CYP CLUB Articles & Current News
Shadowbox Live: Backstage with Nikki Fagin
Nikki Fagin, 31
Director of Media Relations and Metaperformer at Shadowbox Live
Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio
CYP CLUB member since September 2012
Written by Angela Less, CYP CLUB Intern
Although I could go on about the shows she is currently performing in: Chicago, Dance Show Vampires, and Freaky Fall Lunchbox, or what's coming up next: Holiday Hoopla and Scrooge, I'd much rather get to know the person behind the questions, or shall I say, the person backstage.
Nikki Fagin's favorite things (in no particular order) are purple, Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, Highbanks Metropark, and Wonder Woman. "I'm a DC girl," she notes. Her favorite sound: the guitar playing. "I was sick a lot as a child and my father used to play me to sleep."
A Biochemical Environmental Engineer father and RN mother gave birth to a performer. Growing up in Cincinnati, Nikki's family saw music as a hobby, but Nikki saw things differently. She studied classical voice at Wright State before leaving to have a child. Despite the hectic schedule inherent in childbearing, Nikki continued her pursuit of stage life. Although her mother was supportive of her career choice, her father – not so much. "My father took some convincing."
Who knew that a beginning at Shadowbox Live seven years ago would blossom into such a rewarding career today. "What, me? No," she jokes. "But I auditioned and they let me in." This path led her into the family of Shadowbox Live and their many Shadowbox philosophies.
A proverb hangs in the award-winning theater company's Brewery District office: "That which is not worked for cannot be valued." Shadowbox lives by this proverb because the company is owned and operated by artists.
"It's all about us [the performers]. We don't rely on grants and we have practically zero government funding." This is what sets them apart from other theater companies in Columbus.
Another thing: Staying involved in the "live" philosophy. "Everything is fed to us [in today's society], nothing is like a live experience – seeing the mistakes, seeing it and not being alienated," Nikki said.
There is much to be said about the need for live performance in a world where technology separates us from sharing experiences. We can watch YouTube videos and listen to professional "live" recordings of our favorite songs or scenes from plays, but is it the same as being there? I don’t believe so. Sherry Turkle's Connected, but alone delves deeper into this phenomenon; check it out on TED Talks.
Now I'd like to give a shout-out to all single-parent members of the CYP CLUB. It takes a lot to be a single parent. Providing the guidance, counsel and care a child needs can be challenging. Nikki handles this in the same way most do: her parents watch her child on some weekends, and Nikki brings her child to work.
"She's here... a lot," Nikki said. Like many workplaces, there are other children who require care. "There are other Shadow-kids, as we call them."
It takes a village to raise a child: you guessed it – another Shadowbox philosophy. "I never have to worry about where she is or who she's with… There's always someone she can go to."
Being at Shadowbox so much, the kids are exposed to any number of new ideas. "[My daughter] gains life experience. We [metaperformers] work so many hours together, that this is a family... These kids are so well-rounded and the kids are very welcome here."
However, unlike a lot of professions, being a performer means that there can be mature content. "We have discussions about what is appropriate and what isn't, especially what you should and shouldn't say. The best way is to be open, promote understanding, and encourage her to ask questions... She's 10 years old, and when she was younger, a lot of the jokes were just above her head. But now she is old enough to start understanding the jokes and I just try to be as open as possible. I have to explain why mommy was in a skimpy costume. Or when we were doing the musical Rent, we sat down and watched the movie together and I explained all about AIDS and transvestites and homosexuality, but I always encourage her to ask questions." It comes with the territory of being a performer.
The curtain has closed and the bows have been made. Three Shadowbox Live people stand out to Nikki as mentors: Stev Guyer, CEO; Stacie Boord, Director of Community Relations; and Katy Psenicka, Director of Operations. "The people I work with, I look up to all of them as performers and as human beings. Those three people have been the most influential. They taught me about management, coached me - which has made me a better mom, a better friend."
Nikki's advice to succeed in this business: Work your ass off. Be constantly hungry for it.
For more information on Shadowbox Live and upcoming performances, visit www.shadowboxlive.org.