The Show Must Go On: Kristina Saldaña Proves that Major Roles Aren't Just for the Actors
“I am the busiest lazy person you will ever meet"...
While this is how Kristina Saldaña describes herself, she definitely has a LOT going on. Saldaña has had her hand in local theatre for over 12 years, working as financial director at The Empty Space. Besides handling financial duties, Saldaña has been an MVP of sorts to the theatre on Oak Street, acting as a mainstage director, assisting its board of directors, and filling in for roles that need a little more attention. Saldaña also acts as a contact for local media when the theatre gears up for its productions.
Theatre is clearly her true love. When she is away from The Empty Space, 36-year-old Saldaña carries that passion over to work. “I work as the Administrative Coordinator at CSUB in the Department of Music and Theatre and I love it,” says Saldaña.
Sure, she's done a lot behind the scenes. However, since every hero has an origin story, it’s time to shine the spotlight on Kristina Saldaña!
TLA: When did your theatrical epiphany first hit you?
KS: When I started high school as a freshman, I was at the tail end of some serious medical issues and had to use a wheelchair that first year. Sheila McClure, who was active in the theatre program, was my 9th grade English teacher and took me under her wing. She encouraged me to take her Costuming class the following semester, which was going to be creating the costumes for the spring theatre production. Jesus Fidel, one of my sister’s friends, was also in that class and basically became my brother that year. We worked on projects together and at the end as I prepared to go into Sophomore year and he went on to graduate, I thought about how unselfishly these people welcomed me into a program and into their lives, no questions asked. I felt I needed to continue cultivating that feeling for not only myself but others who needed a place to fit in and call home.
TLA: When did you find your home at The Empty Space?
KS: That summer after senior year, Sheila was working on Cabaret there and asked me to join as costumer. After that initial summer show, I focused on starting college and working part-time but would periodically attach to shows that my schedule would allow, both at TES and at The Spotlight Theatre. As I started doing more shows, Jeremiah Heitman asked if I wanted to join the board. The rest is history.
TLA: How have you been able to incorporate current world conditions (including Covid-19, human rights, even politics) into work at The Empty Space?
KS: We try to remain relevant and produce things that people want to see. We read new works and enjoy trying to find shows that tackle the big issues in interesting ways. I don’t think we’ll touch shows about Covid just yet, as we are still experiencing it. Honestly, no one really wants to experience it in actual life so we definitely don’t want to experience it on stage.
TLA: What are some dream shows that you would love to produce in Bakersfield?
KS: My dream shows constantly change, partly due to being lucky enough to be able to produce many of them over the years, but also because my tastes change as I get older. It’s hard to explain, and there’s no one answer, but I just really enjoy doing shows that mean something to someone. It might not even be me, but if it means something to someone and I can see that it is important to them, it’s a dream show.
TLA: Any hobbies?
KS: In my spare time, I like to cook and bake, spoil my friends, and watch Bravo TV. I obsessively follow baseball and the Dodgers. I am the busiest lazy person you will ever meet.
TLA: What can local theatre fans expect from this year's season at The Empty Space?
KS: They can expect another year of fantastic theatre brought to you by passionate and talented volunteers. They can expect an exciting and fun trip to a place run by kind and dedicated folks and always a safe and entertaining night out whenever they need one.
TLA: What makes the experience at The Empty Space so unique?
KS: I think it’s the closeness in every sense of the word. The audience is RIGHT THERE when you are an actor. The actors are RIGHT THERE when you are an audience member. Everyone around you is enjoying themselves, the volunteers all know you and each other, everything just feels familial. Someone once wrote us a review online that said [along the lines of] ‘watching a show at The Empty Space is like watching a show with your best friends, starring your best friends, in the basement of your best friend’s house.’ I love that even if you show up alone, you will know someone in the audience. We try to make everyone feel like family.
TLA: Where can people get more information about the theatre?
Instagram: The Empty Space
Photos courtesy of Kristina Saldaña and The Empty Space