By: Lauren Speirs
Paulette in Calendar Girls
You might recognize Paulette Oliva from The Naples Players (TNP) production of Calendar Girls…Did you know she also volunteers off stage at TNP? Paulette and her husband Peter (McClung, most recently appeared in An Ideal Husband) have ushered and they also lent a hand at the Gala.
The couple recently gave up their equity cards, which you receive from working in an equity theatre or you build up points. Paulette says, “I got mine when I was 21 and had a contract right away. I wound up taking the business route and owned a marketing company. I was still able to do theatre on the side. I would be backstage during intermission on my laptop! My company was completely outside of the arts – we started out in direct mail marketing and developed into email and social media marketing. We brought our clients kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century by moving from catalogs to where things are now.”
After 30 years in the industry, Paulette sold her company in 2019 to a private equity firm. Soon after, she flew down to see three friends performing in different shows in Fort Myers. While in southwest Florida, Paulette immediately fell in love with the elegance of Naples and was able to buy a home in Bonita before the pandemic. “The paint hadn’t even dried and we were already involved with The Naples Players! When you get involved with a theatre, it’s always ‘add water, instant family.’ We both gave up our equity cards because we decided we wanted to do this for fun.”
Paulette in Calendar Girls
Paulette and Peter discovered TNP while strolling down 5th Avenue South. “Peter said, ‘I heard there’s a community theatre down here, I think it’s on this street.’ We were blown away when we saw the size of it! We took a tour and got involved right away – we felt immediately embraced.”
Paulette is originally from Valhalla in New York State and she’s a Broadway fanatic – she still has an apartment in the theatre district in NYC. Involved with acting and music since she was a child, Paulette went to Mercy College to continue her studies. In 2021, Paulette was given an honorary doctorate and was invited to address the graduates of the School of Liberal Arts at their commencement ceremony. In her address, she explained her unique pathway after graduating and talked about how, “my passion, my fire for the arts never subsided.”
Early on in her career, she thought she had to keep her acting passion quiet from her business mentor, “I told a mentor one day that I had to leave at 5 pm for rehearsal.” His positive reaction made her realize that, “theatre gave me an edge in business. I could speak in front of 1,000 people and think on my feet. You are the sum of your parts – I brought whatever I could to the table in business.”
With Paulette’s vast experience in acting and producing, she has amazing things to say about her time with The Naples Players. “I think the organizational structure here is really phenomenal. The infrastructure for that has probably taken a long time to perfect but TNP has perfected that. As a result, the production values are really high. You know there will be a support system every step of the way and it’s always a pleasure. We even have a table read in our first rehearsal and the chance to explore – I love that. You feel very prepared when you walk out on stage. Design, scenery, support staff, technical crew – everyone conducts themselves so professionally and no one is left out to hang and I just love that feeling. Even from an off stage volunteer standpoint, such as volunteering for the gala, there are specific hours and everything is broken up so you can give as little or as much as you want. Peter and I were both blown away – we’ve worked at a lot of theaters and this one is right up there – top notch!”
Brad Brenner and Paulette Oliva in Calendar Girls
With preparations for When We Were Young and Unafraid underway, Paulette says, “It’s crazy how timely this production is today. There are a lot of emotional things that appealed to me like the support of women. I have three daughters and have spent my entire life making sure they feel supported in every way. It’s so important for women to be heard and protect each other. I was brought up Catholic and abortion was never an option for me but I would fight to support those who need it. This play is about finding your voice and it’s something that I always wanted my daughters to find early on in life.”
Interested in volunteering and finding out how theatre can benefit you? There are abundant opportunities at The Naples Players! Volunteers have options to commit to time frames ranging from 2.5 to 5.5 weeks. TNP volunteers are also wearing masks in the building to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy. For more information, please contact Pamela Larkin Caruso at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239 434 7340 ext. 104.