Anne Spilman is the managing director at Academy of Children’s Theatre, Richland
How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? 25 years, off and on
Family: My immediate family is quite tiny, just me and my mom. I am very lucky, however, to have a large family of close friends in many states across the country. Sometimes, as it turns out, you do get to choose your family.
Company background: The Academy of Children’s Theatre is a local nonprofit with a mission to provide educational opportunities in the theatre arts for young people of all abilities and levels of interest; to produce quality theatre for and by the young with appeal to all ages; and to expose people to diverse ideas and cultures through the theatre experience.
Tell us about your job/career and how you got into it: My history with ACT began 20 years ago. ACT’s first MainStage musical was the 1995 production of “A Christmas Carol” and I was cast as Villager #2. Since that first production, I have acted in over a dozen musicals/plays, became a choreographer and teaching instructor, interned with ACT during college, worked as the development director and special events coordinator for three years and have now transitioned into the upper level management role of managing director.
Business philosophy: Working as a team toward a common goal is the most important strategy of any business. This is still best achieved with a visionary leader who is able to support and guide all team members while still maintaining a balance between idealism and pragmatism.
Life philosophy: Have courage and be kind. And yes, I stole it from Disney’s new “Cinderella,” but it is spot on and has helped me make positive, effective choices even when decisions are challenging and controversial.
Community involvement/community service: The Tri-Cities is full of amazing organizations and people. It is almost hard NOT to be involved with all of the exciting things happening here. I volunteer with: Girls on the Run as an after-school coach, P.E.O. as Chapter BW treasurer, the Rude Mechanicals (the local Shakespeare theatre company) as the vice president of their board of directors, and a camp counselor at Camp Erin Los Angeles, a grief camp for youth who have recently lost a parent or sibling. Additionally, I am in the current Leadership Tri-Cities Class XXII as co-social chair.
Who were your mentors and what did they teach you? Eva Frey was my student life director when I was the president of the student body at Pacific Lutheran University. She taught me that it is OK to make life-altering decisions that fit my goals, even if those decisions seem to be outside the norm. Linda Hoffman was the founding executive director of ACT. She taught me that most work done by leaders in nonprofits goes unnoticed, but if you believe in the mission, the unnoticed work is the most important work.
Toughest business/career decision you had to make or obstacle you had to overcome? In 2012, the executive director of ACT retired. I was still working in Los Angeles for Equinox (a luxury fitness chain) and had exciting opportunities for potential growth. Board members of ACT tried to recruit me back to ACT, but the potential of upward career movement within Equinox (which eventually advanced me to their corporate office and transferred me to New York) was still too tempting to move back to my dream job at ACT. However, four years later, here I am, right where I need to be, running ACT. It is wonderful how timing and opportunity work out in the end, especially with a little patience and courage.
First job: My first job was as a pharmacy assistant at Cork’s Pharmacy in Kennewick. I was a junior in high school and all of my coworkers were in their 20s and 30s. My co-workers were always so encouraging of me in my training and understanding of my school and sports schedules. What I learned from my co-workers is that a functional team needs positive affirmations, constructive criticisms, lots of laughter and efficient problem-solving. I try to carry this with me in all work and volunteer situations.
What do you like most about what you do? I LOVE my job. I love leading my staff down a path of professional growth and community involvement, but what I love most about my job are the dozens of volunteers who give hundreds of hours to promote the mission of ACT. These volunteers are alumni, parents and patrons. They are inspirational to the students and staff of ACT as they donate both time and resources to our camps, classes, productions and facilities. Our annual volunteer appreciation party is one of my favorite days of the year as the staff gets to recognize these amazing volunteers for their service, help and dedication to improving the lives of young people of the great Tri-Cities.
Least? My job is technically part time but there is good work to be done and I end up working far more hours than are expected/required.
What missed opportunity do you regret? In third grade Tim Noah came to the Richland High School auditorium to perform his famous children’s songs. I watched Tim Noah’s VHS almost daily as a child. During his concert he invited all the kids in the audience to come up and dance with him on stage while he sang one of his most popular hits, “Wow Wow Wibble Woggle Wazzie Woodle Woo.” I was too chicken to go up on stage to dance. I regret it to this day.
What reality show would you like to be on? “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna on HGTV
Favorite book: “Harry Potter” (the whole series)
Favorite movie: “Star Wars: Episode VI”
Favorite gadget: Stapler (my life would be far too disorganized without one.)
Favorite Tri-Cities Hangout: LU LU’s (the outdoor patio during sunset is perfect, as are the cocktails.)
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Ten years from now I will be engaged in my community, living with integrity, traveling to learn more about other cultures and caring for my friends and family.
What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? I am ornithophobic. I have a severe and irrational fear of birds touching me.
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