Meet the Staff
Jennifer Crookes Carpenter, Events Manager
By Theresa MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m from upstate New York. I was born in Schenectady, have been visiting Brant Lake in the Adirondack Park ever since and have called Saratoga Springs my family home for many years. But I moved around the country as a kid while my dad was an accountant at General Electric, which made my brother and me really good at making new friends and at finding fun just about anywhere. I had an amazing English teacher at Trumbull High School, Mrs. Mary Curtiss, who infused my imagination and life’s purpose with social activism, a love of Shakespeare and an appreciation for American Studies as a lens for studying just about everything in an interdisciplinary, literary and intellectually productive way. I went on to attend Trinity College, which is the moment my abiding love of the city of Hartford began.
Tell us about your background and involvement in the Connecticut arts scene.
My favorite friends and classmates at Trinity were studying the arts or were artistically inclined. When I moved back to Hartford in my mid-20s, it was to run music stores and to hire and train knowledgeable, friendly people to sell music, film and books, which was really fun while it lasted. Then, I spent eight valuable and rewarding years working in the communications and development offices at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, where I learned how to execute a successful nonprofit development program and the power of a worldwide network for sustaining a great mission-driven place. Before joining Hartford Stage, I went “indie” for a few years to consult for musicians, visual artists, small business owners and other creative and talented friends – helping them polish their press releases, social media presence, and other projects on the business side of being a professional artist. Two of the projects I’m most proud of helping to build in recent years are Violent Mae, a Hartford-based indie rock duo now making waves nationally, and Night Fall, a free annual celebration of Hartford’s artists, parks and neighborhoods, featuring Anne Cubberly’s wonderful giant puppets.
What most excites you about working for Hartford Stage?
I’m a huge cheerleader for Hartford; and it’s thrilling to work at an institution that is celebrated right here, as well as around the world, as artistically excellent and consistently relevant. The specific mission of Hartford Stage and the art we produce makes me proud every minute.
What are your primary responsibilities as Event Manager for Hartford Stage?
As a member of the development office, it’s my job to collaborate with colleagues to host events that strengthen our patrons’ relationships with us and their passion for the work we do here. I also work with volunteers, especially the Board of Directors, to host guests in our theatre for pre-performance receptions, opening night events, and in our scene & paint shop for the annual gala. I’m the point person for cast parties, stewardship events in the theatre and in our shops, our relationships with restaurants and caterers, and more.
Your marquee event is the annual Hartford Stage Gala. Can you share some secrets of what we can expect?
I’m excited that at Hartford Stage the entire staff understands the importance of the annual gala; and absolutely everyone gets behind the event to guarantee its beauty and success. It’s important that the gala connects our guests meaningfully to the excellent work of Hartford Stage. We reflect that goal in the artistic programming by hosting the event in our own scene shop on Murphy Road, featuring artistic design renderings and actual props in our silent auction, and working together across departments and with our resourceful, talented committee members to produce a theatrical and magical party. This year’s theme, inspired by our upcoming production of Kiss Me, Kate, is “Too Darn Hot!” Expect a dance extravaganza with fun and surprises woven throughout the evening and a colorful, exciting transformation of our working scene shop into a stunning venue for our dinner party for 400.
What personal goals do you have for planning and creating future events at Hartford Stage?
Hartford Stage is becoming even more respected and celebrated around the region and world, thanks to recognition and awards for Darko Tresnjak’s accomplishments, as well as accolades for our theatre. I’d like to expand our strategy of bringing together friends of the stage to celebrate Hartford Stage at events in New York City and elsewhere.
What has been your personal favorite event at Hartford Stage?
In the fall – just two months after my first day on the job – we produced an extraordinary party and performance, The Big Ticket, which was an evening honoring our great friend Belle Ribicoff. It was an honor and so much fun to help create an event celebrating such a generous and loyal leader throughout the history of Hartford Stage. Because she is beloved, it was easy to get Belle’s favorite restaurants to donate their time and talents; and the stunning artistic program Darko Tresnjak, Max Williams, Elizabeth Williamson and others created was perfectly suited to our honoree. I think everyone had a truly special night, especially Belle and the many staff members and board members she’s worked so closely with on behalf of Hartford Stage.
Why is it important to host events in connection with our theatrical productions?
We create a variety of events with specific goals in mind. I work in the development office, but I also work closely with the marketing team on events designed to expand our audience. The thing all our events hold in common is that we enjoy opportunities to advance a patron’s relationship with Hartford Stage – whether he or she is a student, a new patron, a subscriber, a volunteer, or a donor.
Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
I go see a lot of live music, usually original indie bands where at least one member is a dear friend. I love cooking, especially baking cookies and creating the best brunch casseroles. My friends and family are all weird and hilarious — it’s the best to spend time having fun with the people I love. I’m really good at Twitter, as in really making productive use of tweeting to further conversations, friendships, and my professional network of creative people.
What is your personal motto in life?
Be playful; be authentic; be active in your neighborhood and community.