Q&A: Darl Andrew Packard ’04
Goucher Magazine: Briefly describe your career (what you do, where you do it, why you do it).
Darl Andrew Packard: Wow, I have no idea how to answer this question. I actually never considered myself someone with a “career” before just now and am not truly certain it even applies to what I do. Like most of us spanning the millenials and Generation X, I still don’t really know ‘what I want to be when I grow up’, so I just decided to do it all. If pressed I would title myself a Jack-of-all trades. So I may not know exactly what my “career” is but I know what I do and why I do it. On my more glamorous days you can find me hanging out backstage at places like the Kennedy Center or the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco with people like Hamilton’s Daveed Diggs or Senator Al Franken or I might be in Nevada desert building a theater from scratch and doing lighting design for a spectacular aerial dance show at Burning Man or producing a show at a quaint Parisian theater in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. On less exciting days you can find me balancing budgets at the JCCSF where I am the Operations Manager for the Arts and Ideas program or balancing myself precariously atop a ladder in one of the Bay Area’s many small performance venues where I collaborate as a Lighting and Video Designer. On any given day I may take on the role of a Producer, a magician, a Designer, a fireman, a Director, a juggler, a Manager, a therapist, an Electrician, a travel agent, a Carpenter, a messenger, an Artist, a writer or a referee among many others. Much of That is of course metaphorically speaking but suffice to say I sport more hats than Bartholomew Cubbins. And I love it. I learned early in life that I never wanted to be a one-trick pony. In a world populated more and more by specialists I am thankful that for me there are never two days that are the same. I subject myself to this craziness, because at heart I’m a problem solver. Whether that problem is as small as filling out an invoice or as large as working to deconstruct systems of institutionalized oppression in the world, if it serves the greater good I’m game. In Jewish culture one of the strongest tenets is that of Tikkun Olam, “to heal the world.” I do everything I do with that intent in mind because the quote from the late Senator Paul Wellstone rings true for me as a mantra: “We are all better when we are all better.”
GM: What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?
Darl Andrew Packard: I’ve worked on shows in the shadows of Alaska’s snow-topped Denali and in the blisteringly beautiful desert of Black Rock City, Nevada. I’ve produced work in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Santa Fe, Washington D.C., and up and down the length of California. I’ve flown around the world touring productions in Canada, France and Switzerland. I’ve helped raise up the voices of artists who are LGBTQ, Jewish, Native American, Romani, Indian, Hispanic, from the African Diaspora and many other walks of life. I’ve worked with dancers, actors, musicians, chefs, jugglers, aerialists and pretty much every other kind of artist you can think of. I’ve gotten to rub elbows with Senators and celebrities. Those adventures and experiences have been great. But behind each of those days of glitz and glamour lies a day (or two or frankly many many more) of challenges to overcome.
Like the day at my new job where I discovered I’d made a $50,000 budgeting error and had to confess to the Chief Operating Officer. Like the time I pulled a dying company back from the brink of dissolution and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to save it only to be let go so that others could reap those benefits. Like the time I created an hour long video design that I spent hundreds of hours working only to have it cut from the show on the first day of technical rehearsal without ever being seen. Like the time I almost got kicked off a train in Eastern France on the way to a gig because I left my passport in Paris. Like the time I got fired from a show because I suggested in an email that there might be a better way to make it look like it was snowing on stage. Like the day where I designed lights for a show in the middle of the desert outside during a sandstorm in a theater we’d built from scratch. Like the days where I’ve seen both the sunrise and the sunset and known that I’m not even halfway to the finish line. Like the days where nothing has worked and the days where I am the reason nothing works. Like the days where I didn’t know when or from where my next paycheck was coming. Like the days where I’ve bitten off more than I could chew. Like the days where I’ve realized that was working with not very good people. Like the days where I’ve accidentally been one of those people. Like the days I’ve been helpless to save other peoples’ dreams and visions from getting crushed. Like the days when it’s all been too much and I’ve broken down and cried. But I remain resilient. Those difficult days sharpen my sensibilities, maybe not make me stronger, but help me recognize more of who I am.
On those days I am reminded of a story from my design professor Allison Campbell, the details of which I’ve probably flubbed. Working on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade Allison was tasked with prepping costume pieces for all the thousands of people who would be clowns during the parade the following morning. Everyone was to get a clown hat, a clown nose and a set of clown shoes. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning Allison ran out of clown noses. She frantically approached her boss with this seemingly insurmountable dilemma. Her boss merely looked at her calmly and said “there will be a parade.” Rain or shine, good day or bad, clown noses or no clown noses there will be a parade. On rough days I often whisper to myself “there will be a parade.” I live in one of the most expensive parts of the United States and work in an industry that is historically unpredictable, resilience is a requirement for my daily survival. But my greatest professional accomplishment is knowing that I can and I do get to do something I love every day and that I get to do it with a community of people who love, respect and support each other and who will give you a hug when you need it and kick in the butt when you need that too.
GM: Personal accomplishment?
Darl Andrew Packard: At the beginning of my favorite film, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, before we meet any of the Baileys or learn of their struggles, there is a single frame of text: “No man is a failure who has friends.” I watch this film late at night every Christmas Eve with my family as we wrap gifts and I allow myself to reflect on the deep, meaningful and lasting friendships I have been fortunate enough to cultivate and maintain throughout my life. Shortly after moving to the West Coast a friend and mentor told me that theater is a people business and that is true, but only because the whole world is a people business. My greatest personal accomplishment is waking up everyday knowing that I live a life rich with friendship. That I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a community of people who love, respect and have confidence in me. People with whom I share deep and strong personal values that unite us across continents. In our culture we can get very fascinated with ‘things,’ but all items are perishable, friendship is the one lasting product that we can make in the world. I’m lucky to have it in droves and I thank my friends for reminding me every day that I am not a failure.
