Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

A Life In The Theatre
The Performing Arts Fundraiser
Stephanie Montalvo

Also see other installments:
Choreographer | Director of Marketing | The Sound Designer | Associate Producer & Company Manager | Scenic Designer | Director of Volunteers | Director of Education | Director | Stage Manager | Costume Designer

This is the tenth installment in our series of interviews with theatre professionals in non-performing careers. Theatre Arts Management is a growing concern as many theatres come and go every year. Several universities have added a Theatre Arts Management degree to their curriculum. With a huge entertainment industry that brings so much directly to us via television and the internet, it can be a challenge to motivate audiences to come to view live theatre instead. What brings business professionals to find a home for their skills in the performing arts?  

Stephanie Montalvo was born and raised in the New York metropolitan area.  She is an experienced dancer, singer, model and actress, and a proud member of both AEA (Actors' Equity Association) and SAG (Screen Actors' Guild).  She began her dance training at the age of three, and studied at schools such as the Shirley Rock School of Pennsylvania Ballet, Steps, Broadway Dance Center, Philidanco and the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.  She has been a featured performer with celebrities such as Will Smith, Luciano Pavarotti and Meg Ryan.

Stephanie's choreography and teaching credits include Pennsylvania and New York City Ballet's Summer Program, Waves (guest teacher on tour), Broad Street Dance Company, Jazz Works Studio, Dance Attack, Peaches School of Dance, Dancer's Gallery and Artistic Dance Center.  She received the Best of Philadelphia Award for art production and direction for the Dance For Life AIDS Benefit.  This event, which is a brainchild of hers,  has raised thousands of dollars since 1991 for the support and care of those infected with AIDS.

Stephanie is currently the owner of Advanced Productions and Entertainment, Inc.,  a Miami-based production and entertainment company that specializes in private and corporate events, industrials, videos, films and specialty projects. Advanced Production and Entertainment has created a program called Go-Pro, which teaches the ins and out of becoming a professional entertainer. 

John Lariviere: What does a fundraiser do and how?
Stephanie Montalvo: A fundraiser evaluates the needs of the fund in question, and transforms that need into an event where guests and patrons feel they are a part of the process - be that as an audience member or an active participant. 

JL: What made you go into fundraising for the performing arts?
SM: In 1988 I created Dance For Life in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives. This event featured dance companies from Philadelphia and the New York Metropolitan area coming together for a concert to raise money for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.  PCHA gave support, food and care to those in need. The event was a huge success and went on for many years. I have always felt that the arts can be a powerful tool. It can expand perceptions and raise awareness. Using the performing arts to open new doors to the community is a valuable concept and one that I believe we pass off as trivial. From the dawn of man, cultures have used the performing arts to express pain, joy, important times of the year, etc. I believe that, if we changed our focus from power and greed to art, we would see a significant change in the social, political and spiritual attitudes of people around the world.

This year we are establishing a non-profit to guide young people into the amazing world of the performing arts. At that time we will create a fundraiser and will document the process for your interview with hope that others may be inspired to do the same.

JL: What experience/training do you have that has best prepared you for this career?
SM: Growing up on a farm I learned the skills to create something needed and sometimes spectacular out of nothing. This knowledge and skill has been extremely valuable when creating events that many not have seed money to begin with.

JL: Is there any difference between fundraising for educational vs. professional theatres?
JL: Educational is always harder to fundraise for.  People want to be entertained not lectured. You have to make any event fun to be at, relaxed and light. The goal is to have guests come back and feel involved.

JL: What is your greatest challenge and greatest reward as a fundraiser in the performing arts?
SM: Money is always the greatest challenge. The greatest reward is for the community to come together and work towards a common goal! It's an amazing feeling to know you are doing something that will affect someone or something else in a positive way.

JL: As a fundraiser in the performing arts, how does south Florida compare to other areas in the US?
SM: The Northeast is established in the arts. They understand and commit to the fundraising process. Our community is just starting to emerge as a cultural center. There is a learning process going on here in South Florida and it seems like things may be changing for the better. As we grow in the arts so will the commitment and desire to participate in fundraising.

JL: What would you look for if you were hiring a fundraiser?
SM: I would look for a person with endless energy and passion.  A person who is 1000% ready and willing to devote themselves to a cause.   

JL: What are your professional goals for the future?
SM: We are creating two non-profits this year. One will focus on the youth of our community.  We will audition and train children ages 14-25 in the performing arts in the skills needed to become a professional entertainer. The second non-profit combines two passions of mine - the arts and the environment. This organization will partner with our current company, as well as other non-profit companies, to create festivals raising money for the arts and the environment. Imagine music bands using instruments made from recycled goods, fashion and costumes made from unused scraps of materials, and old clothing or maybe an entire theatrical production using green concepts. We are looking forward to a powerful and productive 2008.  Any and all are welcome to join us on this venture just bring your passion, creativity, and energy.

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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