My Career Choice: Anna Becker – Executive Director of On Stage At Kingsborough

As Executive Director of On Stage at Kingsborough, Anna Becker is bringing an eclectic array of talent to the Souther Brooklyn, Brighton Beach area. Jazz? Of course! Classical music? Absolutely! Russian ballet and Argentine tango? Why not! Not to leave out many programs that appeal to a family audience. Those who have performed include: Russian saxophonist Igor Butman; the State Ballet Theatre of Russia; Broadway stars Jarrod Spector and Randy Graff, among many others.

On Stage at Kingsborough takes place in a unique performing arts center that consists of three venues – a modern lighthouse with picturesque views, a professional theater, and a bandshell located at Kingsborough Community College. This trio of spaces provide destinations for all New Yorkers who are passionate about the arts, while additionally providing local residents with access to great programs in their backyard.

Prior to her current position, Anna founded a performance series in Westchester, which presented artist discussions and productions in advance of their New York City premieres.

For more information and upcoming performances, go to the website. 

Here, Anna answers our My Career Choice questions.

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
I couldn’t put my finger on any “Ah-ha!” moment, but I have been interested in theater for as long as I can remember. My mother would take me to the theatre when I was very young. We went to experimental theater, classical theatre, Off-Broadway – all kinds of theatre. My mother also liked to do theatrical impressions at home, which was great fun.  Growing up, I participated in all my camp and school plays. I think my interest in theatre and in the arts has always been a large part of who I am and has shaped how I interact with the world, which is how I inevitably arrived to become the Executive Director of On Stage At Kingsborough, a performing arts presenter that brings artists from around the globe to Brooklyn.

Chulos MD 1 (Photo credit: Tango Lovers)

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
There are many appealing aspects of my job, but I would say that I really love getting to interact with the artists by seeing them perform, presenting them and following their inspiring careers. I have very high respect for the artists we present, and it’s amazing to get up close with people who are so inspired and talented.

Another huge perk is getting to travel and see many kinds of artists in different corners of the city, country, and around the world. I get to see many different types of performances, visit different venues and become immersed in different art forms. For example, a while back I went to the International Festival of Music and Dance in Granada and took a side trip to Sevilla where I saw the flamenco dancer Abel Harana who absolutely blew me away. I was able to bring him and the brilliantly talented dancer Patricia Ibáñez to On Stage At Kingsborough in 2016, and it was a magnificent show.

I’m looking forward to going to the Jerez flamenco festival in southern Spain next month, which is one of the most important flamenco festivals in the world.

Igor Butman (Photo by Narendra Dangiya)

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
My formal arts education began when I started taking professional acting classes at a very early age. Early in my career, I worked as a visual effects producer at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, which is where I learned how to produce. We produced with huge budgets where every minute translated to tens of thousands of dollars, so the responsibility was great. I learned formal budget practices there and really honed my organizational skills. I received very solid training at ILM. Having personally trained as an artist, and having started out producing early in my career has definitely helped me present the diverse, high quality performances that we present at On Stage At Kingsborough.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
Well, my father was a nervous wreck and wanted me to go to medical school as a back-up plan! But I would say that people were generally very encouraging. In terms of my becoming a producer, people were very encouraging. I’d say I felt more trepidation from people about my entering the performing arts world as a performer than as a producer, just because of the highly competitive nature of being a performing artist.

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
The closest I came to a career change was when I briefly left theatre and went into film and television, which was great, but I very quickly came running back to live performance. In my opinion, there is just no comparison to live performance. The inspiration and artistry is happening in that very moment with the audience in the room. Something happens between the artist and the audience in a live performance, there is an interaction and connection that you just can’t get on screen.    

When did your career reach a tipping point?
For a large part of my career I was working on independent projects generated by me and others, but when I came to On Stage at Kingsborough I become part of a larger organization and institution. This meant that I could build something that was ongoing and sustainable— and build it with a community. 

Jarrod Spector (Photo credit: Nathan Johnson)

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
In this position, you are constantly overcoming challenges! Has the artists flight arrived on time? Does everyone have their artist visas? How do you build an audience? It is a big jigsaw puzzle until the moment the artists are on stage, the audience is there, and the electricity is in the room.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?
In this role you have to possess a great many skills, but those that have proven to be useful are organizational skills, artistic intelligence, and a good instinct for building audiences.    

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Building a community of artists and audience members at On Stage at Kingsborough. This certainly did not happen overnight. At the beginning, it was difficult to get people to come, but we now have a devoted audience who return show after show, and we have a line-up of so many brilliant and award-winning artists that want to perform here. I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

Any advice for others entering your profession?
Respect the artists and the audience. That’s why you’re in this game.

Photo of Anna Becker by Georgine Benvenuto