Meet the Staff: Nina Pinchin, Associate Director of Education
By Melinda Graber, Marketing Apprentice
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in a tiny college town in upstate New York, the middle child of an English father and a first generation Greek-American mother. I went to Bowdoin College in Maine, where I directed my first few plays (I’d been acting forever, but this was a new love). Just out of college, I participated in the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, which inspired me to move to New York City. I then got my MFA at Sarah Lawrence and through that experience discovered how much I enjoyed teaching. I joined the Education Department at Hartford Stage in 2007 and now live in West Hartford with my husband, Kevin, almost six-year-old son Hugh, three-year-old daughter Eleni, and our black lab mix, Guinness.
Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.
I was too young to remember, but mother recalls a time when, at about two-years-old, a news crew recorded me experiencing a “Punch and Judy” show for the first time. Evidently, I was so passionately horrified and captivated by the violence in the slapstick puppet show that I made the nightly news!
One of my other very early theatrical influences was being part of a traveling storytelling group. I started in 4th grade; traveling and performing in local elementary schools with the group until I was 19.
Take us through your day-to-day responsibilities as Associate Director of Education.
I oversee curricula and teaching artists for the Education Department — I also teach in a myriad of in-school and after-school programs, train and supervise freelance and full-time teaching artists, and work on special ongoing projects like creating arts integration professional development for teachers. This can mean that on any given day I am writing curriculum, meeting with staff, training freelancers, teaching/lesson planning, and working with Jennifer Roberts (Director of Education) to meet the specific challenges of that moment. I also serve on the Community Engagement, Workplace & Wellness, and Safety Committees. For the past decade, I have directed the summer Breakdancing Shakespeare program.
What is Breakdancing Shakespeare?
Breakdancing Shakespeare is part of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios summer youth employment program. Through it, we are able to hire 15-20 diverse local teenagers every summer to work for six weeks on a piece of Shakespeare using the original text and adding hip-hop and Breakdance. It is my absolute favorite part of the year; the energy these young, super-talented performers bring to the work is amazing; and my own artistic collaborations on these projects have been among the most fulfilling of my career.
Why is it important for teens to have programs like Breakdancing Shakespeare?
One of the great strengths of our program is that we bring together teens from different backgrounds to create something challenging (what they’re doing is DIFFICULT and everyone knows it, which means when they as a group succeed it’s a HUGE triumph). Every cast member has a tremendous sense of ownership over the show at the end of the summer, and you can feel it as they face the audience on the Hartford Stage Mainstage to receive a final standing ovation from the crowd. Many of our participants are coming from at-risk circumstances; and a good number have noted the experience as important in setting their course in a positive direction towards college or career goals. Beyond what the program does for teens it is—though I might be a little biased—a darn good piece of theatre and often brings new audience members to Hartford Stage.
Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
Between full-time work at Hartford Stage, trying to be a present mom for my two little kids, and evening projects like teaching at Capital Community College and directing shows at Trinity College, it feels like there isn’t a lot of extra time for other interests, but I do love to travel. My father grew up in the UK, and both my siblings live there now, so I’m always eager to get back there or explore somewhere new.
What is your personal motto in life?
I take a lot from my theatre training and experience — I basically really believe in collaborative ensembles. There are few problems in this world that a diverse group of people with a little humanity, diplomacy, and good humor can’t solve.