Rachel Purcell arts administration | nonprofit

Slide Arts + NonProfit Rachel Purcell ('13) is a Senior Analyst and team leader at Capacity Interactive, a digital marketing consulting firm for the arts in NYC. She works with 20 or so clients including Houston Ballet, La Jolla Playhouse, the Apollo Theater, and a handful of California performing arts centers. In 2015, Google certified her as a "YouTube Guru," a title that she already identified with on a personal level. Originally from the New York tristate area (read: coastal Connecticut), Rachel came to Stanford fully intending to discover non-theater passions and failed miserably. She acted, directed, and stage managed for the TAPS department and various student theater groups, devoting the most time to StanShakes (of which she was Artistic Director her senior year).

After graduation in 2013, she moved back to NYC to work with fellow Stanford alum Mara Manus at Manus+Co, a nonprofit management consulting firm. Outside of work, Rachel is an occasional performer of and frequent spectator at Shakespearean theater.
What are you doing now?

I lead a team of three at a digital marketing consulting firm in New York City that serves almost exclusively arts nonprofits, called Capacity Interactive. I strategize with my clients (which include organizations across the arts spectrum, from performing arts centers to operas to ballet companies to regional and off-Broadway theaters) on their digital marketing initiatives and campaign execution. I never, ever, thought that I would have "Analyst" in my job title, but here we are! I was CI's 16th employee in 2015; we are now a team of over 50. We also have a major education goal, so I spent a couple of days every month or two traveling to different U.S. cities to talk to smaller arts organizations about how they can maximize their digital marketing potential. I do this on a more regular basis than many of my colleagues because, as it turns out, I'm one of the few members of the larger team who is completely and totally unfazed by public speaking (so shocking for a part-time actor and Drama/TAPS major!).

Outside of work, I've been working for nearly four years now with Classics on the Rocks, a small Shakespeare ensemble in the city that presents "bare bones" Shakespeare that is focused on language and relationships rather than on spectacle. I've performed in three shows with Classics, and have recently started to move into assistant directing and helping manage their marketing. Last summer, I got a shot at my lifelong dream role, Viola in Twelfth Night.

Complete this sentence: Theater and performance is ______.

...sustenance! Lifeblood! No, but really. Theater and performance is a way to understand and connect with the world, yourself, and other people's worlds. As a performer, there's an almost incomprehensible solidarity in sharing this other reality with your fellow theater-makers and each show's uniquely composed audience. On the flip side, as an audience member, I relish opportunities to meet characters who are totally outside of my bubble and follow their journeys, trying to reserve judgement and see their motivation. Especially in today's climate, it's a way to humanize people and represent their experiences across social and political lines. Separately, as a fan of the classics: theater and performance also gives us ways to consistently re-engage with ancestral storytelling in a way that I think more "static" art forms might not. When you perform or see Shakespeare, you are engaging with the same specific words and stories that Queen Elizabeth did, or the founding fathers did. That's insane!

What advice do you have for current students?

While you're at Stanford: do all of the things. Take advantage of every opportunity to play a role that you haven't before — whether that means embodying an unflattering character, or operating a light board, or doing box office management. Lean into the people around you and appreciate their talents and specialties — find out what you can learn from them. Create something amazing together while you're still allowed to let that be your primary day to day objective for a few months or years.

After Stanford: remember that staying in touch with theater and the arts doesn't have to mean a full-time job, that is hands on, in the field. You can pursue a career in something arts-adjacent or totally outside the industry and stay in touch with the artist in you. Cobbling together four different part-time jobs to leave time for auditions is hard, and it isn't for everyone (it wasn't for me). There's no need to feel like you're failing if you're happy to be an audience member, or to be a part of one or two theatrical productions a year. If you love it, you will consistently make time for it in your life without even realizing that you're doing it.

Rachel Purcell