10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 6: Flora Stamatiades, AEA Union Rep.

When you hear the words, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), you probably think of the more than 40,000 actors (and stage managers) that are represented by that professional union.  Well, AEA has a lot of folks toiling tirelessly behind-the-scenes as well, trying to keep all those members working.  And in today’s theatrical economy, that is not an easy task.

But that’s exactly the job that Flora Stamatiades has.  And let me tell you from firsthand experience, she’s good at it. I’ve watched her single-handedly create hundreds and hundreds of union jobs where there were none before . . . while at the same time making the Producer happier about it!  Win-win is her middle name, and that’s usually what she gets.

So without further ado, here are 10 Qs for Flora about what it’s like working for one of the most important unions in our biz.

1. What is your title?

National Director, Organizing & Special Projects, Actors’ Equity Association

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

I can’t really describe it in that way – but right now, I’m taking a look at several projects/industry sectors that we would like to see available for our members. There is also a constant flow of performers back and forth across the Atlantic keeping me busy.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I’ll give you two sentences for the two very disparate parts of my job:

1) Working with staff, members, elected leadership, and Producers to create more opportunities for work under Equity contracts.

2) Handling all issues of foreign performers appearing here and Equity members appearing abroad.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

You need to be a good listener and a creative thinker.  You should also have a broad-based understanding of the industry, and it doesn’t hurt to be both flexible and stubborn as hell.  I’m still working on all of these, especially the first.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Most of my training has been “on-the-job” – I’ve been fortunate enough to be guided by mentors who not only let me take on projects that might traditionally not be seen as my duties (especially before I was in my current position), but who also supported me in taking extra classes and training during my time here.

6. What was your first job in theater?

My first job after college was as the “Shop Assistant” at the (sadly) defunct Coconut Grove Playhouse.  Interestingly, our attempt to organize the tech staff there led not very indirectly to my being laid off after one season.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It nurtures communication, emotion, thought, and sometimes, just plain fun! Also, it’s a shared experience that fosters teamwork both in its execution and its enjoyment.  It’s also an economic driver in its community – providing not only jobs, but ancillary income in restaurants, concessions, local businesses like the lumber yard or dry cleaner, and so on.

I would get into all that talk about how the arts improve people’s lives/children’s educations, etc., but I’ll leave that to someone who’s more expert in those areas.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Assumptions – on both sides.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I think transparency and trust (which I really see as two sides of one coin) would make the labor/management relationship more productive.  I see efforts in this direction all the time from both sides, but too often it is easy to fall back into old patterns, especially as we are “taught” that we are enemies.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

It helps to have a broad-based understanding of the industry – not only from the perspective of the members you want to represent, but from the perspective of other industry unions, and even of employers.

Long before I decided in what area of the industry I wanted to work, I had tried most
everything – even acting, sadly for some audiences. But the skills gained
in each area of work added to my understanding of what it takes to put a
show/season together, and I hope leads to more productive conversations with
Producers and especially, our members (and future members).

And one final thing I recommend for anyone doing any type of
work – keep studying and training.  There is always more to learn!

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10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 5: Brian Lynch, Production Manager

With this volume of 10 Qs for a Broadway Pro, we’re going behind the curtain to find out what one of the top Production Managers in the biz has to say about his gig.

If you’ve ever sat at a show and been amazed at how a piece of scenery fit onstage (or backstage), or how a fireworks-like lighting effect didn’t burn up the ensemble, then you’ve witnessed the wonderful work of a Production Manager like Brian Lynch.

Brian Lynch has worked on big shows, small shows, and shows that are juuuuuuuust right, coordinating the technical needs and desires of the Designers and Director, with the needs and desires of the Producers . . . oh, and then he has to coordinate all of that within the confines of the Local 1 Stagehand agreement.

As you’ll see, Brian is a man of few words.  Why?  Well, he’s one of the busiest guys I know, and great Production Managers give you the answers you need quick and fast.  It may not be the answer you want, but the best ones just tell you the truth and tell it yesterday . . . so it doesn’t cost you money tomorrow.

