Samantha Mighdoll
Photo courtesy of Samantha Mighdoll

Samantha Mighdoll’s job as a marketer is to use all her available data to create a more inclusive experience in an environment that everyone can engage with—social media platforms, media, word of mouth. Her role as the marketing manager for Palm Beach Dramaworks is challenging and exciting at the same time. After all, it is about equal parts personal exchanges with loyal and prospective audiences, as it is with actors and famous directors, playwrights, musical directors and other acclaimed theatre personalities.

Trained to be a performer at a young age, Mighdoll is familiar with the stage—on and behind the scenes. Born and raised in Florida, there’s no other place she would rather be. She’s faced incredible highs and lows as a dancer, and having to say goodbye to that life after a terrific motorcycle accident that left her with physical and emotional scars, has not erased that part of her past. And yet, it was there where she found her rock [an old school mate] and a career [high school literary magazine where she worked as a photographer] on top of which she’s built a new life.

How appropriate that I would find Samantha Mighdoll seating in the Perlberg Studio Theatre, located on the second floor of Palm Beach Dramaworks. This small and intimate space holds so many memories for her—as a young dancer waiting in the wings or rehearsing her part. As she recalls, in the old theatre, this was a space reserved for actors and other performers to chat and rehearse. For her, it seems like a million years ago. And while she’s fond of those old memories, she’s glad for the new ones she’s made, and still making at PBD.

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MC: Samantha, what role do you play at Palm Beach Dramaworks?

SM: I’m the marketing manager, so I do all of our digital advertising, signage, and create all of those ads plus email blasts to places where we put that advertising. I buy all of our print advertising spots and plan the scheduling and budget for that. We have a graphic designer that I coordinate with, but I deal with the print shops and get everything hung up. I also deal with our social media networking.

MC: What are your channels in social media?

SM: We’re mostly on Facebook and trying to branch out through our Twitter and Instagram. Instagram allows a lot more artistic opportunity…like with videos and photos, so I’m enjoying setting that up.

MC: When did you start doing that?

SM: I started doing that last year. Cliff Burgess actually did the first one and now he comes in sometimes and help us with our YouTube videos and social media.

MC: Tell me about the Perlberg Studio Theatre, which used to be your rehearsal space.

SM: It was great having that as our rehearsal space. I just loved that interaction with the actors. Now we have our Florida Mango location as our rehearsal space, which the directors and actors love a lot more because it’s the actual size of the main stage and they can really focus on their scenes.

MC: And what is the Perlberg Studio Theatre showcasing now?

SM: This is part of Dramaworkshop, which premieres plays written by up and coming playwrights. Just last year we had Domestic Animals, and it was very well received. We also use this space for the Cabaret Series, which has great following too.

MC: What excites you about working at Palm Beach Dramaworks?

SM: All of it! I started in 2011, as one of the transplants from Florida Stage. I was very sad when they closed, but I guess serendipitous for Palm Beach DramaWorks because it was just when they were moving from Banyan to Clematis Street, and they needed staff. At that time, they just had their five main stage productions, and I was always looking for, “okay, what’s going on during the dark weeks.” So I’m excited that we have all these new programs—challenging because we have to get the word out and everything, but it’s exciting at the same time.

MC: Tell me about your story leading up to PBD. How did you get involved in the Arts?

SM: I started dancing when I was three years old in a dance studio. I have two older sisters and they both danced as well, so I guess it started as just following in their footsteps. But we each took a different track in our dancing and converged at different times. I was born and raised in Wellington…I’m never going to leave Florida; I love West Palm Beach.

MC: Native Floridian, that’s hard to find.

SM: Yeah, so my parents said, “Well, why don’t you try to live somewhere else, get experience.” I had visited and gone away to school and stuff like that, but we live in paradise.

MC: Where did you go to school?

