Our Daytonian of the Week is no stranger to anyone who’s ever done theatre in Dayton.
Presently the mind and force behind the revitalization of the Plaza Theatre in Miamisburg, Emily von Stuckrad-Smoliniski has also previously been the caretaker of the Rike’s Window Displays at the Schuster Center during the holidays, among numerous other accolades.
We grabbed a quick minute with Emily to see what it is about Dayton that keeps her giving back the greatest gift of all to the community -- the arts.
Name: Emily von Stuckrad-Smolinski
Age: Young at heart!
Job/Job Title: Owner of Kismet Productions, Executive Director at The Plaza Theatre in Miamisburg, Production Stage Manager at The Dayton Art Institute.
>> Miamisburg’s historic Plaza Theatre is chock-full of history
What’s your favorite spot in Dayton?
Sitting under the ghost light at Memorial Hall in the dark.
I spent two summers as an intern at "The Hall" before its closing. My supervisor sent me on missions that would keep me out of his hair for days on end, many of which involved being alone in the theatre. I was terrified, but kept with it!
To get over my fear, I started spending my lunch breaks sitting on the stage. Alone in the dark, under the dim halo of the ghost light in the eerie silence, bonding with the spirits of the amazing talent both on and off the stage that had seen years past. Many years ago, on the last day of my internship, "someone" made it very evident that I was not at all alone on those lunch breaks and appreciated my company.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Fingerpainting with really expensive oils inspired by the amazing Iris Scott.
What’s one word you think people would use to describe you?
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
I grew up in Dayton and never found that urge to leave as some have. My family is here, my career is here, my passion is here. If Dayton had a beach it would be perfect, but then I wouldn't have any reason to go on vacation!
How did you get involved with your line of work?
Thanks to my mother, I was very lucky securing an internship at Memorial Hall after my sophomore year at WSU in Design/Tech/Stage Management. The internship was undefined, but I was working for the Production Manager at the time. He gave me a few phone calls to make a week to advance Fox Rocks the Square (remember those?!) and then let me clean the stage the other 39 1/2 hours a week.
When IATSE Local 66 Stagehands had calls working in the theatre I would sit in the house and watch. Eventually the Business Agent invited me on stage and asked if I wanted to climb a straight ladder 80 feet up to the grid to help him and one other stagehand hang points. I am pretty sure he was not serious....but I took him up on his offer! Before I knew what I agreed to I was 80 feet up in the air overlooking the beautiful blonde stage.
To this day, the Stagehands of Local 66 are still teaching me how to make "the magic" of the theatre. I love hearing their stories of running a spot for Elvis, going on tour with the Dayton Ballet, or even seeing Carol Channing naked backstage!
What was the most challenging part of that?
I had a skirt on when I went up to the grid.....
How did you push through the challenge?
I was so excited to be invited on stage I really didn't remember I had a skirt on until I was in the grid. No one can see anything important that high up.
....That's not what you meant was it?...
What inspires you about Dayton?
My family is at least 3 generations "Dayton" deep on all sides. I grew up on stories of “Oklahoma” being on stage at Memorial Hall and late-night showings of "Schlock" at the Victoria Theatre. My family shared their passion for this city and it clearly rubbed off.
Honestly, Dayton's rich past inspires me to do my part to keep its future thriving so that my son will be able to see the invaluable city we live in and understand why our family took root here.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
I would open the doors to Memorial Hall (the auditorium specifically) on a full-time basis as it used to be. With the blocks around The Hall flourishing and the Arts and Culture booming in Dayton, I believe it has its niche, maybe even going back in time to its original conception showing its extreme versatility.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
I hope, to some extent, it keeps its bones. There are some buildings and districts in the city that define "Dayton.” After taking a recent tour of the Arcade, I hope we can finally see that project come to fruition. I think that would be the city's biggest turning point and all signs are hopeful! The possibilities are honestly limitless for this city. We are a city of innovation, of hope, strength and creativity.