June Ballinger has served as the executive artistic director of Passage Theater in Trenton since 1996. Dedicated to developing new plays for the American theater, she has introduced audiences to premiere works by William Mastrosimone, Yusef Komunykaa, Russell Davis, Caridad Svich, and others.
An accomplished actress, she has performed in many theaters nationwide such as New York’s Ensemble Studio Theater, Actors Theater of Louisville, and Primary Stages, and was in the original Broadway cast of “Pack of Lies” starring Rosemary Harris. Her television work includes guest roles on Law and Order, Saturday Night Live, and various daytime soaps. She lives in Trenton with her family, filed this response from Belfast, Ireland, enroute to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
I would teach a course in social skills: How do you learn to have good instincts and how does one cultivate a love of people and community? The skills we would cover are actually a combination of social skills: enjoying entertaining others; showing up — and I mean showing up everywhere; truly enjoying people — not being with them because “the job calls for it” but because you genuinely enjoy it; developing good instincts; and cultivating a genuine honest respect for one’s community.
These skills have served me as a producer, at least in a community-based theater such as Passage in Trenton. I don’t know if these skills can be “taught” but I think it is possible with most all people other than the most committed misanthropes. I am currently mentoring Kacy O’Brien, my young producer here at Passage, and I understand from her that my social skills and the importance of those skills in building audience and community loyalty — and certainly donor loyalty — is one of the important things she is learning from me.
The takeaway from this course, the bottom line, is that it is important to listen to everyone and hear their story — everyone must be respected regardless of status.