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NCG Farewell: Q&A with Knowledge & Communications Manager Marisela Orta

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

After 10 years at NCG, our very own Knowledge and Communications Manager Marisela Orta will be leaving the Bay Area for Iowa.  No, no, it’s not what you think…she’s not being pushed out because of the high cost of living, gentrification, or housing eviction.  She’s about to join the very prestigious Iowa Playwrights Workshop—one of the top MFA programs in the country for playwrights.

In addition to being our go-to communications guru, Marisela is an incredibly gifted playwright. She has been featured in the East Bay Express, Theater Bay Area Magazine, and described as a writer with a “dynamic sense of language and rhythm.”

Her most recent work, Heart Shaped Nebula, is currently running Shotgun at Players in Berkeley. Get your tickets now!

Read more about her play and the inspiration for it here.

Next spring, Marisela’s award-winning play, The River Bride will be featured at the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Marisela and learn from her every day.  Here’s my sit down interview with her:

Q:  With 10 years at NCG, you must have many great memories.  Can you narrow it down to the top 3 key highlight moments?

A: Top three moments at NCG. Let’s see…

  1. The screening of Trouble the Water—a documentary about the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2008 NCG hosted a program on the power of film and the day ended with a viewing of that film in Yerba Buena’s theatre. It was powerful and moving.
  2. Hearing Van Jones speak at Kapor’s office. He spoke about the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Tea Party, and Philanthropy. He’s a very dynamic and smart speaker. That event was sort of a surprise—the staff at Kapor approached us and asked if we could help turn around a very quick invitation to the membership. It was a huge successthat room was packed with members.
  3. This last one is recent. My coworkers all came out to see my play last week. It was very touching to have their support. A lot of them have heard me talk about projects over the years, but this was the first time they got to see me in my element as an artist.

Q:  What’s your secret to balancing lifewith a full time career and as an artist?

A: It’s been a challenge at times—like having two full-time jobs. That’s why I made the decision to apply to graduate school again (my first MFA was in poetry).

I often feel like I’m a member of two very distinct communities—the theatre community and the philanthropic community. It’s been really rewarding being part of the philanthropic community here in the Bay Area—learning about all the work being done here.  

Q: How have you been able to apply your talent as a creative writer to your work at NCG?

A: Obviously I am using my writing abilities daily as I pen blog posts and other messaging for our organization. But I also love getting to design image concepts. Everything I know how to do on Photoshop I learned here on the job—and it’s really fun to create design concepts and images for our programs and communication pieces.

Q:  You’ve been a part of NCG’s long-standing book club.  This seems to be a bit of a hidden gem at NCG. Can you tell us a bit about the group and what you’ve enjoyed about it?

A: “Hidden gem” is an accurate description. The NCG book club has been around since the late 80s and I joined when I first came on as a staff member. I haven’t had a chance to participate as regularly the last few years as my responsibilities at NCG have increased, but it’s been such joy to read a book and then discuss it with the other book club members.

Sometimes we get too busy to pick up a book and enjoy it. The Book Club is a great way to enjoy the book with others—to discuss it and unpack it thoughtfully. Naturally those wonderful conversations about literature have led to many friendships with our members. I’ve been really grateful that I was able to get to know several members on a personal level because of the Book Club. I will miss you all—Francis, Stan, Ulla, Kate, Regan, Prudy…who am I missing?

Q:  Tell us a bit about Heart Shaped Nebula. What inspired the story?

A: Oh, gosh. See, this is why I like a bit of separation between my day job and my work as an artist. Artists are used to making themselves vulnerable. But in my capacity here at NCG, I’m not so used to it. But I’ll try.
Heart Shaped Nebula is a love story. It has so many things I love in it—astronomy, Greek mythology, and a nostalgia for my home state of Texas.

Q:  You’re originally from Texas, but have lived in the Bay Area for the past 13 years.  What will you miss most about Bay Area? What are you looking forward to in the Midwest?

A: I’m going to miss so many things about the Bay Area—our diverse communities, the food, the weather, the people!

The Midwest will be a change, but I grew up in a small town and I think the slower pace is just what I need right now. I want to savor the next three years I have. Three year to just write—I can’t wait!

Q:  Any final parting words for our members?

A: Thank you for the work that you do. During my time at NCG I have met so many thoughtful and passionate individuals.

I’ve been with NCG through a lot of changes of staff and transition. And I have to say I’m leaving at a very exciting moment in our organizational evolution. I hope members are equally excited—we have a fantastic team at the moment.

I know this creates more work for my colleagues (but I’m leaving at the end of this month), but I hope members know they can always contact NCG—to develop programming, to pick our brains, anything!

And I’d like to say to my colleagues here at NCG—thank you for all your support over the years. I will miss you all and I don’t intend to become a stranger. Ten years makes you family. And I can’t wait to see what you all do next.


Marisela's last day at NCG is June 30th. We wish her well as she begins this next chapter in her life.

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