Let’s see how Brian answers our 10 Questions.

1. What is your title?

Production Manager/Technical Supervisor

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

West Side Story, In the Heights, recently closed Ragtime (unfortunately, great show), and all White Christmas companies

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Ensure that each production is done with efficiency and within a well-structured technical budget.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

A working knowledge of all technical aspects of mounting a show in a theatrical environment, being able to work creatively with producers, directors, designers, shops, and stagehands of all types and temperaments, and having a thorough knowledge of all the resources that are available…oh, and lots of patience.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Five years of electronics on a nuclear submarine.  B.A. in English from Loyola University, 1970.  Thirty-five years working on Broadway with Manny Azenberg, Jim Freydberg, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Charlotte Wilcox, etc. etc.

6. What was your first job in theater?

Working on automation systems for the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles…1971.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It is an art form and all art is important…not to mention the fact that it is how I make my living

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Staying relevant and affordable to today’s young people.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

The death of the 25-million-dollar musical!

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Enjoy the challenge.

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 4: The Spin Doctor

If you think your job has changed over the last 10 years because of the explosion of the information age, just imagine if you were a Broadway press agent!  The reviewers that you’ve been courting for years are disappearing or their power is decreasing.  Hundreds . . . literally hundreds . . . of new media outlets (like, um, blogs) have popped onto your screen, demanding attention.  Sitting on a story is next to impossible as closing notices get posted online well before they get posted at the theater.  Etc.  Etc.

All of these new challenges fall to folks like the genteel Adrian Bryan-Brown, one of the partners of the public relations powerhouse Boneau/Bryan-Brown.

Just one look at BBB’s website, and you’ll see that Adrian is one of the most trusted Press Agents in the biz.  And if you get a chance to hear Adrian speak at an ad meeting, you’ll instantly realize while so many Producers want him speaking on behalf of their shows (and it’s not just the British accent . . . although that never hurts).

We can’t hear him speak, but we can read his answers to our 10 questions, so here goes!

1. What is your title?

Partner, Boneau/Bryan-Brown, a full-service press, social and public relations communications office for the theatre. “Press Agent” doesn’t fully describe what I do!

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

My partner, Chris Boneau, and I, head teams that work on several shows. Between now and the end of the season, the new productions I am lucky enough to be working on include, in chronological opening order, The Glass Menagerie, RED, Lend Me a Tenor, Million Dollar Quartet, the Off-Broadway transfer of The 39 Steps, La Cage aux Folles, Sondheim on Sondheim and Lips Together, Teeth Apart. Right now, I am also working on campaigns that keep the long-running shows Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! top of mind in the midst of competition from the Spring openings.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

My office and I create editorial awareness for the theater in all media, and on social networks, building a desire in a consumer to buy tickets to the shows we represent. Simply, we do anything we can in the media, that doesn’t cost a production money, to spread word of mouth and sell tickets.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

I enjoy working on shows directly along with teams in my office. The skills required to work in this field include being able to tell a story succinctly and clearly without hyperbole (one of the few good things about the 140 character Tweet); the ability to identify what’s newsworthy; and, a fascination for detail, without losing the bigger picture. You have to enjoy dealing with not only the media, but also everyone involved in every department of a theatrical production from playwright to dresser to ticket-taker to star. It helps to have stamina, patience and a stomach for a lot of rejection. You will also do well if you can function on less than 6 hours sleep most of the time.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

I have a college degree in Zoology and I am a qualified SCUBA diver. Growing up in New York and London, I was fortunate enough to see all the great musicals of the 1970s on Broadway, and the work of the theatrical knights (Gielgud, Redgrave, Richardson) in the West End.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I started as an intern with Susan Bloch who was the press representative for several Off-Broadway theatre companies and dance companies visiting from overseas. After three months I realized I loved it and said I couldn’t work for subway tokens any more. At that time I used to supplement my income by taking photographs at opening night parties, often selling them to the New York Post – no one else wanted to schlep down to South Street.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It’s human. It challenges and rewards like no other art form. It requires true collaboration to be successful. It is fresh and different every time. The experience cannot be replicated. It’s 3D and you don’t need the eye-glasses.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

