Volunteer Spotlight: Ellie Raissi

Ellie RaissiEllie is a Bay Area native, born and raised, and this is her third season volunteering at Cal Shakes. A volunteer of all trades, Ellie helps out in the administrative office and out at the Bruns. “I always associate Cal Shakes with summer,” says Ellie. “For a Shakespeare nerd like me, there’s nothing better than seeing a great summer production of one of his plays in an amazing outdoor space.”

Ellie is a valuable member of our Cal Shakes family and we’re happy to introduce her to all of you! Read on to learn more about Ellie, her not-so-fat cat, her organizational talents, and how Ira Glass cracks her up.

Describe a memorable experience you’ve had volunteering at Cal Shakes: One time I volunteered to make buttons in the Cal Shakes offices. I needed a mat board for the project, and this really nice staffer helped me hunt for one. She wound up taking me on an impromptu tour of the building. I’d never been beyond the front office, so it was really cool to see where the amazing props and costumes in Cal Shakes’ productions were made. 

What’s a typical volunteer shift like for you? When I volunteer as an usher, one of my favorite tasks is to organize the chairs that patrons will pick up before going into the theater. The chairs are usually stacked on top of each other in a big jumbled mass, and sometimes it can be hard for patrons to quickly grab the number they need. But I’ve worked this volunteer job enough times to know the most common group numbers—like a couple who will ask for two chairs or a family who will ask for four. So l try to stack the chairs in easy-to-grab groupings, neatly arranged in rows, that makes the process a lot easier and faster. I also like to put out the nicest chairs in front so early birds get a benefit. 

How do you spend your time when you’re not helping out Cal Shakes? In addition to volunteering with Cal Shakes, I volunteer as an usher with Cal Performances, which I actually learned about from another Cal Shakes volunteer. And before I graduated in May, I did a lot of tutoring with young kids. My favorite organizations are 826 Valencia, Reading Partners, and Stories to Go. 

When not volunteering, I can be found at my local used book store, the Friends Corner Book Shop. I love to hang out with my friends, discover new coffee shops in the Bay Area, and watch unhealthy amounts of televisionmy current favorites are Suits and Covert Affairs.

What’s one of your special talents? Speak any languages? Play any musical instruments or sports? I have a freakish talent for cleaning and organizing. Nothing makes me happier than to bring order to chaos, especially the chaos of people’s closets. I single-handedly cleaned and organized every closet, cabinet, drawer, and storage space in my dorm room, apartment, parent’s house, and grandmother’s house. I love to clear out clutterone of my favorite parts of the show Hoarders is when the cleaning crews throw out all the junk!      

If you could be a character in any play you’ve seen at Cal Shakes, who would it be and in which production? I would be Elvira from Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which I saw last season at Cal Shakes. Not only was the play hilarious, but Elvira was super entertaining as the dead and vengeful first wife who comes back to haunt her husband and his second wife. Fortunately, I’m not the vengeful sort, but it might be fun to wreak a little harmless havoc on my friends’ lives.  

What’s one the most exciting things you’ve done this year? I saw Ira Glass at Cal Performances, and he just blew me away with his amazing storytelling skills. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

Do you have any pets? I have a formerly fat cat named Chubby.

Tell us about your family. I have a big extended family in the Bay Area, with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. I’m especially close to my maternal grandmother, who loves to cook and who has tried repeatedly, with a lot of love and more than a little frustration, to teach me. (We’re still working on making rice.)

Volunteers are a vital part of our Cal Shakes community. With over 1,000 volunteers, our volunteer corps represents a wide and diverse demographic. Our volunteers hail from throughout the Bay Area, San Francisco to Pleasant Hill, to across the state, from Grass Valley to Los Angeles. They are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, coworkers and friends. Volunteering with California Shakespeare Theater can be a great opportunity to experience and learn new things, spend time with family and friends, earn high school credit, fulfill community service requirements, see great theater for free, and, most importantly, pay it forward in the spirit of volunteerism. There are many ways to lend a hand at Cal Shakes, and signing up is easy.

Interested in volunteering? Click here to register; once your application has been approved, you will be able to sign up for ushering dates and will be notified of other opportunities.


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