We had the good fortune of connecting with Carla Nell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carla, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
InnerMission Productions was founded for the purpose of bringing new work to the stage in San Diego. Work that is considered risky, edgy or dangerous is the kind of theatre I wanted to see. I wasn’t seeing a lot of options for that in San Diego when I initially started producing my own shows. That was the original drive behind starting this theatre adventure.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
There are only a handful of theatres in San Diego that are led by women. We are one of them. That is something that needs to change along with the lack of diversity on American stages. Theatre is for everyone and I have always felt drawn to tell stories that make some people uncomfortable or push their limits. Finding people who are also willing to take that risk with you is not always easy. The journey has been long and rewarding and very difficult at times. It started when I took an acting class in 1994 and I was hooked. I went on to study theatre at Mesa College, The American Conservatory Theatre and SDSU. Theatre was not something I had considered as a career path until I left Mesa College and ventured into the community to begin producing my own plays. There are so many people involved in bringing a piece of theatre to life and every time someone said yes I became more determined to tell the difficult stories. I fell in love with the process of producing theatre and I slowly started building relationships with people who, for whatever reason, believed in me and wanted to help. Every experience led to the next one until eventually we were planning full seasons and currently operate as a Non-profit 501c3 organization. We have a board of 10 members who have been instrumental in making it all possible. The pandemic has been our greatest challenge and we have halted productions for the time being as we navigate the future. The space we use is small and intimate at 49 seats. No one knows what gathering in public spaces will look like in the future. I am worried and I do not pretend to know what is ahead. Theatre is an art form that dates back to the 5th century and has survived a myriad of odds against it. I have faith we will find our way back I just don’t know when. There is a hole in my heart for all of the artists that are struggling right now. For me, a life in theatre has brought me comfort and family and a feeling of connection to my community. If I had not pursued this path I am not sure what my life would have looked like and I don’t think I want to know. I recommend following your dream, it isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I moved to San Diego from Mobile, Alabama when I was 10. I instantly fell in love and I feel so blessed to live in a place that people from all over the world consider a vacation spot. A perfect San Diego day in my opinion is breakfast at The Big Kitchen in Golden Hill with Judy the Beauty and staff followed by a stroll through Balboa Park. My favorite museum is probably The Reuben H. Fleet Space Center if I had to pick one. I would probably head over to Seaport Village after and get some ice cream and walk along the harbor to the ferry to Coronado for dinner right on the bay. There are over 100 variations of a perfect San Diego day I can’t pick one but this is where I might start.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to give the biggest shoutout to my Mom. She always encouraged me to follow my heart and my gut. I never enjoyed a traditional schedule and have always been interested in many different disciplines with theatre being my first love. She never discouraged me. She always wanted me to be successful in any endeavor I wanted to pursue. Her encouragement and support led me down many paths I might not have considered. That unconditional support ultimately drove me to work harder to achieve my goal of having my own theatre company. I also have to thank my co-artistic director Kym Pappas. She is an incredible support system and someone who I learn from daily as an artist and a leader. We balance each other out in more ways than I can count and have weathered the storms of running our own business together as a team and I am grateful for her every day.
Photos by Daren Scott, Rich Soublet and Adriana Zuniga-Williams