The economic pressures that have always been around are a given and will never change. The new media is exciting and offers fantastic opportunities. The cyber-revolution is the big challenge because it is a big unknown and has made everyone who works in the theatre rethink what they do. I believe it is also extremely liberating. We have so many more places to tell our story and we can take more control of how we share information.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

The business can become so desperate at times. It is very hard work and very competitive, which is what makes it exciting. We should make greater efforts to support each other and be more encouraging of young people who want to commit their lives to working in the theatre.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

There are easier ways to make a living, so you should check out if this is what you want to do by doing it. An internship is a great way to learn about the business and more importantly find out if this is a world you want to be part of.

Want to hear more expert advice from Adrian?  Check out the interview he did with Howard Sherman at the American Theatre Wing last year.  Click here.

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 3: A Tony Award-Winning Designer

David Gallo is one of the hippest guys around, and he’s one of the most in-demand designers in town, thanks to his terrific work on a ton of shows, from Drowsy Chaperone (Tony, Tony, Tony) to Xanadu to Memphis to Thoroughly Modern Millie (where I first worked with him).

In addition to his theatrical work in town, David does a lot of stuff all over the country and all over the world, proving that great theater doesn’t have anything to do with a street address . . . it’s about the people involved.

Enjoy these 10 Questions with David Gallo!

 

1. What is your title?

Designer

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

Right now I am in Vienna doing a new company of the show Ich war noch niemals in New York.  It is a large-scale musical based on the work of the renowned pop star Udo Jurgens.  The show originally opened to acclaim in Hamburg and the producers have decided to extend that success to the rest of the continent.

I am also thrilled to be working on some new plays such as Stickfly by the remarkable young playwright Lydia Diamond.  We produced it at the Arena Stage in DC and the next venue will be at the Huntington Theater in Boston.  It was a great return to work with my old friend Kenny Leon as director.

Added to that I recently spent time with my favorite regional theater: the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where I was thrilled to be a part of the theatrical debut of the bestselling author Walter Mosley.  His play The Fall of Heaven is something special and the work of director Marion McClinton is worth noting as well.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Claw your way into the mind of the playwright and director and give them what they desire (whether they like it or not).

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Be available to all sources.  Know inspiration is everywhere  What works…works.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Years of working on Theatre Row.  The theaters on West 42nd Street were my finishing school.  I was pleased to spend time working for many of the companies that produced there.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I made masks for a production of Pippin.  That was a great start.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It just is…and it will always be.

Theater is the most basic form of human interaction.  We desire to see ourselves.  On stage and in the living moment.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Keeping things real.  Lots of media have been elbowing itself into the basic nature of true design but who can argue that what is seen before the audience is what really matters.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I wish we had more time.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

Read, watch, learn, experience.  Ask others that have gone before you.  The future is yours.  Don’t concern yourself with pointless issues.
For more on David, including a look at some of his stuff, visit his website at www.DavidGallo.com.

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 2: A Marketing Director

I got some great response from the first edition of 10 Qs for a Bway Pro, so I thought I’d roll out Volume 2 this week.

Last week we talked about advertising . . . this week, we explore the more ambiguous world of marketing with none other than that Broadway Marketing Guru, Hugh Hysell.

I’ve worked on a bunch of shows with Hugh, from babies to biggies, and Hugh always brings the goods.  Why?  You’ve got to love what you do if you’re going to do a great job.  And if you spend five minutes with Hugh, you’ll realize that Hugh loves his job . . . and those fingerprints of love are all over every show he does, not matter how big or small.

Here are 10 Qs with Hugh!

