In our Meet the Member series, we showcase the creative professionals in The Shop’s vibrant community who are making an impact in their industry. From non-profit organizations, to software developers, design firms, and more– our members represent a diverse range of backgrounds and businesses.
Your next personal or professional connection might be working in the Commons area right next to you. We’ll help you discover them.
Meet A.J. Allegra, one of the founding members of The NOLA Project. The NOLA Project is an ensemble-driven theatre company that strives to challenge, entertain, and engage diverse New Orleans audiences through high-quality and innovative performances of relevant great works, the development and production of new plays, and comprehensive educational opportunities for aspiring theatre artists. We caught up with A.J. to talk about the theatre company’s early beginnings, his favorite New Orleans bars, and how The Shop has impacted The NOLA Project’s workflow.
1. How did you first become aware of and involved with The NOLA Project?
I was a founding member of The NOLA Project theatre company, which was formed when I was 19 years old and studying theatre at New York University in March 2005. Andrew Larimer, our original Artistic Director, grew up in New Orleans and wanted to form a production company that would bring high-quality theatre to the people of his hometown. Our first production, The Cripple of Inishmaan, was produced during the summer between our sophomore and junior years at NYU. The play was set to run the last three weeks of August 2005, but instead ran for only two weeks before the world was turned upside down.
2. What does the day-to-day look like at your organization? Has The Shop’s coworking environment impacted your work?
Since 2011, when I decided to finally pursue our federal nonprofit status, our company has steadily grown in terms of staff, board, and company members. While we are all working very hard to get our staff up to full-time status, our current works part-time due to our second jobs. I teach theatre at Lusher Charter School; Rachel, our Managing Director, works for Greater New Orleans Foundation; Carol, our Accountant, also owns a construction company with her husband; and Katie, our Development Director, works in student services at Loyola University. All of us (including our other staffers Kristin Shoffner, Keith Claverie, Mark Routhier, and James Bartelle) do so much of our work for The NOLA Project in the odd “off” hours of our days. We all use Slack very effectively throughout the day to help keep the business end running. I am here in The Shop full-time ever Friday, and we all absolutely love being in the space.
We hold staff meetings here on Fridays, company member meetings on Sundays once a month, and board meetings in the very chic executive conference room. The location of The Shop puts us right in the heart of New Orleans’ arts district and right inside of one of the best complexes in New Orleans: the Contemporary Arts Center! The only thing lacking for a theatre company here is an actual theater, but there’s one right downstairs! It’s really a dream to call The Shop home.
3. What’s your favorite thing to do in New Orleans outside of work?
Outside of theatre work (which honestly takes up 95% of my existence), I love building things when I can. Legos are a personal hobby of mine, and I’m not afraid to admit it. So are jigsaw puzzles and model trains. I also love to read. and am consistently in the middle of 5 to 6 books. I never read one at a time.
I also love to ride my bike and run. The scenery in New Orleans is the best on earth, and you’re really reminded of that when you aren’t confined inside of a car. I also love hanging out at bars with friends over beers. Some favorite places of mine are Balcony Bar, Barrel Proof, Rusty Nail, and Half Moon.
4. What are some exciting projects that The NOLA Project has coming down the pipeline?
Our 2018-19 Season is just about ready to begin! First up, we have a great new play called The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, which is a funny and fierce piece of feminist theatre that opens on September 4th at the Great Hall at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It depicts four real-life, badass women during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.
Once someone attends a NOLA Project production, we find they are very likely to return for another!