When she was hired just over a year ago as director of artistic programming at ArtsEmerson, Ronee Penoi said she knew she was exactly where she needed to be. The well-respected arts leader and producer had collaborated (most recently through her role as producer of Octopus Theatricals, a production company that is responsible for Tony Award-winning “Hadestown”) with ArtsEmerson for years, and was excited to take on a permanent role with the local arts organization. “The thing that I really missed — and I think that this also might be part of my Indigenous background, too — is really having a connection to place and being able to be part of the conversation and the society shifting over time,” the Pittsburgh native said. “So the kind of relationship with the audience and the way in which the artists are inspiring a certain conversation is a part of the puzzle that I never got to have when I was working in the independent producer space. So I was really hungry for that and because I worked with ArtsEmerson before interviewing for this position, I knew that there was something happening here that was really special in terms of changing the way theater organizations think about themselves and work in relationship to specific transformation.” She added: “The notion that the theater, while powerful, is a prompt and the conversation is the point, was really meaningful to me … It feels like something is shifting at ArtsEmerson and I am so excited about that on so many levels.” We caught up with Penoi, 37, who lives in Melrose with her husband, Bill Jusino, and their nearly 6-year-old pug mix, Penny, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination?
I went to Barcelona and Begur — on the Costa Brava of Spain — for my honeymoon with my husband in 2015, and would love to go back. Every time I walked out the door in Begur, I had this sense that something amazing was just around the corner. Some of my favorite discoveries were a hidden tunnel along the coast and a surprise beach with pulpo [octopus] served beachside. Closer to home, I’ve been going to Dewey Beach, in Delaware, since I was a kid. My husband proposed there, so it has that added layer of special meaning, too. It’s always the recharge I need: beach, friends … and mini-golf. That said, now that I’m a Boston local, I’m excited to make new beach memories closer to home.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing?
Whatever is local. I’m in Scotland right now, and committed to trying haggis.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?
Japan. I fell in love with traditional noh and kabuki theater in college, and even learned how to play the kotsuzumi and otsuzumi drums — but I still haven’t made it there. Theater is in our DNA — it’s present in every culture in some form. I think I’m so drawn to international work because there is so much beauty and meaning in witnessing something that can seem so distinct, but also have so much shared resonance.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?
Melatonin. Critical for switching time zones.
Aisle or window?
Window seat. Very helpful for napping and reflecting.
Favorite childhood travel memory?
When I was a kid — I was in middle school, I believe — I went with my parents and grandma to the Stratford and Shaw Theater Festivals in Canada. I think I saw a week of back-to-back theater. That was when I first saw “Hamlet,” and started to associate amazing theater with amazing conversations with my family that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Guilty pleasure when traveling?
A late-night coffee or cocktail — the perfect way to wind down after a long day.
Best travel tip?
Only take a carry-on if you can. That way you can move more freely and avoid any lost-baggage headaches.