What Does the Drama Division’s Office Manager Do, Anyway?

By: Jerry Shafnisky, Office Manager of the Drama Division

Hey everyone! My name’s Jerry Shafnisky and I’m the office manager of the Drama Division here at Juilliard. I was thrilled when Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean for Admissions at The Juilliard School, told me her office would be starting a blog. I really enjoy all of our opportunities to reach out to prospective students. Earlier this season, I was able to join my colleagues in the Admissions Office for some of the college fairs around the country. That’s exciting for me not only because I like to travel, but it’s wonderful to meet some of you in person and talk about our Actor Training Program.

You will recognize my name from the confirmation sheet that you return after you receive the information about your audition. It’s important to send those gold sheets of paper to secure your audition and also confirm your date and time of audition. We’ve got a very tight system of operations here for auditions, but there are a few places for human error and those sheets are an important part of our process.

Each year we take a few steps to help streamline our process. Sometimes there are changes that affect the applicants (for instance, this year all of our applications are online), and sometimes it’s internally (never underestimate the power of mail merge!). The past few years, more and more of our applications have been computer-based and while that makes it much easier for processing (and less data entry errors), it also removes a bit of the “human contact.” You might be surprised how much energy and individuality comes across in a person’s penmanship! Now all of our applications look the same, but we’ve added this unique way to get our voices out there, to help answer your questions, discuss our application and audition process, and to talk about our training program.

Even though my title is “office manager,” that doesn’t quite reflect everything that I do. I’m part of the Division’s three part administrative team, lead by Kathy Hood. Along with Julianne Just and Bradley Diuguid, we offer support to our administrators, faculty and students. Basically that means we type memos and refill the paper clips! But our jobs entail quite a bit more. I handle the ticket requests for all of our performances and showings, design the programs for our 25+ shows per year, represent the Division at college fairs and prospective student meetings, and act as our unofficial photographer for most of our demos and events. And in between all of that, as I describe to people who ask what an office manager does, “Basically anything that the students need, I’m responsible for.” It’s that simple and that complex.

As part of the acting admissions process, I handle all of the change of audition requests, contact individuals who are still missing materials, and help process the miscellaneous material that arrives separate from the application. I also process all of our (100+) playwright applications for the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwright Program and send the scripts to our readers (each submission is read several times). As the New York auditions draw close, I create the paperwork we generate for evaluations and preparation from our maintenance staff. I’m also on hand during the actual audition days and love to reconnect with individuals I’ve met with previously or to meet in person anyone I’ve talked to over the phone. In the past, I’ve given tours of the school for the family and friends who come to support those of you who audition, but unfortunately, while we’re in the midst of renovations and the building is being reconfigured, that may not be possible this year. We’re in the process of hunting down a waiting area for anyone not auditioning. In any event, I’ll be communicating with YOUR support team and giving them updates on how things are going on the “Third Floor” – where you’ll be auditioning.

Personally, I feel like I’m in a wonderful spot. I’m able to combine my passion for the theater with my love of spreadsheets and forms. Getting to work in an environment like this is an absolute treat and I look forward to the chance to share this experience with you.