Before I was a Producer, I spent about 10 years as a Company Manager for Broadway shows both in NYC and on the road. And I loved every moment of it (except that time when a blizzard snowed my company in at the Best Western Westward Ho in Grand Forks, North Dakota).
Today you’re going to read the answers to our 10 Questions from one of the industry’s favorite CMs, Rina Saltzman. I’ve worked closely with Rina on several occasions, and let me tell you something, the woman knows how to take care of a company. Count yourself lucky if you find yourself in her cast or crew.
Take it away, Rina!
1. What is your title?
2. What show/shows are you currently working on?
Billy Elliot National Tour, which is in a lovely long sit-down in Chicago.
3. In one sentence, describe your job.
I would describe my position as the day-to-day business manager, in-house marketing manager, HR department, Housing and Transportation Secretary, and Camp mom.
4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?
Some of these are not skills but qualities: patience, a sense of humor, appreciation for the artist, some business acumen, a knowledge of union rules, patience, the ability to juggle 5 or 6 things at once, to react calmly in a crisis and to be able to talk others off the ledge (this is especially helpful in production), an understanding – if not practical knowledge – of marketing, promotions and box office procedures. Oh, and did I say patience?
5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?
I have a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Douglass College and a M.A. in Performing Arts Management from NYU, neither of which really helped me to get to this position. I worked in a variety of jobs, ranging from Studio Supervisor on As The World Turns to Telemarketing Director for the Met Opera’s Centennial before I became a Company Manager, all of which prepared me to work with a wide range of artists, stagehands, marketing gurus and managers. The best training came when I got my first company management position at American Ballet Theatre – 150 dancers, staff, crew, management, travelling around the world – and I found a mentor in my General Manager – that is the most anyone could want in this career, someone who cares enough to teach you.
6. What was your first job in theater?
On the day I graduated college, a friend told me that there was a job open as Box Office Treasurer at the George Street Playhouse – as I was leaving town, I stopped in, interviewed, and by the time I reached my parents’ house in Jersey City, I had the job and moved back to my college town.
7. Why do you think theater is important?
It changes lives. Period. Trite as that sounds, when I was managing the Bus and Truck of CATS, we played towns that had theatrical performances once or twice a year, if that. I watched young children literally changed by the experience, in the same way I was when my parents took me to my first Broadway show when I was 5.
8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?
Company Management has evolved so much over the past 24 years. When I started, the Company Manager basically did payroll, signed the box office statement, did a settlement and arranged travel and housing on tour, now we do that and so, so much more — we negotiate contracts, we work incessantly with our marketing teams and box offices to make sure we are optimizing sales, we deal with many more complex issues within our companies, and we watch the bottom line constantly.
9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
For my fellow Company, House Managers and Press Agents to be given their due within the industry. (Full Disclosure – I am a member of the Board of Governors of ATPAM – the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers).
10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?
Work anywhere you can get a job – intern, answer phones at a General Management office, run for coffee in production – you will learn an amazing amount about the business just by being around the business. Don’t scoff at the small jobs – make yourself indispensable. One of our NLA interns worked for me as an Assistant on Billy in Chicago and for his first job out of college, he is going to be the Asst. Company Manager of Mamma Mia on Broadway.