1. What is your title?

I am President of HHC Marketing, a multi-division marketing and promotions company specializing in Broadway and Off-Broadway.  HHC’s divisions include full service marketing for Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows, BroadwayBox (running the advertising department for their sites including BroadwayBox.com, LunchTix.com and TicketsThisWeek), and TheMenEvent.com (the city’s largest Gay email list, which I use to promote my full service clients).  I am also President of Teams on Broadway (our Street Team Firm).  Often, in playbill listings, we are referred to simply as “Marketing” and many shows refer to me as their “Marketing Director.”

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

On Broadway, HHC is working on Looped, Jersey Boys and Fela!.  Our Off-Broadway clients include The Temperamentals, John Tartaglia’s Imaginocean, The 39 Steps, Flying Karamazov Brothers’ 4Play, The Irish Curse, Looking for Billy Haines, Yank, Leslie Jordan’s My Trip Down the Pink CarpetSigns of Life, as well as some shows that have not been announced yet (sssshhhhh – I can’t tell you).  Teams on Broadway is currently providing the street teams for Fela!Memphis and The Miracle Worker.  Yes – we did the Princess Leia team for Wishful Drinking. 🙂

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I run a very active marketing company that seeks out, negotiates and administers marketing programs for our clients, often without spending a dime.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

Creativity, people skills, charm, drive, follow-through, and strong attention to detail.  As a theatre marketer, as funds are usually quite low, one needs to be very creative and think out of the box.  Our goal is to form effective, attention-grabbing promotions that directly influence the ticket buyer.  You then have to charm promotional partners to help you make your plans come thru.  At the same time you have to be able to drive yourself to fully administer every minute detail of a promotion.  A marketer has to walk the line between being a creative artist, a charming pal, and an anal-retentive, highly-organized business person.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

As my mother says, life provides you opportunities for your transferable skills.  I was trained as an actor (BFA UNC-Greensboro, MFA University of Florida).  My acting career was largely in touring theatre where I used my creative skills in the rehearsal process, and anal-retentive skills to keep the performances solid over months and months of doing the same show.  I think these skills have been very useful to me as a marketer.  After I left acting, I knew I wanted to enter the business world of theatre, so I became an intern at Richard Frankel Productions, where I moved up to be Associate General Manager of an Off-Broadway show, which then went on to tour and then on to play in Vegas.  At the same time, I was producing a show in the Fringe that did very well, and I moved it to an Off-Off Broadway venue for an extended run.  That run proved to be my true training to be a marketer.  I had no money to promote the show, but with the advice of a Broadway marketer, I did lots and lots of promotions (bookstore, internet, nightclub, bars, barter ads, etc).  The show stayed alive, and I recouped my investment.  The marketer who mentored me (Scott Walton) later  hired me, and together we grew his company, and in 2002 I bought him out.  I have never taken a marketing course, but I do teach it at Columbia.  Mom is very proud.

6. What was your first job in theater?

My first paid job was as an actor with the Kaleidoscope Theater out of Providence, RI.  We did summer tours of kids’ shows to the music tents in New England (Warwick Music Tent, South Shore Music Tent, etc.).  I played a cat in Pinocchio and the Genie in Aladdin (with a 12-year-old Joey Pizzi as Aladdin and Pinocchio).

7. Why do you think theater is important?

Theatre is adventure, escape, entertainment, enlightenment, education, magic, joy and sorrow all rolled up with beautiful images, soaring music and inspiring words  Life meets Art.  Love it.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Audience development.  The audience needs to grow (so there are more people to buy tickets).  With the arts being cut in education, we are not developing kids with art in their lives.  Without that exposure, how will they learn about art in themselves and thus appreciate the art of others?  We need theatre that cultivates new audiences, and allows them to discover the richness that theatre can provide.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

Make theatre cheaper to produce.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

The word ‘marketing’ can mean so many things, and even in the industry that title can refer to different jobs depending if you are working in the commercial or not-for-profit sector.  I would suggest that an aspiring marketer first get an internship in NYC within a theatre marketing firm, press office, or general management office. Learn how shows are marketed and why those decisions are made.  Knowing the current environment allows you to help it grow and adapt to the ever-changing consumer environment.

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