Meet Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s Jacqueline Stone at annual gala
Fundraiser, season sneak peek set for Aug. 11
Jacqueline Stone is still settling in to her new role as producing artistic director for Breckenridge Backstage Theatre. Her first full day was July 18, and outside of work she’s been adjusting to various aspects of mountain life, such as acquiring a post office box. No matter what, though, she’s doing something she has been doing since she started part-time with company in the spring — and even long before that: listening.
“I need to learn and ask and listen to what this community wants rather than just make assumptions on what I think it wants,” Stone said.
Stone came from Chicago, where she spent the last 10 years as the artistic director of the experimental TUTA Theatre. Like others during the pandemic, she switched to digital programing, Zoom acting classes and consultant work for organizations. She said she wasn’t looking to jump back into something permanent right away, however, she found the listing in a trade magazine and applied back in November.
While she and her husband have only briefly skied as children, she said she was attracted to Summit County’s recreational offerings like hiking, biking and horseback riding. Her husband, a freelance lighting designer, will still travel to work on regional stage productions.
Stone said the Backstage job felt like the right fit because it was going push her to grow and use a variety of different parts of her background all at once, whether that be educating children, performing or strategic planning.
“I love thinking about the structure and the organizational side of the business,” Stone said. “I think that when an arts organization really has their business in order, that’s when creatives can be creative and do their best work.”
What: Backstage to the Future
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11
Where: Breckenridge Theater, 121 S. Ridge St.
Cost: Tickets range from $100 to $175 in advance, or $125 to $200 the day of the event. Visit BackstageTheatre.org to purchase.
Being receptive and empathetic to other actors and the audience has been key to Stone’s career. She has a background in improv comedy at institutions such The Second City and ImprovOlympic in Chicago thanks to studying the art form at the University of Maryland.
That track of theater studies kept the Long Island native in Chicago, where she spent 24 years before moving to Colorado. Along with acting in dramatic productions, she taught improv skills to corporate employees and business students at places like Duke University and the University of California, Los Angeles so that they could approach the economic world from a fresh angle.
“Being from New York, I thought I’d come here for about one year, build up my resume, and of course I always imagined I was going to be headed back to New York,” Stone said. “I got to Chicago and didn’t stop working. … There is so much opportunity and the quality of life is so good that I ended up staying.”
It’s been over 10 years since she’s properly acted, and Stone said she doesn’t miss performing. Yet she appreciates the tools it gave her in understanding all aspects when she became a director. She’s also proud of co-founding Sirens, which claims to be the longest running all-women improv group in the country, and hopes to bring a show or two to Breckenridge.
“We wanted a space where we could walk out on stage and our scene partner wouldn’t automatically assume we were playing the girlfriend or the wife in the scene,” Stone said of creating the group in 1998. “We wanted to play everyone.”
Her passion for the arts came at a young age partly due to her proximity to the theater hub of Broadway. Stone’s parents instilled in her an appreciation for the medium and took her to see “Annie” with a young Sarah Jessica Parker as the titular role when Stone was roughly 5.
Excited, Stone sang all the words out loud in the theater like she did when listening to the record numerous times at home with her older sister, only to find people staring at them.
“But my dad didn’t stop me because he could see I was having the time of my life,” Stone said, adding that theater can be very cathartic, especially after something traumatic like a pandemic. “It was a very memorable experience.”
She wants to share similar foundational moments with other kids and expand on Backstage’s youth programming. Stone said she was born into a family of educators, and while she tried to never go the same route, she did, indirectly, when her theater mentors pushed her toward it. She discovered she had a natural affinity for education and that teaching came organically.
Stone served as the education director of Emerald City Theatre Co. for 12 years before being promoted to its artistic director role in 2016. The first show Stone got to direct for the company was the stage adaptation of the Mo Willems picture book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” and her favorite moment was hearing 500 children in the audience shout at stage.
Stone said that active conversation is important, especially at a young age, because allowing children to have a good experience with the arts, over a negative one, can turn them into lifelong fans. She plans to grow literacy year-round activities with more after-school programs at Backstage Theatre.
“If we see a story on stage that is based on a book, we know that a child is more apt to go home and open that book after they see that story on stage,” Stone said. “So how can we also help support some of our social and emotional growing needs?”
Working at both TUTA and Emerald City simultaneously, interacting with children and adults regularly on opposite schedules, Stone knows the value of being connected to all audience types and reflecting that diversity in the programming. For starters, stone wants to increase community involvement, the types of classes offered for youth and adults, and student internships and apprenticeships for the summer.
Stone is also open to other ideas, which is why she’ll be at Backstage to the Future, the nonprofit’s fundraising gala held Thursday, Aug. 11. In addition to a public opportunity to meet Stone, the cocktail reception will feature specialty drinks and food as well as live performances from past and future productions.
Attendees can expect a sneak peek of the upcoming “Peter and the Starcatcher” and will receive two show vouchers that can be used in the upcoming 2022-23 theater season.
“I’m looking forward to meeting everybody, and they should feel free to share their thoughts. I’m excited to be back in live theater, more than anything. It’s good for us all to be back and be together,” Stone said.
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