Growing Within SETC

This interview series spotlights SETC members who have taken active roles in SETC while advancing in their careers.

Member Spotlight

Maegan McNerney Azar

Associate Professor of Acting & Directing, Chair of Theatre Arts, Furman University, Greenville, SC

Roles in SETC (Highlights)

2001: Joined SETC, Student Member
2002-06: Auditionee, Professional Auditions
2003: Auditionee, Graduate School Auditions
2010: Hiring Company Rep, California Theatre Center
2010: First time as Workshop Presenter, SETC Convention
2014-16: Vice Chair, College & University Division
2015-19: Long Range Planning/Strategic Planning Committee Member
2016: Succession Planning Task Force Member
2016-18: Secretary, Executive Committee
2018-20: Vice President of Administration, Executive Committee
2019-20: Chair, Strategic Planning Committee

I say this as often as I can: SETC really has been there at every step of my professional career.

Maegan McNerney Azar has seen her career blossom through her involvement in SETC, starting with her very first SETC Convention.

When did you first get involved with SETC?

My first convention was in 2001 as a student member. I was lucky enough to have a faculty at East Tennessee State University who valued the educational opportunities at the SETC Convention, so I headed to Jacksonville with friends from our department led by Karen Brewster and Melissa Shafer. I remember taking lots of workshops, networking with lots of professionals, and seeing the fact that theatre and acting could be a career option without having to move to New York or LA. I remember that even though I wasn’t passed on through screening auditions that year, I participated in the Institute of Outdoor Drama auditions (now Institute of Outdoor Theatre is part of SETC!), got a job there, and vowed that the following year I would be auditioning at SETC – and I did!

What are the roles you have had in SETC and how did one lead to another?

I say this as often as I can: SETC really has been there at every step of my professional career. I got my first professional acting job at SETC, I found my graduate program at SETC, I got my first full-time theatre job at SETC, I found out I had been hired as a professor at SETC, I learned about what arts advocacy is at SETC, I served on my state’s Board of Directors because of SETC, and now I serve on the Executive Committee of SETC. It takes a lot of work, but as I put in the effort to make connections, SETC facilitated those opportunities. It’s actually pretty amazing because the interconnectedness of our industry is something that theatre artists talk about constantly, but you can really see that play out through an organization like ours.

What has made you keep coming back and taking on new roles in the organization?

Initially, I kept coming back because as a student in theatre, there is no more all-encompassing convention where you can learn, get work, and make connections. But, as I continued in my career, I realized that I want to help SETC continue to serve the future generation of theatre artists and to make an impact on artists currently in their career through advocacy efforts. As SETC looks to a more nationwide presence, we can effect change in theatres across the country, and it excites me to be able to serve!

What are the benefits you have seen from “growing within SETC”?

My network is wide. From professionals to professors, I have interacted with people from all areas of theatre and in all phases of their career at SETC. I have allies and comrades in our bustling industry through the many folks I have met at convention or at state gatherings across our region. I know theatres and playwrights. From where friends have booked at SETC, or simply sharing a drink with the leaders of that company at a reception, or participating in discussions about new perspective or new works, SETC is growing with my sense of understanding of our art form. My family has grown through SETC. As funny as that might sound – my husband and I have traveled to almost every convention together, many of the Board meetings together, and now we bring our son to the Theatre for Youth festival every year. Theatre is a field that is a profession, but it is also a way of life, and SETC allows me to cherish that aspect, too.

Member Spotlight

Kody C. Jones

Director of Education, Naples Performing Arts Center, North Naples, FL

Roles in SETC (Highlights)

2005: First audition as a student seeking summer acting work
2015-19: Hiring company representative attending Professional Auditions and Job Fair for Florida Repertory Theatre
2016-18: Adjudicator, SETC Professional Screening Auditions
2016-19: Member, SETC Secondary School Scholarship Committee
2018: Speaker, SETC Audition Tip videos

SETC and its mission continue to inspire and fuel me every year in my own artistic growth. I see SETC as a breeding ground for discussion and growth, and I appreciate the constant push for us as theatre professionals to continue exploring ideas for innovative storytelling, audience accessibility and arts education.’

Like many theatre professionals, Kody Jones got his first taste of SETC as a college student vying for summer work in the SETC Spring Professional Auditions. Fourteen years later, he now attends the SETC Convention as a hiring company representative, serves as an adjudicator at SETC Screening Auditions and is on an SETC committee.

“SETC has been an amazing outlet for networking with other theatre professionals, as well as those in academia,” he says. “Sharing and listening to new ideas, written works, techniques and technology that fellow colleagues are utilizing in their own theatres or institutions has proven to be an invaluable resource.”

What are the roles you have had in SETC and how did one lead to another?

I was first involved as an auditionee in 2005. I was instantly amazed at the grand scope and organization of what was my first unified audition. Ten years later, I was able to come back to SETC in a different capacity. I started hiring acting interns, summer staff and other education positions for Florida Repertory Theatre. Being back with SETC reminded me of how much sincerity and passionate care is given to actors and theatre professionals alike, and that inspired me to get more involved. I started working several sites as an adjudicator for the SETC Screening Auditions and that led to getting involved in committee work. I currently serve on the Secondary School Scholarship Committee. I can also be seen on the Audition Tip videos and other literature SETC utilizes to inspire professionalism and provide practical tips for young actors.

What are the benefits you have seen from “growing within SETC”?

