All Politics is Theater

Cassandra Moreno, AMD’18, says they're more related than you'd think.

By Magdalena Hernandez

Illustration by Josh Reese

Cassandra Moreno, AMD’18, is a fourth-year student pursuing a combined major in theater and communication studies. After discovering a passion for politics during her first co-op, she found that the communication skills she’d honed on the stage could be an asset for a career in government.

Moreno discusses the surprising ways her theater training translated to politics, explaining how “the pieces fit together in a way that was unique to Northeastern.”

Q: How did you go from studying theater to wanting to work in government?

I always did theater growing up, but when it was time to do co-op, none of the jobs caught my eye. I wanted to graduate with meaningful work experience. I had done community service, so I looked at community service co-ops.

Cassandra Moreno, AMD’18 (left) on her co-op with Nancy Pelosi.

My first co-op was in the Boston Globe’s Community Relations group. As part of my job, I’d sit in on editorial meetings as the editors decided the front-page stories. That’s when a light bulb went off: I realized I loved any political discussion. Back on campus, I joined the College Democrats club. Suddenly, everything came together.

During my next co-op, I worked for Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton as a staff assistant and intern coordinator. That couldn’t have been a better experience. I still kept a hand in theater; I was working during the day and performing in main stage shows at night.

For my last co-op, I worked in Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press office. As her press office intern, I wrote the digital newsletter for the Democrats. I also assisted with press events and conducted press hits research. I was even on TV—if you saw Pelosi at a podium on CNN, I was probably in the background. My theater studies were the perfect training for this job.

Q: How has studying theater helped prepare you for a job in politics?

Both are about being an effective communicator. It’s made me consider the arc of a narrative and you need that understanding to craft a message in politics.

Politics is also about having empathy for people from all walks of life. My Acting II class taught me to look for empathy when getting into character. What we really focused on was being able to find personal connections with our character, so that our acting could stem from a personal truth and would therefore be more realistic. The more we could find in common with our character—whether it was a certain habit or tone or physical characteristic—the more truthful the character would be.

Q: How did you use your newfound sense of empathy in your job?

This skill was incredibly useful during my co-op in Pelosi’s office as we worked on messaging surrounding the Affordable Care Act. To understand how the ACA has helped millions of people across our country, it’s necessary to look at the situation from several perspectives. As the press office co-op, I had the chance to assist with planning and executing ACA press events—including events surrounding children, seniors, persons with pre-existing conditions, and doctors and nurses. Each group of people would point to a different part of the ACA that improved their lives personally, and each person had a unique story to share.

In each instance, I found myself able to empathize with each group of people and to put myself in their shoes. I credit my theater studies because I’ve been trained to find personal connections and similarities with others where they might not be obvious.

Q: Are there other parallels between the two fields? Which skills are transferable?

Studying theater can be an advantage for many careers. Another example is learning to collaborate; everyone has to collaborate for the sake of the show. I’m also comfortable with tight deadlines—you need to be ready for opening night, no matter what.

Q: Do you see yourself eventually working in Congress?

Someday, I’d like to work as a communications director on Capitol Hill. My dream would be a press position in the 2018 campaign.

Tagged in: cassandra moreno, co-op
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