Each month, as part of our Aging in Atlanta series, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution introduces readers to a member of the city’s thriving 55+ community. This month, we profile Jody Feldman of Sandy Springs, who serves as producer and casting director of the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre, founded in 1968.
Jody Feldman moved to Atlanta in 1980 where she began her theater career as an actress before becoming assistant general manager at the Academy Theatre, founded in 1956 by Frank Wittow. Feldman joined the Alliance Theatre as a casting director in 1991, later adding production responsibilities. She has casted and produced more than 250 shows. During her tenure, Alliance Theatre has gained recognition as the region’s premier repertory theater, due in part to her commitment to casting 65-75% of the roles locally.
Q: What drew you to a career in theatre?
I initially wanted to be an actor but had an epiphany when I saw Holly Hunter in the movie “Broadcast News.” I then realized I didn’t want to be Holly Hunter the actor, I wanted to be Holly Hunter’s character, who was a producer. The next day I started looking for theatre admin jobs and ended up working at the Academy Theatre where I met Kenny Leon, who said I’d be a good casting director. I think I’m good at what I do because I love the process. Actors are interesting, smart, and intuitive people. I love watching them make real-life unfold, like a fly on the wall — I still find it thrilling.
Q: How does the casting process work?
For general auditions, I invite actors in to do monologues and sing (if they are singers) so I can get a sense of their skill level and type.
I’m looking for actors who are focused, specific in the choices they have made for their character, honest, and who are watchable, and comfortable in their bodies. I will often see if they can take direction. An actor must be able to incorporate a director’s ideas into their work.
Q: Which actors stand out most to you?
It’s crucial that actors are working in service of the script and the story. The words on the page are the most important thing and it’s an actor’s job to connect the dots to (the) truth in the text and share it. They bring the ideas and the relationships to life. They don’t perform, they draw us into the reality of the moments and circumstances. It’s not easy to do. It is very hard work. You simply never want to see an actor working. That is performative and takes us out of the story, which is why we are there in the first place. It can be subtle, but it reads to an audience.
Q: What do you love most about your role?
My greatest joy is auditioning and finding new local Atlanta talent to put in front of directors, or with offers for a reading or understudy position. This is how my tenure at the Alliance started — finding the way in for actors. Then, you could count the number of local actors getting work at the Alliance on two hands. Now, most of our shows are cast with local actors.
Q: What achievement of the Alliance Theatre makes you the proudest?
The growth and depth of our community engagement and partnership initiatives. Through these relationships and access programs, our art and artists have become an effective resource for other Atlanta civic and social service organizations and their constituents. The Alliance produces theatre in service of connecting (the) Atlanta community as individuals and as collectives. Additionally, the education department of the Alliance Theatre is the national model. I’m not aware of any other (League of Resident Theatres) whose mission and business model successfully integrate adult and family programming and arts education.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
In five years, I see myself training my replacement or preparing whomever for whatever it will look like without me at the theatre. That makes me so sad to think about. In ten years, I see myself traveling with my husband, learning how to be a better cook so I can host a decent dinner party, and finally exercising on a regular basis again. As I get older and the work gets longer, I gradually stopped exercising — I miss it so much! Frankly, these days, if it’s between another hour of sleep or a run on the treadmill, I’m sleeping.
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