Guest Blog: Kayleen Peña (NTSA '12-'15)

guest blog kayleen pena

Kayleen Peña was one of the first students to ever join NTSA. She started as a member of our producing team back in 2012 and was eventually promoted to Director of Marketing. This summer, she’ll be joining the NTSA Board of Directors. No one knows NTSA better than Kayleen does, so we wanted to let her tell you firsthand about her experiences with our organization through the years. (Thanks, Kayleen!)

When NTSA was co-founded by my mentor and colleague Victoria Chatfield in 2012, I was a 12-year-old seventh grader with frizzy hair and an annoying tendency to spit out Taylor Swift facts to anyone around me (this still happens sometimes and I’m 17 going on 18 now, oops!). Despite me being a middle schooler, Victoria came to me with some exciting news: she briefed me on a theatre company she had started up and immediately asked me if I wanted to take a spot on the producing team. Me, with my developing love of anything artsy (it also helped that we had a strong bond that we formed throughout the fifth and sixth grades after being in her reading classes), immediately said yes! I peppered her with questions leading up to our first producing team meeting — when we first met, I had a little notebook full of ideas and questions and strategies. Victoria saw that I took my role as a founding member of the producing team at NTSA seriously, so she trusted me (again, a 12-year-old!) with scheduling the audition process for actors almost single-handedly and with being one of the people in charge of our fundraising campaigns. At NTSA, even with me being so young, there was never a “no” or “we definitely can’t do that”. Every time I attended one of those team meetings at a coffee shop in Brooklyn, I knew that I would be listened to and given as much space and creative freedom as I needed. 

Throughout the rest of my seasons with NTSA, and still today, I continued to be respected, nurtured, and mentored by everyone around me, but especially by Victoria. She has spearheaded the creation of something truly beautiful. It's difficult to quantify or put into words how working with NTSA has affected my life, but I do know that some of the best, most boundary-pushing, creative, important, and eye-opening times of my life have happened in my early teenage years working with the company. It's such an important piece of me that I felt my college application would be incomplete without some mention of it, so I compiled a portfolio of blog posts, photos, display pieces, interviews, and quotes to send along to my schools.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to give young people a voice, a space to be heard, listened to, respected, and loved. I found that NTSA and Victoria gave me all of that and more, even as a little awkward seventh grader. I’m so honored that in just a few short months, I’ll join the NTSA Board of Directors and continue to have a space where I’ll be heard and challenged. 

Consider this a plea to you, from me, maybe someone on the fence about this, maybe not really sure about it all — apply! NTSA is the future of the American theatre for sure: a place of respect, inclusivity, and love. You’ll walk away with the experience of a lifetime, like I have.

Posted on Mar 01, 2018 in About NTSA  

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