Authority on the Awards: Interview with ADC’s Jen Larkin Kuzler

Editors Note: We’re a community, right? ADC members and their networks around the world comprise ADC’s extended family, and as such, we think we should all get to know each other a little better. So, we will be launching a few new series’ right here on the ADC Global Blog. The first is a monthly feature on a member of the ADC Team. We’re a tight-knit crew of hustlers who bring everything from the programs you enjoy in the ADC Gallery in Manhattan to Portfolio Night, to the Tomorrow Awards, to ADC Young Guns, the ADC Annual Awards and more to life. But really, who are we?

As we return from sunny Miami Beach after nearly a week of celebrating the ADC 92nd Annual Awards + Festival of Art and Craft in Advertising and Design, it is the perfect time to catch up with the woman behind that effort, ADC Director of Awards Jen Larkin Kuzler to talk about how she does it all: work, family, play and a non-profit too!

ADC: We hear that you are an actor. What was your last role and what were your favorite roles?

Jen: I have a classical theater background, so most of my early acting career was in theater, and then I’ve also done some independent film work. Theater is definitely my first love and something I really spend a lot of time doing and training.

The last full-length theater play that I did was Anna Christie by Eugene O’Neill, and I played Anna Christie. That was probably one of the highlights for me: playing a title role in a play that I love by a playwright I love!

I had a small part in the movie City Island, which was really fun, although the acting in it was minimal. My scene was with Alan Arkin. To spend the day with him was amazing. Those kinds of experiences are about what happens on set or who you are with more than the three lines you say.

ADC: Do you remember your lines?

Jen: I was an actor being an actor in an acting class. Andy Garcia was in the acting class. Alan Arkin was the acting coach. Emily Mortimer was in the scene with us.
My actual lines were within the scene within the scene, so I don’t even remember what I said. It was something made up.

ADC: Does your training in acting influence your approach as the Director of Awards at ADC?

Jen: I have a certain personality anyway, and being an actor doesn’t hurt as far as you need to have a sense of humor in this job. When you are dealing with juries and dealing with people whom you haven’t met before, there is an element of having to be out there. As an actor, that is constantly your way of being.

Judging is usually fun because I like corralling people, working with them, having fun, cracking jokes and getting the work done.

ADC: Definitely, we see this during the final judging process. Outside of the ADC, you also have a business with your husband. Can you tell us about that?

Jen: Yes, it is a non-profit called DecadesOut, and our mission is based around the conjunction, or the sort of “happy alliance,” of art and science by looking at them from a philosophical perspective and illustrating how both can determine goals so easily.

For example, I was a genetic scientist in a play that my husband wrote. That is more surface-level obvious. We are talking about mutations. He wrote a play about talking cows.
Then there are less obvious things. We are working on a documentary right now that is a long-term project, which looks at human migration patterns after a national disaster.

Our mission looks at those things, the intersection of art and science in film and theater.

ADC: So science and art is intersected at philosophy, like a crazy nexus?

Jen: Exactly, and I think that now there’s actually quite of trend with science-themed things.

ADC: We see that in visual art, too. With contemporary visual art, there is a lot of exposing fundamental basics of everything, like the medium and also the visual aesthetics.

Jen: We have some visual artists that we’ve worked with. We did do one installation, so
[Decades Out] runs across all genres really.

ADC: Did anything you learned at ADC help you start the non-profit?

Jen: Even before ADC, I worked for a theater communications group, which was sort of the ADC of the theater world, in that they are more of a service organization and a true network organization. They have a similar model to ADC yet are directly in service of theaters, whereas I think ADC goes that beyond that a bit.

My husband also has experience too, so we’ve brought both to the table. He runs his own business that is separate from our film company. He’s got the business mind but not the business heart.

ADC: That sounds like the perfect partner! With everything that you are doing, what do you do on the weekend and how do you have time to actually do it all?

Jen: I do recreate. It is funny because when I tell people about all of the stuff that we do, it’s almost two lives, but there is a balance that my husband and I find. Those are things that I am passionate about, so I find the time for them.

Also, we have this thing that we call a “child.” [Laughs] He’s a showstopper. We have a lot of fun. We spend a lot of time with our son on the weekends, but we bring him on shoots, and he loves people and loves being around this stuff.

ADC: What did you think when you first started working on the awards process.

Jen: I enjoyed the environment. I enjoyed the vibe of the ADC. For me, that was the most fun, as well as meeting the personalities.

I remember having funny stories about entrants or people’s questions or trying to navigate through the thousands of entries. How is it ever going to come together and then it comes together! The judging process is always so intense.

ADC: How did the process change—besides getting easier—since you started as Awards Manager?

Jen: The process has changed quite a bit. Given that we are such and old organization, you find that it is easy to get into patterns in which it is years and years of doing things a certain way.

After Ignacio’s arrival, that sort of erupted in the best possible way. You need that sort of shake up.

ADC: Tell us something that the ADC community would never know about you.

Jen: I was in my first play when I was five, and it was called The Old Woman and Her Pig. I played the Old Woman, the only other time in my life when I played the title role, before Anna Christie.

ADC: What’s your favorite theater? A little one that many people may not know about?

Jen: I would say the Pearl Theater is a little gem. I like the bigger ones that people know about, too. Honestly, you can’t miss a BAM’s programming. Some of the best classical stuff I have seen recently has come through the Globe. It’s usually from London, the National Theater in London.

Probably one of the greatest thrills of my life was going to the Globe Theater in London, seeing a Shakespearean play when I was there. That was a big, big thrill for me.

To connect with Jen for any questions about our Annual Awards program at ADC, contact