SM: That’ll be a part of my story, as I have a stack of school IDs! So I did go to a school of the arts for dance. I enjoyed it but it was hard to do any other sort of artistic thing that you were interested in. You could only be in one art area. At that time, Wellington High School was just becoming a magnet school, and they were just starting that process, and so in my junior year I switched back to Wellington High School and my artistic experience exploded.

MC: So what happened there?

SM: They had dance classes, as well as a dance company, with more of the modern ballet type of dance. I also was part of the dance team, which is something I thought I’d never do, but it was just a whole other art form. Some people think it’s kind of cheesy, but it gave me strength in different ways. I was also interested in photography, so I studied that there as well. I was part of the school’s Literary Magazine, which was this amazing artistic class. You had to be asked to be in the class, and it was made up of poets, writers, visual artists, and I was there as a photographer for the literary magazine that we put out four times a year for the school.

MC: That must have been such a great artistic experience for you. And I know exactly what you mean…I used to produce a literary magazine for a school in Fort Lauderdale and my students loved it.

SM: I loved it! I really got so much more fulfillment out of being at Wellington High school than a community high school. After that, I went to the University of South Florida in Tampa, and I really liked that experience. I focused on modern dance and photography. There wasn’t digital photography back then. So, I put a dark room in my bathroom and I developed my own stuff, so that was so fun.

During my sophomore year of college, my boyfriend that I had been dating since high school passed away. It was really traumatic for me, and I just felt like it was hard to be away from home.

MC: So did you stay?

SM: No, actually I ended up moving back down to South Florida and enrolled at Florida Atlantic University. It kind of felt like the same thing with Wellington High School there, since it was a smaller school, in that if you had an idea you could kind of run with it. I was really close with Clarence Brooks, who is still super involved with dance in this community, and the dance teacher down there.

MC: I heard that you started a dance company with the dancers there. Tell me us about that.

SM: Yes, at that time my sister started a master’s program at FAU. And soon after we started a company called the Movement Project. It came out of a lot of the dancers at FAU, we would perform here before PBD. So I know that this renovation done by them is great because the state and theater was really steep, and there wasn’t great seating. I remember every time I would dance it would feel like I was going to fall off the stage.

MC: What happened with the Movement Project?

SM: The Movement Project turned into what is now the Dancers’ Space at the Kravis Center. My sister ended up being the development manager there until she moved to North Carolina a few years ago. The Movement Project would rehearse at the Kravis Center’s rental space. Sometimes we would perform at the Rinker, and because she worked there, it merged into offering classes and is still ongoing there.

MC: So what stopped you from dancing?

SM: When I was twenty-four, a friend of mine that I had gone to college with was in town, and his mode of transportation was a motorcycle. My car was in the shop at the time—it was my first and last time on a motorcycle. We got hit by a car. I went flying off, but there was one helmet and he gave it to me. Luckily, I was wearing it but the faceplate shattered. I broke both my arms and my left leg. I spent a month in the hospital.

MC: Did you try going back to dancing after that?

SM: After I got out of the hospital, I started working for Ballet Florida as their office manager. I still had connections there just from dancing here my whole life and doing dance camps there when I was younger. I’m actually really friendly with the people who started there, so I could sit, and they would let me leave for physical therapy. I took some of the dance classes to try to get myself back in it. This was when the Movement Project was still going on. I tried going back…it was emotionally hard and painful, because I couldn’t do all the things I used to do. Soon after the Ballet Florida went under, the Florida Stage was looking for a subscriptions manager, so I ended up getting a job there. Now the story converges where that shut down, and I came to work at Dramaworks.

MC: So when did you make that decision to stop dancing all together?

SM: I knew you’d ask me that. I don’t remember exactly when it was, maybe in my early thirties. But at one point I made a decision—I’m just going to stop dancing. It’s just too hard, it was painful mentally, physically, and emotionally. There was a long time where I stopped listening to the radio and music because I would just see choreography in my head, and it would be hard to not be able to express that. I still battle with a lot of that and try to find new ways to exercise and express my creativity.

