Emma Cabrese, Photograph teaching from Working Title Playwrights.