GM: What are you working on now?
Darl Andrew Packard: What am I not working on? Our JCCSF season is full under way and since we have just gone through an exciting re-alignment of some of our departments I am helping to make sure that together we put together the best experiences possible across our hundreds of events both inside and outside our building. I also have two major projects coming up outside of my work at the JCCSF. I am collaborating with an incredible Indian miniature artist, Rupy Tut, and bharatanatyam based Nava Dance Company, led by Nadhi Thekkek, on a multi-disciplinary dance/theater production called Broken Seeds Still Grow. I am activating Rupy’s incredible artwork as a backdrop for the production which explores the continuing impact of the 1947 British India Partition and draws parallels to our current global political climate. Following that I’ll round out my 2017 with an immersive planetarium-style video design with experimental performance group Mugwupmin and their piece In the Event of Moon Disaster. Using the speech Richard Nixon would have delivered had the Apollo 11 crew never returned from the moon as a way to examine issues around expanded space exploration in a future more tenuous than ever before, I’ll be working with one of my best friends to support an incredibly ambitious design that will help the audience feel like they are consuming the show among the stars. I continue to make a daily practice of creative writing, working on poetry and prose that I hope have will have a life of its own in the future. Outside of those things I work every day to be a better human and to do what I can to continue to raising up the voices that need to be heard, to be a warrior for the world and to fight the good fight.
GM: How did Goucher prepare you for your career?
Darl Andrew Packard: I think of Goucher as my friendly neighborhood hardware store, the kind of place you go instead of one of those impersonal, big-box monstrosities because you’ll find someone who knows what they are talking about, who wants to help you and can help you do your best. Goucher helped fill my toolbox, and while it has taken me years to figure out how to fully utilize all the tools Goucher provided, they packed the toolbox full of things they knew I would use even if you didn’t know at the time that you needed them. Then they gave you the resources to figure out what tool you’d need when long after you’d left the store. Now Goucher is still that friendly neighborhood hardware store, except that I’ve got a few projects under my belt and I can go back and shoot the breeze with the folks behind the counter about what projects I’ve done and how I did them. Ultimately, Goucher helped me better understand myself and my purpose in the world. I left the school with a confidence that if I didn’t know the solution I could figure it out. Goucher gave me the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and more importantly to learn that I can live through them. Goucher gave me the ability to forge lasting bonds with people from all walks of life and the ability and desire to build communities. Above all else Goucher instilled in me a lifelong desire to always be curious about the world around me and to remain a student for life.
GM: What is your most vivid Goucher memory?
Darl Andrew Packard: I am thankful to have many memorable moments from my time at Goucher to choose from, but there is one that clearly stands out for me above all the rest. It happened in the early fall of my Sophomore year, 2001. I was taking my first directing course working towards my Theater Major and because the class was so popular many of us who were directing had to also act in each other’s scenes. My friend Jane had selected a one act by my favorite writer, Kobo Abe, so I had volunteered to perform in it. I would be playing a man so ‘stuck’ in his ways that he had literally turned into a stick. We were seated on the red couches in the lobby just outside the Mildred Dunnock Theater, a favorite hangout spot for the theater crowd, waiting for the other actors to show up, a rounded wall of glass exposing us to all onlookers. A cute freshman woman came bounding up to us, her script flapping in one hand and a thick stack of science textbooks tucked under her other arm. She was literally balancing her interests in science and the arts before my eyes and in that moment was the embodiment of why I chose Goucher: the people. Goucher students are walking complexities and the campus is rich with people who are well-rounded, intellectual, curious and ambitious, just like me. I knew from my first visits to campus that it would be a place where I could be surrounded by people who would challenge my way of thinking and excite me to learn more about myself and the world around me. The people of Goucher would make me and have made me better understand my role in the fabric of our wider community and allow me to be a stronger contributor of positive impact on the world. I felt like I found something special tucked away in Towson. And I had found something special sitting on those red couches back in 2001 too. Thirteen years and many adventures later I got to marry the woman I met that day. Matisse Michalski ‘05 has been the greatest of partners and confidants anyone could hope for. She has helped me evolve in ways I never imagined and challenges me to be a better human every day and I’m forever thankful for the place that brought us together.
GM: How do you stay connected to the college?
Darl Andrew Packard: Besides the close connection with my incredible wife, I still remain in close contact with Raymond Gaston ‘04 despite thinking on our first day of classes that this smug beret-wearing goofball wouldn’t last a week in college; by the end of the semester we were best friends and remain so. We both love to trash-talk with a motley crew of ‘03 and ‘04 grads from across the country in our Goucher D1 Fantasy Football league, in which I perpetually finish last from drafting far too many Ravens. When I’m back in Baltimore, I always visit with Bronwyn Akeley ‘03 who woke me from my cross-country-preseason-induced exhaustion on my second night on campus to remind me that we had a mutual friend from high school who took us to a funny play one time. Despite grouchily my answering the door that night in nothing but my Superman boxers she became a fast friend and we frequently reminisce about all the mischief we got up to that should probably be recounted elsewhere. I am the alumni note gatherer for my class so I still hear from alums from time to time and I make every effort to see how the campus has changed whenever I’m back in the area. And whenever I have a freak out “career” moment I run for help to the calm and reassuring Career Development Office for guidance.