MC: Well, you have your photography.

SM: Yes, and that’s what actually brought me to Dramaworks. I was the assistant box office manager when I came here. But, really my intention when Florida Stage closed was to transition out of dance. I had graduated from FAU with a degree in communications and media studies because they didn’t have a dance major. I’m thankful that it turned out that way because when I gave up dancing I started thinking, “Well, what else am I interested in?” I started towards a masters in marketing when I started here at Dramaworks. Just a month or two in, I was realizing that they didn’t have a marketing department here. When they were on Banyan they were a very small staff. One day, I asked Sue Ellen that if the box office phones weren’t ringing, if I could start our Facebook page, email blasts, and things that we weren’t doing yet. I just started doing that in my down time, things I enjoyed anyway.

MC: When did you transition to your marketing job?

SM: About a year or so Bill and Sue Ellen offered me a position in marketing. I was sort of half and half, box office and marketing. So I decided, do I finish out a master’s degree or do I take work experience? I decided on the work experience.

MC: Well, it’s cheaper, and in the long run, it pays more…[laughing]

SM: [laughing] Right! And you know, going through school was an awesome experience but whenever you go into a job you’re really learning about what that job really entails.

MC: Is it challenging being an entire department?

SM: Sometimes.

MC: So how was it that your talent for photography come up?

SM: And I don’t even know how it came up that I was into photography, but they do hire a photographer sometimes to shoot full shows. But for some of our smaller projects, they’ve used me, which has been so fun. I get to express that creativity.

MC: So, if I were to Google you, I would see all your photography, right?

SM: [laughing] Which is interesting because that’s exactly what you will find! I’m really getting into this century with digital photography and social media.

MC: How is it working with Bill and Sue Ellen, owners of Dramaworks?

SM: I love them! And I really love that if I have an idea, I can go to them and run with it. And also doing some of the business stuff with budgeting and things like that to keep that math brain.

MC: It’s interesting that you have both, that creative mind and the more logical half.

SM: When I was younger, I thought I would go into some kind of science field. I was very a math-science person. I decorated my room with the solar system, and I guess if I hadn’t been a dancer, I would’ve gone into that field. My mom is a math teacher and my dad’s a lawyer.

MC: Tracing your steps back, and looking where you are now, would you have done things differently? If you hadn’t had that accident would you still be dancing, or is that hard to answer?

SM: I can’t say I’ve never thought about it, but it may not have gone in a very different direction. My first job after my accident when I was trying to get back into real life was at Ballet Florida. I maybe could have been dancing there and working in their box office.

MC: Or their marketing department.

SM: Yeah. I think I would probably be much more involved with what’s going on in the dancer’s space, and still be involved somehow. But, looking back, while I’m obviously not glad for my physical injuries, I’m glad that I was able to learn a lot of different things that prepared me more for where my life is now. Honestly, dancing would end at some point no matter what, but I still think I’ve gotten over the hump a little bit. I do listen to music in the background while I’m working, and I love talking with Bill Hayes (producing artistic director), because a lot of times I’ll be anxious to teach a movement class for the actors.

At the University of South Florida’s department of theater and dance, there was a lot of overlapping. There was a class like that there and I thought that was so cool, that the actors thought about that. When you’re on stage, it’s more than just reciting lines, and for the director too.

MC: So what did Bill say about it?

SM: I plan to talk to him more about it this season. Michelle Petrucci does a lot of our choreography here, and we have a lot of new things going on here, so it was a point taken. I don’t know if it will happen but I keep nudging it. Art should not be one area—it all overlaps. When I stopped dancing I would photograph for the Dancer’s Space, and I love photographing dance. I think sometimes doing that as a dancer it’s better because you can anticipate the movement, what’s going to happen, and you just kind of know the angles.

MC: Tell me a little bit about your personal life. Your husband’s name is Jeff, right?

