Go Deeper

Volunteer (Coordinator) Spotlight: Karina Kacala and Joanna Mongelli

Posted July 17th, 2009

Meet the new bosses, same as the old bosses: Karina Kacala and Joanna Mongelli, who together make up two-thirds of the volunteer office staff for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe.

Like so many Philadelphia connections, theirs was forged at a 2008 house party in South Philly, the section of town where both Karina and Joanna live. Karina had bangs then (oh, who can forget 2008!) and Joanna had yet to meet the man who would become her fiancé, but one thing has stayed the same: they love dancing, Live Arts, and, (dare we say it?) each other.

TOMORROW: Meet Karina and Joanna at the Volunteer Information Session. You can ask Joanna for more info about her embroidered Hercules pillowcase and Karina about her brush with the Rittenhouse Square police during last year’s Festival.

Volunteer Information Session, Saturday, July 18, 3pm, 919 N. 5th St. Karina says she can take a few last-minute RSVPs; the session is mandatory for new volunteers. Email her at

Joanna hails from Pittsburgh but has strong roots in Philadelphia theater, graduating from the University of the Arts in 2003 and apprenticing with the Arden. Karina spent her formative years in Delaware County, even enduring the label of “Ville Rat,” Swarthmore College’s particular variant on the semi-derogatory “townie,” as a student. She did manage to sneak away to New Jersey for graduate school in voice performance.

After the jump, Karina and Joanna subject themselves to the same interrogations we’ve been putting the volunteers through.

When did you start working with the Festival?
Karina: As assistant volunteer coordinator in 2007. Last year was my first year as Volunteer Coordinator.
Joanna: I was officially hired to work for Live Arts last year, though I had been performing and volunteering since at least 2001.

Why did you start working with the Festival?
Karina: I wanted to become involved in Live Arts, straight up. I’d actually never seen a Live Arts show before 2007, but then found myself working for the Festival and performing in Echo, a Fringe production by Tribe of Fools [which is also staging a play called Armageddon at the Mushroom Village at the 2009 Philly Fringe]. I guess I just dove right on in!
Joanna: Two main reasons: I always had so much fun volunteering (this is the truth- not a shameless plug!) and I love the energy this Festival brings to the city, so when I saw an opportunity to serve this organization, I went for it.

Why do you keep coming back to the volunteer office?
Karina: Insanity? Gluttony for punishment? No, I really love the Festival and I’m proud to help organize such an important aspect of it.
Joanna: To make dioramas.

What has been your most “Fringe” moment?

Karina: I stopped a SEPTA bus and got yelled at by a police officer during bodies in urban spaces. I was helping with crowd control and had to help keep the group (of well over 100 people) close together so everyone could see each new “sculpture” that the dancers created. Nearing the final sculpture, I was exhausted and totally hyper at the same time, so when I saw the bus coming, the natural impulse was to stand in front of it and raise my hand to stop it so everyone could cross the street. The bus stopped. The cop did not, coming over and yelling at me to NEVER do that again. And I haven’t! And bodies in urban spaces was still one of my favorite shows of 2008.

What are you most excited about in this year’s Festival?
Karina: Welcome to Yuba City! Seeing Pig Iron do something fun and silly again will be awesome. I’m excited the volunteer office is at The Hub, meaning closer access to the artists and, ahem, the Festival Bar.

Joanna: I think my favorite part of every year is talking with such a variety of people who are all passionate about performing arts. I love to hear what shows get the most buzz and why, and I love to hear the reasons people liked or disliked certain performances. Plus I’ve been known to put the subject matter of performing arts aside to instead talk about food, so I’m looking forward to chatting it up with Miss Karina “kitchenplay” Kacala herself in the office this year (that’s both true and a shameless plug)!

What do you do with your time when you aren’t “Fringe-ing”?
Karina: I still sing as much as I can and I assistant direct/assistant stage manage for opera companies around the US. I also blog, knit and crossword. Oh, and dance. I love dance parties! Sometimes we even have dance parties in the Volunteer Office.
Joanna: When I asked my mom what she thought I should put here as an answer, she replied:
“Hmmm..You can pop your arm out of its shoulder socket. You can blow air out of your tear duct. You’re really smart and funny. Everybody loves you.” I really can blow air out of my tear duct! I am a bit crafty and I like to make stuff. My most important craft: a pillowcase featuring an embroidered Hercules (after Kevin Sorbo), framed by a metallic Hydra. It was a gift for the man who, one short year later, became my fiance.