Citizen of the Year: Allison Stockel thrives as versatile volunteer
Charlie, a 3-year-old yellow lab, greets anyone who enters Allison Stockel’s office at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
He’s a special receptionist for the woman whom the Ridgefield Rotary Club has recognized with its highest honor, Citizen of the Year.
Stockel, the Ridgefield Playhouse’s executive director, brings her home to the office — and vice versa. Sitting at her desk are a collection of mineral crystals — an homage to her love of “shiny pink objects” — and miniature skulls, and a couple of little Buddha statues.
“I’m here so much that I surround myself with stuff that I like,” she said. “It’s my little blockade.”
Stockel dedicates around 60 hours a week to the Playhouse, between weekend shows and day-to-day activities, including research, planning, booking, and fund raising.
She doesn’t get paid for her work, donating the salary back to the Playhouse.
“I didn’t start working because I wanted a job — I started working at the Playhouse because I wanted to continue and grow its mission.”
Her dedication to the Playhouse, and the community at large, is what allowed her to earn the Rotary’s award earlier this month.
Artist posters cover every inch of her walls, with the exception of a monumental calendar with scheduled shows for the next two years — the 2017 section is almost full, for those bands that are interested in playing at the 500-seat arena.
Five times the shows
Thanks to Stockel’s leadership for the past 13 years, the Playhouse has gone from about 40 shows a year to 200.
How? By acting on her belief that big money brings in big talent.
“Honestly, we pay them. We have the B-52s on June 5; they’re expensive — they cost $50,000.”
Tickets have to be expensive to cover the costs, but for well-known acts like that one, Stockel said, they usually sell out their 500 seats.
Her background as an entertainment television producer helped her create a path.
“Being in television, I’ve always been aware of budget. When you do a TV show, you want it to be great, on time, and not go over budget — that’s your thought process,” she said.
“So I looked at every show as my own little TV show, except that there are no cameras.”
The Ridgefield Playhouse is not the only nonprofit to which Stockel donates her time.
She’s highly involved with many organizations in town.
“My job happens to be working at a nonprofit, but there are a lot of other nonprofits that are really worthwhile,” she said.
She volunteers for Hillside Food Outreach once a month, has hosted students for Ridgefield’s A Better Chance, sits on the advisory board for the Women’s Center, is a member of the Rotary Club, and is an incorporator for Lounsbury House.
She also helps other organizations whenever she can. She was the auctioneer for the RVNA breakfast and will be again for the Keeler Tavern Museum in September.
“I like to help other non-profits raise money and create a voice. I was in RX for Fashion for the hospital,” she said. “I did Dancing with the Stars for the RSO.”
“I like all of these other creative ways that you can help fund-raise for other people.”
Arts for Everyone
Her favorite part about being the executive director at the Ridgefield Playhouse is an initiative called Arts for Everyone that focuses on making the arts accessible to low-income families and their children.
“It’s a very cool thing when you see their eyes widen and they’re so excited to see these performers on stage doing these amazing things,” she said.
The program started as an extension of Arts in Education — schooltime performances that coordinate with the school’s curriculum, which the schools pay for.
“When we started that, we realized that while it was fine for some schools like Ridgefield and Fairfield that could afford the ticket,” she said, “there were a lot of schools out there that really had the arts cut from the curriculum. …
“That was probably the impetus for Arts for Everyone, so we could bring these schools in and bus them in — we expanded it so that it wasn’t just for arts in education, it was for any show.”
Now every show in the family series has an Arts for Everyone recipient. The Playhouse donates tickets to 30 other nonprofits so that they can give them to the people they serve.
Citizen of the Year
Stockel was surprised by the award, and honored to get the call.
“Because I know all the people that have gotten it in the past,” she said. “It’s truly an honor to be in that grouping of people.”
Stockel loves Ridgefield and the general willingness to lend a hand that characterizes people in the town.
“It’s a town that really likes to help the people who live here,” she said.
“It’s a great town — that’s really why I do the things that I do.”
The Rotary Club will be giving her the award during a reception on Wednesday, June 14, at Silver Spring Country Club.