When Rebecca Jessop landed her first community theater role in her 20s, she knew immediately that she was hooked on the performing arts.
Jessop is now taking on a new challenge in the world of theater as executive director of the Havre de Grace Arts Collective. The job involves overseeing the new Cultural Center at the Opera House, which opened in early August after a three-year, $4 million renovation. In addition to attracting performers, she aims to bring artists to the center as part of the Havre de Grace arts and entertainment district.
What motivated you to delve into the arts?
It's when I worked in the field of the arts that I felt most at home with the people around me. It's also where I felt the most inspired and comfortable. My first big real job was as the director of special projects at the Senator Theatre in Baltimore. I had started out studying math, ended up studying sociology and then did not discover the arts until after college in my 20s. I started out acting on stage and then I helped to co-create, produce, write a television program called "CineMaryland." I worked with Howard Community College and their television station there. While there I found a real comfort in the arts, television and interviewing.
Why were you interested in leading the arts collective?
Havre de Grace is so supportive of the arts, and they have been doing some very impressive things and I'm really excited to be a part of that. The community in and of itself spurred the development of the old Havre de Grace Opera House from 1870 that had fallen into disrepair. I'm also very excited for my position. Hardly ever do you get the opportunity to help create how an executive director position will work, so I'm thrilled to get to come in and start that from the ground up.
What do you love about the Opera House?
It's absolutely beautiful. It's a 19th-century building that has been transformed into a 21st-century state-of-the-art theater. It's very intimate, and what I love is that you can tell that there's a lot of love in the community for the arts by stepping into the building. It's brand new, yet it's historic.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in this position?
Figuring out how all of the systems are going to work is definitely a challenge since everything is brand new. We're learning as we go day by day. We chuckle because someone will ask me a question and I'll say, "I don't know yet, but I'm going to figure it out and I'll get back to you very soon." I like trial and error and seeing what works and what doesn't work, and I really appreciate when people have patience as we go through this. It's such a rare and fun opportunity.
What do you hope to see in the future of Havre de Grace's art scene?