To me, SETC is a true symbol for professionalism and respect within our theatre community. It inspires a respect for the craft that is different from what you learn at a university or practice at a theatre – incorporating the social networking of all levels of theatre artists and allowing young actors and experienced theatre leaders alike an opportunity to leave their homes and see the ever-growing innovations of our craft and the new bars being raised every year in how to tell a story.

Member Spotlight

Ginger Poole

Producing Artistic Director, Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke, VA

Roles in SETC (Highlights)

1996: First audition as a student seeking summer work
1999: First audition as an Equity actor
2000: First time attending Professional Auditions as a casting director – for Flat Rock Playhouse
2003: First time adjudicating SETC Professional Screening Auditions
2007: First time leading a workshop – on auditioning techniques
2014-2018: Member of SETC Finance Committee
2015-2018: Vice-chair of SETC Professional Theatre Division
2016: Helped start a focus group for Women+ in Theatre with Shannon Robert and Maegan McNerney Azar
2017: Served on Auditions Committee Task Force

‘SETC has been with me every step of the way as I have grown into making this a career.’

When Ginger Poole attended her first SETC Convention as a student at the University of West Georgia in 1996, she had no idea that she would continue to be involved with the organization for the next 20-plus years. She was just an auditionee looking for a summer role. But in the years that followed – as Poole moved from acting to theatre administration – she found that her connection to SETC evolved with her, helping to pave her path.

“I think the benefits of growing within SETC are the opportunities and the connections – the people I have met over the years and continue to learn from. It is a special group, and I lean on them a lot,” she says.

What are the roles you have had in SETC and how did one lead to another?

I started out as a student auditionee and, once I got my Equity card, moved on to become an AEA member auditioning for roles. Later, I moved to the other side of the table, attending auditions to cast shows for different theatres – Flat Rock Playhouse, New Stage Theatre and Mill Mountain Theatre – and serving as an adjudicator for SETC Professional Screening Auditions in six states. I also have served on panels, conducted convention workshops and served on task forces. I currently am in my second term as a member of the Finance Committee and serve as vice chair of the Professional Theatre Division. It was an organic growth, from student to performer to administration and the other side of the table.

What has made you keep coming back and taking on new roles?

All of my professional theatre contacts have come through SETC. I believe in the mission and the opportunities SETC brings to the academics and professionals in our industry. For example, Mill Mountain Theatre went through some difficult financial times back in 2009. When we were able to come back, SETC was a big part of our strategic planning to get the word out to students and the professional community that Mill Mountain Theatre was alive and well.

Member Spotlight

Marci Duncan

Assistant Professor, University of West Florida; Acting Coach, Artists at Play Workshops; SAG/AFTRA Actor

Headshot of Marci Duncan

Roles in SETC

2007: Screening Auditions Coordinator, Florida
2010: Adjudicator, Community Theatre Festival
2015: Auditionee, Fall Professional Auditions
2016: Auditionee, Fall/Spring Professional Auditions; Adjudicator, Alabama Screening Auditions; Adjudicator, Mississippi Screening Auditions
2017: Respondent, Alabama Screening Auditions; Adjudicator, Mississippi Screening Auditions
2018: Chair, Auditions Committee; Member, Acting Committee; Member, Audition Task Force; Member, Executive Director Search Committee; Member, Strategic Planning Committee

When did you first get involved with SETC?

My first experience with SETC was when a colleague of mine asked me to take over for him sitting on the Florida Theatre Conference board. I accepted and shortly after that I was asked to coordinate the Screening Auditions for SETC at The Florida Theatre Conference. I accepted. [SETC Professional Services Manager] April Marshall came down to train me herself, and I haven’t looked back since. From there, I went to the conference and was amazed at all of the opportunities there were for students. That is when I started grooming my students to audition at SETC. I started developing workshops for my students around being successful at SETC.

April remains one of my favorite parts of SETC. She is generously giving, kind, extremely accessible and knows everything there is to know about SETC. Having April as my personal resource really made my experience at SETC extremely positive.

What are the other roles you have had in SETC, and how did each lead to the next?

Being a screening coordinator led to me going to the conference consistently. April Marshall mentored me and suggested I sit on other committees. Serving on different committees led me to sharing my voice – that voice being heard and respected and ultimately recommended further for other responsibilities within SETC. Serving, being involved and connecting at the conference led me to meet people and find where I fit.

What has made you keep coming back and taking on new roles in the organization?

I believe in the mission.

I am an actor. I know what SETC says it provides it actually provides. SETC has personally connected me to a theatre company that I would have never worked with because of my small realm of reach. When I can see measurables, I am all in.

I am a professor. SETC has helped me to give my students real work that is professional and serves as an opportunity for them to exercise what they have been taught. I see my students benefiting immensely.

I am a theatre person. When I am talking to other theatre people, collaborating, networking and the like—I am more connected. I am learning about myself, learning new skills and passions. SETC has given me that. SETC gives me the opportunity to do what I love.

What are the benefits you have seen from “growing within SETC”?

I think the benefit of growing within SETC is enlarging your network. Not only enlarging my network, but my students’ and my theatre friends’ networks as well. I enjoy being able to connect the right people together in the arts.

Another benefit of growing in SETC is learning the wealth of knowledge about the organization. The more I serve, the more I learn about how the organization actually works. SETC is a huge organization, and I think the best way to learn is serving in different capacities.

Because I have served and continue to grow within SETC, I have the opportunity to effect change in the areas that I serve. I am contributing to the growth and the efficacy of the organization. That fills me with immense pride.


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