As a part of Playbill's Juneteenth series, in partnership with Black Theatre Coalition, all throughout this week, we're celebrating BIPOC theatre-makers you need to know! Today's spotlight is on Staicy Ngongu, who worked as a design and marketing fellow at esteemed Broadway marketing agency Serino Coyne for six months. Ngongu's fellowship ran from September through January, and at the end of it, she was hired as a full-time designer. Now, at the finish line of this Broadway season, Ngongu is looking back on the ways she was able to be a valuable part of it.
"During my fellowship, I had the opportunity to be on the digital design team, where I utilized my skills to create engaging social assets, digital posters, and animated banners for shows like Wicked, Into the Woods, The Collaboration, Jersey Boys, and Shucked," says Ngongu. Many of these social assets are still viewed everyday by countless Broadway fans, marking the lasting impact of her contributions as a fellow. But Ngongu is only just getting started.
The Black Theatre Coalition was founded by T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reggie Van Lee in 2019. It works to dismantle the systemically racist and biased ideology in the theatrical job space. As part of its mission, BTC has launched the Black Theatre Coalition Fellowship, which immerses young talent in various areas of theatrical production, including producing, general management, directing, choreography, and other important jobs offstage. The fellowships immerse the fellows in the industry, allowing them to work alongside current professionals.
Learn more about what Ngongu's Broadway experience as a BTC Fellow was like below.
Where did you grow up?
Staicy Ngongu: Nairobi, Kenya.
What was your first experience/memory with theatre?
Throughout my childhood, I participated in various plays as a stage design assistant and actress, in productions such as Hairspray, Dreamgirls, and The Lion King. It was during my first trip to New York City in 2014 that I discovered the transformative world of Broadway. When I moved to New York to pursue my design studies, attending diverse shows became a cherished tradition. It provided a remarkable opportunity for me to connect with my family whenever they visited from Kenya.
What was your first Broadway show?
The Lion King. It felt like a remarkable full circle, as I had previously been involved in a prep school production of the same show.
Tell us more about your work/fellowship, it can be a typical day-in-the-life or a specific great memory or project you worked on.
One particular memory stands out as the pinnacle of my experience—receiving an invitation from the Serino Coyne team to assist in a crucial client pitch that incorporated elements of Kenyan culture. The sheer exhilaration I felt while supporting them in presenting this extraordinary pitch remains unmatched to this day.
How did your fellowship experience impact your career?
My fellowship experience proved to be an extraordinary opportunity for me to fully immerse myself in a creative environment, working alongside industry experts and professionals. I was fortunate to have invaluable mentors who played a pivotal role in refining and expanding my design skills. Engaging in real-world projects allowed me to explore and embrace novel techniques, tools, and workflows, opening new avenues for artistic expression and innovation. This immersive experience has undoubtedly been instrumental in shaping my growth as a designer and equipping me with the expertise to tackle complex design challenges with confidence and creativity.
How have you found navigating Broadway as a BTC Fellow?
Initially, I found it rather daunting to be part of a program brimming with fellow participants who possessed a lot of theatre experience and an extensive knowledge of numerous shows. However, my involvement in the BTC community has proven to be an incredible introduction on the diverse avenues within the theatre world and igniting a newfound passion within me.
What are some of your career goals and aspirations?
As a graphic designer, my career goals and aspirations encompass a dynamic and ever-evolving path driven by creativity, compelling narratives, and a passion for visual communication. One of my ultimate aspirations is to establish my own design studio led by women in the design field.
How do you feel BTC is helping you reach those goals?
My fellowship experience has proven to be an extraordinary way for connection and growth. I have had the privilege of forging meaningful relationships with exceptionally talented designers who have graciously shared their expertise and invaluable collaboration skills that will certainly help me understand the path to becoming a design leader.
As a BTC Fellow do you think your voice is heard in rooms that don’t predominantly look like you?
The fellowship experience not only fostered a deep sense of confidence within me as a young African woman, but also affirmed that I possess the talent, capability, and unique perspective necessary to pursue my passion wholeheartedly.
As a BTC Fellow do you feel like you’re making a difference behind the scenes on Broadway and in what’s represented on stage?
I hope to bring unique and diverse perspective creativity drawn from my experiences growing up in Kenya to contribute to a theatrical landscape that resonates with global viewers, transcending borders and bridging connections. My heartfelt aspiration is to inspire young African individuals who harbor a profound interest in theatre, encouraging them to embark on fulfilling careers within this industry.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
If I had the opportunity to change one thing about the theatre industry, it would be to foster a greater culture of international inclusivity and cultural diversity. This can expand the perspectives we see on stage, encouraging cultural understanding and connection to authentic narratives that resonate with different cultural stories across the world.
How are you celebrating Juneteenth this year?
I will be celebrating Juneteenth at a block party.
The Black Theatre Coalition (BTC) is a 501(c)3 organization with the mission to remove the illusion of inclusion in the American Theatre, by building a sustainable, ethical roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for emerging, mid-career, and career-changing Black theater professionals. Through paid Fellowship and Apprenticeship opportunities, BTC opens doors for aspiring artists and creative leaders to have entry into the field, on-the-job-training, mentorship and potential career advancement. BTC's vision is to reshape the working ecosystem for those who have historically been marginalized from these spaces, and provide a pathway to true diversity in the arts.
To celebrate Juneteenth, BTC is aiming to raise $19,000 in support of the organization and future BTC fellows. Visit their Donation Page to help support.