Performing Arts Abroad is thrilled to announce the newest member of our team, Caitlyn Conley! Caitlyn started on July 11th as PAA’s new Program Advisor. She will be helping potential participants select the program that is the best fit, and encourage them to realize their dreams.
Here’s a quick interview so you can get to know Caitlyn a bit better. You can also read her bio on PAA’s Meet The Staff page on our website.
You’ve mentioned that you live your life and pursue your art based on a set of values. What are these values and how do these play out in your art and day to day life?
I definitely believe as artists we all need an artistic perspective or a base of why we do what we do that intersects with our outlook on life. There are 4 words I love keeping in mind in my work as an actor, writer, an educator and any other role I fill. Those words are connection, generosity, communication and specificity. I love connecting people and I totally think art is an incredibly generous thing we give each other. I use these words to keep me on track with my values and so far they’ve been able to get me to places that have people who not only share similar values, but also similar outlooks on life and creativity!
You have an incredible background in international travel, acting and the performing arts, and writing / blogging. Where do these aspects of yourself intersect? How do you see this playing into your role with us?
It is so awesome how much they all not only run parallel to each other but also find ways of intersecting. I really believe the skills I learned in training to be an actor have totally prepared for me a life of travel, education and writing. As a performer I gained so much self-confidence and the ability to comfortably connect with others face to face. I learned how achieve objectives and clearly communicate my thoughts. All of these things help me everyday but they especially are essential in traveling and meeting so many new people. As an advisor, I look forward to being able to utilize my knowledge and experiences to help others achieve their goals.
What excites you the most about Performing Arts Abroad and your job here?
So many things!! After my first day with PAA I went home and told my boyfriend I was in the scene from Annie where she’s in Daddy Warbucks’ house for the first time. The people working here have created an incredibly supportive environment full of knowledge, experience and wanderlust. I love being in an office where everyone is talking about the places they just returned from or going to, everyone is excited for each other’s opportunities and celebrates their success.
On the outside of that, I am so excited to be able to be someone who provides life-changing opportunities to others. Both travel and the arts have shaped who I am and I am a big believer they can be transformative for anyone who pursues them. I look forward to working with students about to embark on these adventures and hearing all about their experiences.
You describe yourself as a “basic millennial”. What does that mean? How does this make its way into your art and writing?
I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. As performers and artists, that can sometimes be tough because we fight super hard for our work and we are in a medium where an audience of 200+ people clap for us when we do a good job. Sometimes we just have to make fun of ourselves. I am super proud of what I have achieved in my life but at the end of the day I still go home and watch the Bachelorette and take selfies.
Tell me about a current or recent artistic project you’ve worked on.
Since moving back to MA I’ve taken a small break from theatre and film to focus more on writing and theatre education. Currently, I’m working on a book of essays about our experiences from ages 26-29 in this crazy and sometimes ridiculous, technological world we live in. Whether it involves dating, travel, careers, moving to a new city or taking the next steps in our lives, we’re all trying to navigate our way in a time that our communication and access to information is unprecedented – it really makes for some hilarious moments.
You’ve traveled and lived abroad extensively. Hit me with your funniest / most awkward travel story.
I was in Cusco, Peru in 2010. The city had just suffered through landslides that devastated much of the city. It was pretty barren. I was 22 and up until that point I had mainly just travelled the UK. I had very little experience in places too far out of my comfort zone but I was really eager to learn about a new culture, so it was at the top of my list to try Guinea Pig while I was there.
My boyfriend and I went to a local restaurant that served it. The place looked really fancy and the food was relatively expensive so we felt that the risk for food poisoning was low. Plus, they looked like they were struggling for customers, we were the only guests there.
When we sat down we ordered the Guinea Pig, or “Cuy,” in our broken Spanish. Our waitress looked at us, trying to communicate something that seemed super important. Once she realized we did not understand her, she started making a quick running motion with her hands. We still didn’t get it, so she just did the motion faster. Finally, she opened her eyes very wide and then closed them several times. It hit us. She was telling us our food was still alive and they would have to kill it and cook it. She was warning us this may add to the time it took to prepare dinner.
I was mortified, but still committed to the cultural experience.
The Guinea Pig was served to us on a plate, fully intact. He was propped up, frozen in a running motion with a very surprised look on his face… he wore a tomato hat.
I walked down the street back to our hotel doing that thing where you’re crying and laughing at the same time.
What’s something important you’ve learned about yourself from traveling abroad? What piece(s) of advice would you give to first time travelers?
Oh my gosh. There are so many things you learn about yourself when traveling. Things that you just can’t learn unless you’re in the situations travel puts you in. Besides the skills you pick up from learning different cultures and languages, I learned how adventurous I can be, that I can make friends wherever I go, I can successfully navigate the world on my own, among so many other things. All of these aspects about myself have made me a happier, confident adult. I now trust my ability to make decisions and stay true to myself.
My advice would be to stay present. When we travel we tend to get overwhelmed with logistics and planning. Once those are out of the way, just relax and truly be where you are because you are creating memories you will have for the rest of your life.