Every actor sets out to balance creative work with work that pays the bills. At the start of her career, Julie Galdieri ’88 found that balance by performing with New York theaters such as La MaMa and The Barrow Group and doing voiceovers and independent films, while also dedicating some time to “business theater”—writing scripts for corporate campaigns and launch events.
“But after a while, the balance shifted, and I found myself in a creative wasteland,” she says. She realized “it was up to me to create the sort of work that I was longing to do. So, I began to think about launching a theater.”
It turned out that her friend and fellow actor Marika Becz was experiencing similar frustrations. “Unbeknownst to the other,” Galdieri says, “we each had a goal to start an actors’ ‘collective.’ Our separate imaginations were even using that same word.”
They invited several other actors whose work they admired, and called their new venture the SET Collective. The name has two meanings: it’s an acronym for “still enough time,” and the collective helps actors “set” their ideas into place.
“Our goal was to foster a nonhierarchical model of leadership in performance, playwriting and production,” says Galdieri, who has a master’s in acting from Trinity Repertory Co. Another goal was “to discover a fresh resonance and relevance in original and established works, and their importance in the cultural landscape of today.”
At the off-Broadway Lion Theatre in October 2015, for instance, the SET Collective presented a new take on Macbeth. “We stripped the script down to its bare bones to create a feverish, 90-minute version, using just five cast members (two women, three men),” says Galdieri. “Each of us assumed the title role for one act, transferring it from one performer to another, initially seeming like a gift, eventually becoming a curse.”
Galdieri played Lady Macbeth throughout. “It was such a satisfying ride to switch into the role of Macbeth for Act IV (the only act in which Lady M is absent),” she says. “And since all of us inhabited multiple roles, there were plenty of opportunities to play with power and gender.”
This year, the SET Collective has done a reading of Richard II as part of the Gallery Players’ “enormously ambitious project to host readings of every single word that Shakespeare wrote.” They’ve also staged The Birds & The Bees, a trilogy of plays by the late Louis Catron that “explore how trust and intimacy express themselves throughout the stages of life,” Galdieri says.
And she continues to seek balance, both managing “the practical and unglamorous realities of producing theater”—“division of labor, navigating deadlines, negotiating contracts”—and pursuing work outside the collective. She runs her own speech and performance coaching business, lends her voice to the new animated feature Nerdland and is “writing and developing a television show about millennial artists.”
The SET Collective’s next production, she hopes, will be a contemporary comedy. “We also plan to revisit an original piece that we co-wrote, which focuses on the 1969 moon landing.” Eventually, they expect to develop a series of educational plays and a concept for a TV show.
Katherine Duke ’05 is the magazine’s assistant editor.