Vanessa Coakley

It was three days before my graduation from Emerson College when I got an offer from the Huntington Theatre Company to get my Equity card as an assistant stage manager on a production of Fences directed by Kenny Leon. I was shocked and thrilled.

I had worked at the Huntington as a production assistant the previous season, and had spent vibrant, intense summers training as an intern at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The Production Stage Manager and the general management office at the Huntington gave me an immense and unexpected gift so early in my career.

I learned an enormous amount on that show, often in front of everyone. Kenny is famous for making the entire room do push-ups for anyone’s transgressions, and I was more than once the cause. I spent every day terrified that the Huntington would regret their decision to hire me, or that everyone would think that I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until a few days before closing that I finally relaxed.

I’ve been a proud Equity member since 2009. I am grateful for the wide hammock of support that my Equity peers provide, and for those who continue to work towards setting a higher standard.

Originally published in Equity News, Spring 2019.