An Interview with our Kenny Leon Intern, Chanel Pinnock
Chanel Pinnock is our current Kenny Leon Intern at the Alliance and works in casting. She comes to us by way of Walt Disney World and the University of Georgia. What's next? The Big Apple. Chanel has accepted a position with Manhattan Theatre Club and moves later this spring. How does she make it happen? Gratitude, great mentors, and pasta metaphors. Read more of this interview below.
Chanel, you are the Kenny Leon Intern and you work in casting. What is your background in?
My background is in stage management. I thought I'd take a little break from that to learn more about the casting and producing world.
How did casting come into play?
I was interested in working at the Alliance. Then I saw this opportunity and was like okay, feels right. At the time there were four choices within the internship: casting, producing, assistant directing, and assistant designing. The last two were out of the question because I don’t have those skill sets. Casting and producing sounded interesting. I had no idea what a producer did though. I thought they just gave money. And now I’m learning that they do more than that, at least on a regional theatre level. Casting just worked out.
How did you find out about the internship?
I shadowed lark, a stage manager in town, and she told me to check out the opportunity. I had been looking at our website for years and never saw it. I met lark because I was in a senior seminar class at UGA and Kelundra Smith (Atlanta Theatre Critic) spoke at it. We chatted afterwards and she recommended reaching out to lark.
What do you think set you apart from other candidates who applied? Why you?
It’s funny you ask this because I did ask Jody (Feldman; Producer & Casting Director), Hershey (Millner; Casting & Engagement Associate), and Donya (Washington; Associate Producer) recently. They said I had a lot of experience and wouldn’t have to be taught certain protocols within the theatre. And I wrote a good cover letter and had a good interview, I guess. Jody also said she liked my vibe. That’s such a Jody thing to say. I love that woman.
I know you do casting, but what does your day to day look like?
It just depends because on top of being the Kenny Leon intern I assist on other projects at the Alliance. So in January my day-to-day looked very different from the three months prior because I was working as a production assistant on Ever After, so I wasn’t in the office at all in January. It’s one of those things where they know I have a stage management background and an interest in many things, so when they needed someone they asked me first and it just worked out.
My normal average day-to-day. I come in around 11, sometimes earlier if there’s an audition. If I know I need to do something I’ll cross it off my to-do list before checking in with Hershey or Jody. Usually it’s organizing a casting call or something of that nature. Then I leave at 4 and go to my other job.
What do you actually do in the casting room?
I man the door. I’m just there to observe and see what it’s like. I get to watch the auditions. Sometimes Jody will ask me what I think. Not always, but on occasion, and that's fun.
I don’t see myself being a casting director but I wouldn’t mind being a casting assistant. A lot of my friends are actors so a lot of the time I’m like, "here are the things not to do in the audition room."
Can you share some of those things with us?
Read the instructions and follow those exactly. Always bring your headshot and resume. Always have copies in your car. Sometimes we will just call people at the top of the morning to come in later that afternoon. Don’t oversell yourself. Really know what you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for a theatre that doesn’t do Shakespeare, don’t do Shakespeare in your monologue. If you’re auditioning for a pop musical, don’t come in with something from Oklahoma. You could, but it’s not going to show us what we’re looking for and then we might have to ask you to see something else. It’s just being mindful of what you want to showcase in this short two minutes that you have. Some people forget that this is also a job interview.
Atlanta is nice and I feel like people definitely take this market for granted. Something that Jody does, that I don’t think a lot of people do, she reaches out to people to come in and then usually reaches back out if she hasn’t heard from them. In New York, if they don’t hear back from you, then that’s it. She definitely cares about putting on local talent as much as possible, even when we have these big enhanced shows.
Who inspires you? Artistically.
Everyone black and a woman inspires me. Come on. I’ve met some really badass women in the last few years and they’ve all inspired me to be better. Here at the Alliance, all the women I’ve met so far here have been amazing. Having Hershey as a mentor and advisor has been really helpful. Jody is awesome. Donya is awesome. Donya and I will go out on her porch and talk.
Wait, her porch?
She has two chairs outside of her office. Hershey and I call it the Producer’s Porch. Because Donya and Amanda (Watkins; Associate Producer) would sit there and chat about life and work and art.
It’s been interesting having the combination of three very different mentors, Hershey, Jody, and Donya. Jody is very much a boss. Literal and figurative. Donya is a boss because she always gives me a different perspective or way of looking at a problem. Hershey has been my guide who helps me not f*** it up all day.
I have always felt like this is what I’m supposed to do. Nothing else could give me this kind of fulfillment.
What have you enjoyed the most about this experience?
I’ve got to meet a lot of cool people and have enjoyed everything I’ve gotten to do. It's important not to put yourself in a box. I think that’s something younger people have to learn. In theatre, and deciding that you want to go to school for theatre, you feel like you have to box yourself in because BFA programs are seen as being more prestigious, and then you have to decide “do I want to do musical theatre? Straight acting? Technical direction?” Just do it all and see what happens. See what sticks. It’s like pasta. And who doesn’t love pasta? I love carbs.
What’s next for Chanel Pinnock?
I’m moving to New York in three weeks. For a job.
What’s the job?
At Manhattan Theatre Club. Production Office Assistant. I never really thought I’d live in New York. New York is hard. There’s a certain grit you have to have... I'm a New Yorker at heart.
What are your hopes for the future for yourself?
Okay, so for this move I’m hoping that I don’t lose my mind. I’m hoping I can keep it together. I can’t really think too much farther than that right now.
When you have everyone looking at you like “you’re gonna do great, you’re gonna be great, everything is gonna be great,” I feel like I gotta do great. It’s nice that everyone is supporting me. But I need to focus on now.
Any final words of wisdom or advice for candidates who might be interested?
Do the application correctly because if you don’t, you won’t move on to the next round. Before I got the MTC job I applied to like 23 or 24 jobs between December and February—all arts jobs. I would sit on those applications. Am I sending this to the right person? Am I submitting correctly? Do they want my cover letter and resume in the same document? Do they want me to title my files a certain way? These tiny details that are very important, because if you don’t do it right they’re not going to give you an interview and that’s when you really get to showcase parts of your personality.
Alliance is great. There’s a reason people want to work here. There’s a reason why people come here and stay forever.
What is maybe a piece of advice that you were given that has stuck with you in particular?
Anytime I’m afraid to apply or go for something I just try to tell myself “why not?” The worst thing someone could tell me is no. Especially in theatre, if there is something you want to learn or someone you want to talk to, just ask. People generally like sharing their wisdom. Especially if you prove that you’re worth helping.
I’m just grateful. I’m blessed to do what I do. And have people actually care and support me.
We are now accepting applicants for the Kenny Leon Internship.
The Kenny Leon Internship is a season-long commitment that operates as a bridge opportunity for early-career artists of color. This is a skills-building/mastery position that is geared for those who want to learn more about arts administration while pursuing both personal and professional goals as artists.
If you would like to apply or know of someone who you think would be a good fit, applications are due May 15 and information can be found here.