SM: My boyfriend Jeff and I have been together for ten years. So, it seems like we are married. We own a house together, and we actually knew each other when we were young kids.

MC: And how did that happen?

SM: Wellington started a gifted program at one of their schools when I was in second grade; I guess it used to be if you were tested for gifted they would pull you out of class, and this was a school that was offering the gifted program.

So I when I was in second grade, I went to that school just for those classes, and there were only one or two teachers for those classes for each grade. So all throughout elementary and middle I was with the same kids, and your classes didn’t really change. Jeff, my now boyfriend, also was in that program. We lived in the same neighborhood, he would walk to my house and jump on my trampoline, and I have a picture of us dancing at my Batmiztva together, which was so funny. When we started dating my dad found a picture of us and said, “Isn’t this a picture of you two slow dancing together?” It was the cutest thing.

MC: And where you two in touch throughout high school and college?

SM: I lost touch with him, and then I ran into him in college. After my boyfriend passed away, I moved to Gainesville because that’s where a lot of my friends had gone away to school. I was there for a year. I ended up back in South Florida, so when he finished college and graduated from UF, he had intended to go to law school. But he moved back to his parents’ house, just trying to figure out what to do next. One day, he started looking on Facebook for who lives in the area, and I was living in the area in my own place. So he would come hang out to get out of his parents’ house, and it was then that we started a relationship. He’s just my rock, my everything. It’s funny that you say “husband,” because it’s a formality at this point for us, and now that we own a house, people are telling us we should just do it for at least legal reasons, like if anything were to happen with one of us.

MC: So where do you see yourself now that you have a great career, a great man. If you were to say, here is my life, what would you say?

SM: I’m settling in a little bit. We bought the house in Wellington last September, so we’re staying here for sure. I hope to continue to grow with Palm Beach Dramaworks. I’m just really excited about the growth here, in that there’s all these new programs. As we talked about, with art there’s not just one thing. So it’s not just what’s on the main stage, we’ve got this cabaret series, and I love interacting with all the different people that come into town, the actors and personalities. I don’t see myself leaving here anytime soon.

MC: So, you found your niche at last.

SM: Yes, I have. After I was here for a few years my family would ask if I was going to start applying to other places, maybe something larger, but I just appreciate that I’m sitting at my desk sometimes, or I’m up taking photos, or designing our digital advertising. I don’t know that I would have that anywhere else. I’m happy right now. Somewhere down the line I may end up somewhere else, you never know. But for right now I’m happy where I am, I love West Palm Beach.

MC: Why do you like West Palm Beach so much?

SM: I hate the cold, first of all. With my injuries, that bothers me anyway. I was a beach bum when I was a kid…I surfed. And there’s everything, like the ocean. When I lived in Wellington, I would complain. “There’s nothing out here!”

MC: And now “Here” has just just exploded with a cool Downtown vibe, with things to do and places to go.

SM: Yeah, Downtown has grown. Jeff and I lived in City Palms, in CityPlace for a year when Florida Stage was at the Kravis Center. I got that kind of city living life of walking to work. I love how close you are to other areas of Florida; Miami’s not a far drive if you want to do something there, or the West Coast. But really it just comes down to the weather. I’m the one person who uses the heated seats all year round, even in the summer.

MC: So, we’re opposites on that score. I use the AC in the winter months here. [laughing] Anything else you’d like to add?

SM: I want people to get to know Palm Beach Dramaworks as more than just theater, but as a staple in our community. We have different things to do and support, for all ages. It’s nice to see younger people here. One of the things I came up with when I was just reading internet articles was this “pay your age” that a theater in the Midwest was doing. We just started doing that here, to try and get younger people into the theater. So if you’re under 40, your ticket is the price of your age. That has been really cool. You can come here and appreciate the lighting, or music, or great acting, and so many other things. We also started our restaurant club, so you get deals and discounts to the area restaurants. We’re part of this community, and that’s something I’m always trying to continue to build.