Audrey Zielenbach is the Artistic Content Curator at Gulfshore Playhouse.
Q: What age did you discover you were interested in theatre? Was there a particular event or experience that revealed your interest?
I was born into a theatre-loving family so it’s hard to remember a time when theatre wasn’t in my life. My dad, aunt, and grandfather were all very involved in my hometown’s community theatre so I remember tagging along to rehearsals and seeing shows growing up. I have very clear memories from my childhood of going to sleep listening to a “Broadway Lullabies” cassette tape and obsessing over the VCR recording of the London production of Cats. The first real show that I performed in was Carousel when I was 9 years old, so theatre really became a hobby of mine after that. I performed in a number of community theatre and school productions throughout my youth and eventually minored in theatre in college!
Q: You are called the “Artistic Content Curator” at Gulfshore Playhouse. Can you talk a little about what that position entails?
I like to say that my job primarily involves me writing and reading. “Artistic Content” spans the gamut of marketing, development, education, and our mainstage season. I write copy for our website, social media, eblasts, and I help out with grants and essentially any writing needs for the theatre. I am also a part of the Artistic team, which means I work with Kristen, Jeff, and Ashley to select our season. I seek out new plays to read and I also help facilitate the New Works Festival. Additionally, I dramaturg all of our productions, meaning I do background research to help the director and actors understand the world of any given play. This can mean anything from diving into history to understanding the contemporary issues a play is grappling with.
Q: How did you end up pursuing this particular aspect of theatre?
Funnily enough, I didn’t really know what “dramaturgy” was until I was a senior in college. At that point, I knew that I loved theatre and I enjoyed acting but I had absolutely no desire to pursue acting as a career. That year, I took a Contemporary American Theatre class where we read and discussed plays by August Wilson, Lynn Nottage, Sarah Ruhl, José Rivera, Tony Kushner, and others which really awakened my interest in analyzing the actual text of a play. Additionally, I was a History major so I was well acquainted with hard research by that point (I was in the midst of writing a 50-page undergraduate thesis). My theatre professor connected the dots for me and told me there is actually a job in many theatres that combined these two things. He asked me to dramaturg one of the productions and the rest is history!
Q: So what does a typical day of your job look like?
One of the great things about my job is that there isn’t always a “typical” day. Theatre is a really fast-paced industry and your attention is often being split in multiple directions. I like to start by reviewing what marketing items are in process. What eblasts are coming up this week? Are social media posts written and scheduled? Are there any print materials our graphic designer is working on that need to be reviewed? Is our website current? Marketing is a deadline-heavy department, so I usually prioritize those tasks to make sure we are getting everything done in a timely fashion. In our regular season, we are sending out anywhere between 2 and 16 eblasts per week (which includes pre- and post-performance emails) and we are almost always creating print materials for shows and events. After I’ve attended to anything time sensitive, I will usually move on to Artistic tasks. This can range from reading a script to doing research for an upcoming production. I always have a pretty full plate!
Q: What is something about your job that people might be surprised to know?
I think people would be surprised to know that it exists! “Artistic Content Curator” isn’t really a commonly known or heard job title so whenever people ask me what I do, I have to take a deep breath and decide how to explain it as briefly and simply as possible because it really does encompass many things!
Q: What is your proudest achievement at Gulfshore Playhouse?
I think the thing I’m the most proud of is our 2016 production of My Fair Lady. Someone mentioned in passing that they’d heard of a small cast production and with that seed of knowledge, our Artistic team had to figure out how to make it work. I was tasked with the initial job of figuring out how you get a show that’s traditionally performed by at least twenty people down to just 10 actors, keeping in mind that we couldn’t cut any lines or characters and making sure actors had enough time to transition between characters between scenes. Watching it go from this giant spreadsheet to a real production was a very cool experience and I’m really glad I got to be a part of it.