Christina Carter-Halla (self described as “the most loved-hated woman at Juilliard”) was born and raised in Orlando, Fla. For almost 10 years she worked at Universal Studios while going to school, starting off running a spotlight and driving a trolley, and ending up stage managing. After getting associate’s degrees in technical theater and stage management from Florida School of the Arts, she was accepted for the Juilliard internship program for stage management, in 2004, and has been here ever since, but hopes to get her B.A. someday. She has also been an assistant stage manager for Orlando Lyric Opera and Berkshire Opera Company.
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day?
I dressed in a suit, and when I got to the stage managers’ intern office, all the others were in jeans and T-shirts. I remember thinking “Wow, I might have pegged this wrong!” Seven years later and still here, I think I may have pegged it right.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
Tricia Ross’s job (associate vice president for executive projects) seems so interesting to me. She works with all the different departments in the School and she always has an answer!
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
I loved my time doing market research for the Icee Company. I was basically paid to taste lots of weird flavored frozen beverages and collaborate with a team about what we would change about the taste or texture or color. Drinking shot after shot of Icee was as terrible as it sounds but it paid better than you might think, and I’m a better communicator because of it.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
My husband works in the Berkshires and lives there during the week, so Massachusetts calls to me whenever I have a day off. If I could not leave the city I would go to the movies. It feels so luxurious to sit in the dark for two hours and do nothing but watch a movie and eat calorie-filled food.
Many Juilliard staff members are also artists. Did you ever consider pursuing an art?
My father is a fantastic pianist. He was actually accepted to Juilliard in the early ’70’s but he was not permitted by his parents to come because they were terrified of him living in New York City alone. I grew up surrounded by “the arts” but never had the same kind of passion I saw in my father. I never felt the raw energy I see in our students. I have always loved theater and music but knew I would have to find a different way to be included. As a stage manager, I cherish my time in the rehearsal room watching the process from page to stage. Artists amaze me. I’m blessed to get to witness the transformation but not have the pressure to produce art from within. I suppose it’s an artistic job but I do not consider myself an artist. I am a supporter of great artists!
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
I’m trying to be planet smart. Be a better recycler. Eat more local foods. Be an informed consumer. I would say that is my most passionate endeavor at the moment. It’s certainly my most time-consuming.
What was the best vacation you’ve had?
This is a typical answer but I had a wonderful honeymoon: an entire month road-tripping down the East Coast and over to the Smoky Mountains. Most of it was planned out but I left chunks of time open for adventure. We whitewater-rafted and took a helicopter tour of the Smokies. We stopped at lots of beautiful roadside stands and went to a spa. It was a fantastic vacation. I had never taken a trip like that before where time was not the number-one concern. It’s an amazing experience having time wide open for exploration. It was a life lesson for me.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
How good I am at whistling. I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan. I was in that outrageous crowd last November waiting for the [last] movie to premier at Alice Tully and I have traveled to tons of HP-themed events over the last five years.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
I love how the city can change your day, like it’s a living creature. My first year here I was having a trying December. One evening I was very cold and in a terrible mood. The train was not running from the Lincoln Center stop, so I walked down to 59th. When I got to Columbus Circle I realized it was the first time I had seen it since they decorated for the holidays and stopped for a moment to take it all in. Then out of nowhere “Carol of the Bells” started playing from every direction and the whole front of a building lit up and flashed in time with the music. It was as if New York itself was trying to cheer me up.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
The students here are amazing. Ushers, I appreciate you guys and all the time you spend with me! Also, I have loved getting to meet and mingle with so much of our audience. Half of my job is just talking to people.