The employees at Florida Studio Theatre are accustomed to actors shouting across the open-floor-plan office space. Be it actors Eric Collins, Kevyn Morrow or director Arthur Marks, the yelling is all the same: “Kaylene!”
Everyone at the theater knows and loves Kaylene Torregrossa, but this season, they’ll get to know her as general manager. She took over for former General Manager James Lemmons as of Nov. 30. Lemmons took the job as executive director of Lake Placid Center for the Arts in New York.
The 25-year-old started as an intern in the literary department in 2010. That was her first role at FST after graduating from the University of Arizona. Since then, Torregrossa has been the volunteer coordinator, the assistant box office manager, assistant Cabaret manager and, most recently, the literary manager.
She has proven she’s willing to take on any role, even it if is just part of the ensemble. It’s been that way since she was 8 years old when she played Captain Hook in a Tucson, Ariz., acting-class performance of “Peter Pan.” She knew she wanted to do theater since then.
Ten years after that first experience, her parents sat her down and said, “Are you sure you want to major in the arts?” She was sure.
“I told my dad that I don’t care what I’m doing,” she says. “I could be sweeping the floors as long as it’s part of the bigger picture —and I’ve had to sweep the floors! Someone’s gotta keep it clean!”
It’s even Torregrossa’s voice on all of FST’s voicemail greetings.
She says her most eye-opening role was managing the Cabaret because she went into it with no customer service experience. “You think you wouldn’t be good at it because you haven’t done it before,” she says. She was wrong.
All of her FST positions have given her a more developed understanding about the inner-workings at the contemporary theater.
“I have a good knowledge base of FST and what we do from all different perspectives: I’ve read the plays, I’ve cleaned the kitchen, I’ve sold tickets,” she says. “You get a really well-rounded view that way.”
At first, Torregrossa was worried that she’d become a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. But it was all rehearsal for her latest role, which requires a variety of knowledge.
“The joke is in the title,” she says. “I generally manage everything.”
Her responsibilities include company management; guest relations; keeping up with residential and commercial properties (that house actors, directors and interns); and making sure everything is up to par with the construction process at the new theaters. But what she looks forward to the most is connecting with the people — from the interns and volunteers, to the staff and the patrons.
Torregrossa wasn’t expecting the promotion, but it makes sense based on the experience she has acquired during the past two years. She also wasn’t expecting Sarasota’s art scene to be what it was when she first arrived from Arizona.
“I remember driving down 41 (for the first time), saying, ‘There’s a theater. There’s a community theater. There’s an ad for the opera,” she says. “It was really impressive. I wasn’t expecting to see such a supportive arts environment here.”
She initially came to Sarasota because her mother, Margaret O’Connor Torregrossa, was born and raised here, and her Scottish ancestors, the Brownings, were a founding family of the area.
But, now, Torregrossa has made Sarasota her home. She recalls her first Thanksgiving as an intern when FST staff had an “orphaned Thanksgiving dinner” and spent the day together, cooking and laughing.
“When you work in the arts community, you have your chosen family,” she says.
“ … (There’s) a really great feeling of support and that we are all in it together.”
Torregrossa is all for teamwork.
“I enjoy working with others to make something happen,” she says. “There’s nothing worse than a selfish personality in a collaborative environment.”
Although, someday, she hopes to run her own theater and direct productions, she’s content where she is now — embracing her new role at FST.
“I’m going to dive in,” she says.
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