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Little-known theater jobs: child guardian

Ilana Bolotsky and Felicia Shulman share details about their careers as child guardians on Broadway — and how it also led to their engagement.

(L-R) Ilana Bolotsky and Felicia Shulman backstage at “Once on This Island” on Broadway, 2018 (Credit: Courtesy of Bolotsky and Shulman)

Ilana Bolotsky studied vocal performance at an arts high school and pursued a degree in musical theater during her undergrad program at Wagner College. But Bolotsky never actually wanted to be an actor. “I knew I wanted to be in the world, but wasn’t sure in what facet,” she told Broadway News. During her senior year at Wagner, Bolotsky attended a workshop led by casting director Rachel Hoffman from the Telsey Office. “Everything Rachel mentioned just made sense and aligned with my skills, interests and goals,” Bolotsky said. She began as an intern at Laura Stanczyk Casting and moved up to assistant casting director. But something was still missing. 

“During my college summers I worked as the head of the theater department at a sleepaway camp and all of my favorite things collided,” Bolotsky said. “I wanted to feel the fulfillment and joy I felt at camp but in the ‘real world.’” Bolotsky missed working with kids. “I didn’t know how to be a camp counselor — essentially — during the school year, work with kids and theater, be silly and playful, all while being professional and using my skills and knowledge I learned in college.” Then, Bolotsky attended a performance of the 2012 “Annie” revival and wondered who supervised all those kids. Her show program listed a job title: child guardian. 

By 2016, Bolotsky began serving as a child guardian for workshops, readings and Off-Broadway productions. In August 2017, she landed her first full-time child guardianship with the workshop of “Once on This Island,” which also became her first Broadway gig. While on staff with that revival, Bolotsky received an Instagram message from Felicia Shulman. 

Shulman was a kindergarten teacher but curious about the work of a child guardian. She had grown up with a love of theater, wanting to become a Broadway performer. The two met for coffee and Shulman shadowed Bolotsky at “Once on This Island.” “With my teaching experience and ability to quickly learn how backstage works — and having Ilana as a close resource — I was able to learn how to work as a guardian,” Shulman said. She started out in 2018 at Paper Mill Playhouse. Since then, Shulman has worked on Broadway as the head guardian for “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a co-guardian for “Tina” and a solo guardian for “Camelot” and the current “Merrily We Roll Along” revival. Bolotsky’s past Main Stem credits also include “A Christmas Carol,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Macbeth,” “The Piano Lesson” and “Grey House.”

That initial DM didn’t just lead Shulman to her own prosperous career as a child guardian. Bolotsky and Shulman started dating and, on Dec. 31, 2023, were engaged. Now, they work down the street from each other: Shulman at the Hudson Theatre with “Merrily,” supervising the two actors sharing the role of Frank Jr., and Bolotsky in charge of three actors playing the Lafayette children in “Appropriate” at the Belasco. Here, they tell us exactly what their days look like as child guardians on Broadway.

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