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Meet Carrie-ann Pishnak of The Second City in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carrie-ann Pishnak.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Carrie-ann. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in a weird dichotomy of spending my school months in Las Vegas and my summer months in East Chicago, Indiana. Anything in me that’s “normal” comes from my summer months of lightening bugs, fishing on Lake Michigan with my Pop-Pop, and big Italian family gatherings and ALL my weirdness comes from Las Vegas.

I paid for college by teaching preschool and working my schedule around teaching, it took a little longer but I had no debt when I received my BA in Theatre from UNLV, so that’s a choice I’ll never regret.

I worked the shows in Vegas at the Excalibur, Caesars Palace, and MGM Grand. Worked a lot as a corporate narrator using an ear prompter, which is a niche skill that I highly recommend, not a lot of people can do it and it pays well. I continued teaching, running the city’s summer theatre program, teaching acting, movement, stage make-up, and dance.

After graduating, I performed everywhere I could. I did theatre, cruise ships, multiple tours through many countries until I saved up enough money for tuition and auditioned for the British American Drama Academy in Oxford to receive additional classical training. When I returned I went back on tour but it felt flat, uninspired, so I decided to move to Los Angeles. I didn’t have any friends in LA but I rented a room from an acquaintance and drove back and forth from Vegas, to take gigs to pay the bills while trying to get a foothold in LA.

I started working for Theatrical Education Group, bringing the world of Shakespeare and live theatre to over 20,000 children in the show Shakesperience, for a decade, and teaching acting and movement during the summer. This was a tight group of talented actors that I loved working with. We co-created a 501c3 Ovation nominated theatre company titled Theatre Pangaea and started producing shows and festivals. It was the best of times and we made some spectacular theatre.

I came to The Second City randomly, one of my friends was working as part of the administration and wanted to go on vacation, so they told her she needed to find a temp. I did a pal a favor and never left. I loved the training and graduated from both The Second City Conservatory and Long Form Programs. I moved my way up the corporate ladder and I drank ALL the comedy kool-aid.

My career at The Second City is now twelve years running. I’m the Director of Marketing and Associate Producer for the Hollywood location. I curate talent, shows, and community. I still love teaching and performing. I teach weekly at The Second City Hollywood, recently started teaching at CalArts, and have been both performing and producing The Really Awesome Improv Show for nine years. Our stage is a developmental stage, we put up concept shows to see what wild stuff we can come up with and then if its got legs, we’ll develop it for a life outside our building, an example being the show #DateMe that is now running Off Broadway, which began in our 60 seat Studio Theatre. I also produce the Los Angeles Diversity in Comedy Festival which I’m very proud of, we’re in our fourth year and have a stellar team of people creating four days of beautiful comedy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There are always challenges, who doesn’t have those? I’d like to meet them. My challenges have been money, stress, and being female. Money when I was younger. Just gotta set goals and try not to stray from them. It may take longer to get there than others but you’ll get there. Spend less than you make.

I’ve worn a lot of hats and that has served me well. If you know how to do one thing, your options are slim. I’m a performer but I also teach, produce, and do marketing, and I’m usually doing them all at the same time with several projects going. Stress will get you if you don’t watch out.

I’m a workaholic so I get up several times a night to send myself an email because I jolt awake about something I’ve forgotten to do or I’ve had an idea I want to jot down. I never remember my dreams and I’m sure it’s because I’m working in them. For stress, I HIGHLY recommend solo living room dance parties. I did break my couch once but they’re usually nondestructive.

Being female was a huge challenge in Vegas. Nothing like being a young girl in a city filled with objectification and misogyny. You either lose yourself or find yourself. Vegas made me tough a nails. A big obstacle in business is that people say things to me they’d never say to a man. I’m a straightforward person with a strong work ethic. I’m going to tell you what’s expected. Try not to get upset that I’m not mothering you regarding deadlines. Deadlines are not emotional things. You’ve either done the work or you haven’t.

The Second City – What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
I currently work for The Second City. It is a 59-year-old sketch comedy theatre, known for social and political satire, created using improvisation. I’m very proud of our community in Hollywood. These people have grit. There’s no pretentious ego, everyone is here to put in the work and hold each other up with love and respect.

I’m very proud of (1) The Really Awesome Improv Show, now in its ninth year. This show brings families together for an hour of comedy that speaks to all ages. (2) The Los Angeles Diversity in Comedy Festival, now in its fourth year. Comedians from all over the globe come together in an inclusive environment to share their voice and connect with one another. (3) The Bob Curry Fellowship, now in its second year. A tuition-free masterclass that cultivates and trains artists. If you want your community to look and feel inclusive, you have to make sure you’re building it yourself.

What I’m personally know for…I guess just getting it all done.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I used to be a perfectionist, and at my core, I still am, but it’s unrealistic and can be such a drag. Everything in my creative world is a work in progress, being developed, finding its foundation, and with that being the status quo, perfection is not what I’m looking for, I’m looking for growth. Growth is how I define success. When a project is done I really dig having a postmortem and taking diligent notes, then when I’m starting up again, I take a look to remember what didn’t work and grow from there. I’m an exceedingly loyal person, so if you’re looking for someone to fail over and over with until we find what works, I’m your gal, I won’t give up. I also love adventure, trying something new and maybe a little scary, that’s also my marker for success. Got a new idea…let’s try it.

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Image Credit:
Joe Funk
Ayumi Iizuka
Elizabeth Burgi
Richard Aaron
The Headshot Truck

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