BACKSTAGE PASS: The unsung 'player'

 

BACKSTAGE PASS: The unsung 'player'

 

Date: November 16, 2011
by: Heid Kurpiela | A&E Editor

 
 

Jolie Schroeder has spent the past 15 years working in an environment that’s a playground for Sarasota’s biggest extroverts — The Players Theatre.

An introvert, Schroeder says she can’t imagine working anywhere else.

Being surrounded by actors has helped her come out of her shell, even if she still dreads stepping on stage to take a bow at the end of the theater’s annual performing-arts studio showcase.

“When I was a kid, my mom insisted I try an instrument,” Schroeder says. “So I picked the French horn. After five lessons the teacher said I couldn’t even blow right. From that point on I stayed out of the spotlight.”

What’s interesting is that Schroeder doesn’t come across as bashful.

From her post in the box office, she engages in playful banter with Artistic Director Jeffery Kin, whom she calls a “huge plus” for the theater.

She keeps a Nerf gun by her desk that she inherited from the cast of “Big.” Every so often she aims it at her co-workers.

It’s a good way to get their attention.

“We’ve got the strongest team now that we’ve had in years,” Schroeder says. “I’ve been here for a long time, through a lot of different administrations, and I can’t imagine working for another theater. Maybe if I got fired or something.”

That doesn’t seem likely, considering Schroeder was promoted this fall to office manager.

She downplays the promotion, which she says was necessary so that Managing Director Michelle Bianchi Pingel could offload some of the smaller time-consuming office duties that were eating up her days — the things Schroeder was already beginning to do.

“Jolie is totally our unsung hero,” Kin says. “She’s the glue in the front of the house.”

When she’s not riddling her officemates with Nerf bullets, she’s copying scripts, mailing vouchers, stuffing packets, scheduling classes and hiring teachers for the performing-arts studio that she helped grow with Dance Director Steven Vincent.

In 1996, when the choreographer folded his youth dance program into the community theater, he took Schroeder along for the ride.

“We came as a package deal,” says Schroeder, who, in addition to managing the theater’s box office, oversees a studio program that consists of 10 teachers, 100 children and 50 senior citizens. “Working with kids is the best part of the job. Giving them a boost in confidence and seeing their self-esteem flourish on stage, it’s literally enough to make you cry.”

Four years ago, she watched a timid home-schooled girl blossom into a scene-stealing soloist in “Seussical.” The girl even nailed the show’s curtain speech.

And, then, there’s the case of her 26-year-old niece, whom Schroeder watched grow up on stage at The Players.

“She used to be afraid to go up to the deli counter,” Schroeder recalls. “I can’t even tell you how many shows she danced in here. Now as an adult, she’s a social butterfly. It’s made me think that maybe I shouldn’t have fought my mom so hard on the French horn thing.”


IF YOU GO
The Players Kids will present a 20-minute performance featuring musical numbers from “Shrek the Musical” at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at the fifth annual Children’s Reading and Art Festival at the Sarasota Children’s Garden. For more information, visit sarasotachildrensgarden.com.


Schroeder’s favorite Players Kids’ musicals
• ‘Unhappily Ever After’
“Sleeping Beauty won’t wake up. Prince Charming ends up with Cinderella’s stepmother. It’s fairy tales gone wrong.”

• Disney’s ‘Aladdin Junior’
“The script is cut-down from the adult version of ‘Aladdin.’ It’s specifically written for children’s musical theater. The kids loved performing it.”

• ‘Electricity’
“It’s excerpts from various Broadway shows, including ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Wicked’ and ‘Legally Blonde.’ The best number was ‘Sister Christian’ from ‘Rock of Ages,’ because the kids learned sign language. They signed as they were singing. It was an incredible way to end the show.”

 

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