Cassidy Skorija ’19 Instrumental in Earning Arts Midwest Funding for Milwaukee Repertory Theater
In her position as Associate Director of Development and Institutional Giving at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, alumni and former employee of Carthage’s Office of Performing & Visual Arts Cassidy Skorija ’19 has helped Milwaukee Rep earn funding from Arts Midwest’s Shakespeare in American Communities program to support Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of As You Like It and their Reading Residency program. The Reading Residency program gives 7th - 9th grade Milwaukee students the opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s work both in their schools and performed live. While on campus, Cassidy assisted in growing our Performing Arts Series into the amazing selection of performances that it is today. I spoke with Cassidy about her grant, her time at Carthage, and the steps she took towards creating an Art Series that has touched the lives of many Carthage students.
How did the Fine Arts affect you while attending Carthage College?
I decided to pursue a degree in Music Theatre at Carthage because I was excited to study theatre and performance in a liberal arts environment, which gave me the opportunity to explore other options while also pursuing my passions. My working knowledge of theatre combined with the experiences I had working in Carthage’s Fine Arts’ marketing team ultimately helped me earn my position at Milwaukee Repertory Theater as the Associate Director of Development, Institutional Giving. By studying at Carthage, I have gained a holistic understanding of the fine arts, allowing me to relate to donors and convince others why culture centers are important and impactful.
What is your most memorable experience with music at Carthage?
My senior thesis was a musical theatre workshop called My Real Mother and I had the opportunity to workshop this role with brand new music, creating my own take on the character and allowing me to analyze the music using an existing cast recording or anyone else’s work as a crutch. I was able to use my own research and experiences to create the story that I was telling.
You are one of the main reasons why our Performing Arts Series is here today! Can you tell us how this art series came to be?
I initially applied for Event Staff in the Office of Performing and Visual Arts. Thanks to my boss Tianna Conway, Director of Arts Events and Audience Engagement, that job soon blossomed into an Ensemble Events assistant position, which gave me ways to assist the fine arts department in more ways than one. One of my major responsibilities was to help Tianna research the impact of a Performing Arts Series umbrella, i.e. surveying audience, artist selections, economic development, grant opportunities, etc. Carthage has a long standing Chamber Music Series where Tianna saw innovation, growth, and the opportunity to unite chamber music with other genres into a series that would encourage educational opportunities for local students, and a way to build community through the arts. Tianna introduced the idea for a Performing Arts Series, then I was given the reins to conduct careful research, discuss and create a proposal that put all of our guest performing events into one series, which we presented to Dean Corinne Ness. Having an official art series also gave us possible opportunities for more funding in the future. This was an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about art administration while also assisting Carthage in bringing diverse affordable artists to campus for students and the greater Kenosha area.
What was your plan once you graduated from Carthage College?
In my junior year, I interned with Milwaukee Repertory Theater and worked in their development and marketing departments. Immediately after I graduated, I accepted a position elsewhere at a resort as an activities coordinator. As I settled into my new job, my supervisor from my internship contacted me about a job opportunity to work in the development department. I was thrilled that they thought of me and immediately applied for the job. I’ve been working there ever since!
These past two years have been a struggle for everyone in some way, shape or form. How did social distancing and isolation affect you and your job?
Social distancing and isolation changed everything in my field of work. For mediums that involved allowing large groups of people in one room to experience a performance, we were forced to change everything for the safety of our employees and community. Our theater was shut down for 18 months without any live performances and I worked remotely for the majority of that time. Due to being unable to sell tickets to live performances, the majority of income for the company came in via donations, overseen by the development department. All departments at Milwaukee Rep had to create new solutions, such as researching new opportunities for future funding and employing artists to record performances from their homes. These scenarios opened our eyes to how the theater industry can evolve post-COVID.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater has just received a massive grant. What will it be used for and how did you assist in achieving this grant?
The Director of Development (Amy Dorman), the Chief Education and Engagement Officer (Jenny Toutant), and I collaborated on a grant proposal to Arts Midwest–an organization that assists in funding arts programs in the Midwest. The Arts Midwest Shakespeare in Communities is a program that demonstrates the relevancy and craftsmanship of Shakespeare’s plays, delivering them to high schools and middle schools across the Midwest. We received funding to support production of As You Like It that begins on Friday, February 18, 2022. This grant will support the production while also helping our affiliated Reading Residency program (an education program that allows students to analyze scripts and experience plays, improving reading comprehension and investing them in the characters’ development). Receiving this grant was so exciting, as it was a funding opportunity that we had not pursued previously. It was amazing to see all of our hard work completing the applications was a key part in this new experience. This has been one of the biggest successes of my career (so far)!
Do you have any advice for aspiring fine arts students?
My advice would be for them to go out and try as many things as you can. There are many different ways to be involved with the fine arts that may be more compatible than the path that you are currently taking. I encourage you to take risks to find out what you are truly passionate about. You may find that a career path that you love is closer than you’d think, so long as you take a chance!