Women to Watch 2017: Women Behind the Scenes

Photography by Tess Mayer

October 4th, 2017


Last year, we did a feature called “Women to Watch” where we asked women who had been featured on The Interval to recommend some emerging theatre artists who they thought deserved more attention. When thinking about how we wanted to do the feature this year, we decided to switch our focus and spotlight women working behind the scenes in theatre. From publicists to agents to literary managers, it takes a village to make a piece of theatre happen, and there are many talented women in those positions that deserve to have their work in the spotlight. We also wanted to provide a resource to show that there are many careers in theatre outside of actor, director, and writer. So, once again, we asked women who had been on The Interval to send us names of women working behind the scenes in theatre who they thought were doing exciting things. Here are 16 women you should be watching: Molly Barnett and Chelsea Nachman, publicists; Jennifer DiBella, Director of Education for Roundabout Theatre Company; Emily Fleisher, Associate Director of Development for Manhattan Theatre Club; Deadria Harrington, Creative Producer; Cathy Kwon, Company Manager; Sarah Lunnie, Literary Director for Playwrights Horizons; Nidia Medina, Line Producer for The Public Theater; Annie Middleton, Managing Director for Rattlestick Theater; Lauren Port, Casting Director for Caparelliotis Casting; Emily Shooltz, Associate Artistic Director for Ars Nova; Ally Shuster, Agent at Creative Artists Agency; Emily Simoness, Co- Founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm; Natasha Sinha, Associate Director of LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater; Jennifer Ashley Tepper, Creative and Programming Director at Feinstein’s/54 Below; and Alexis Williams, Literary Agent at Bret Adams Ltd.



Molly Barnett and Chelsea Nachman
Publicists, grapevine public relations

Molly Barnett and Chelsea Nachman

The Basics:
Molly Barnett (with Chelsea Nachman) recently launched grapevine public relations, a full-service public relations firm specializing in theatrical talent. Prior to starting grapevine, Molly honed her PR skills at O&M Co., an industry-leading theatrical public relations firm. She spent over 10 years there and spearheaded more than forty campaigns for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including the Tony Award-winning productions of Dear Evan HansenKinky BootsBeautifulFun HomeHair (2009 Revival), The Normal Heart, Peter and the Starcatcher and many more. Originally from Miami, Florida, Molly graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and serves on the Board of her union, ATPAM.

Chelsea Nachman has worked under the guidance of Rick Miramontez at DKC/O&M (formerly O&M Co.) for over 7 years. Originally from Long Island, New York, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010 and has since had the pleasure of working on campaigns for over twenty Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, including the Tony Award-winning productions of Dear Evan HansenKinky BootsBeautifulFun HomePeter and the Starcatcher, and many more. She is a social media enthusiast, pop culture pundit, and a self-proclaimed expert in making “30 Rock” quotes applicable in any situation. You can validate her on all social platforms at @chelseanachman.

Follow Themwww.grapevineprny.com, Instagram: @mollybarnett @chelseanachman, Twitter: @chelseanachman


Tell us a little about what you do. 

Molly: I am a press agent, so I (along with my colleague Chelsea Nachman) handle the press for Broadway shows and theatre talent. This includes everything from arranging television performances for Broadway musicals, to working with journalists on major stories, to strategizing messaging and Awards Season campaigns—and sometimes it also includes holding purses on the red carpet or getting coffee during long press days! One of the things I love most about the job is that there really is no typical day; some days, I’m at my desk answering emails or pitching stories all day and other days, I’m running around from interview to photo shoot to meetings with producers and I’m not at my desk at all.

There are a lot of really rewarding parts about the job: getting to have a direct hand in how people learn about a project from the time it’s virtually unknown (whether that’s a budding Broadway star or a brand-new musical) and then starting to hear about that project or artist on the news or seeing it on non-theatre friends’ social media pages or hearing people talking about it in the streets of NYC—or even better, other states—will always be thrilling to me.

This job also allows me to meet tons of interesting people and work closely with many different personalities, which keeps me on my toes. It’s amazing how after more than a decade, just when I think I’m so jaded, something will happen that makes me stop in my tracks and say, “How lucky am I that I get to do this for a living?”

Chelsea: In a nutshell, theatrical publicists act as the liaison between a production and the outside world, through relationships with the media. There’s really no such thing as a typical day on the job. On some days, I can be in the office for hours answering emails, securing interviews, planning photo shoots, handling house seat orders, editing playbills, etc., and not leave until midnight. On other days, I can be running from meetings to interviews, and never step into the office at all… until midnight. But for me, the perks of the job make it worth it, especially the personal connections that form between publicists and talent; there’s nothing I value more than the relationships I’ve cultivated over the years with actors, directors, writers, producers—you name it. And covering celebrity photo opps backstage isn’t so bad, either—looking at you, Jessica Chastain! Come back anytime.

What was your path to your job? 

Molly: I’ve been a fan of theatre for as long as I can remember. I moved to NYC after high school and went to NYU, and while I knew I ultimately wanted to work in theatre, I had (and still have) no actual talent, so knew I needed to find my niche behind the scenes. I still wasn’t sure what that was when I found an internship (through Playbill.com’s Job Listings!) with Richard Kornberg & Associates, a press office that represented shows like Rent and Hairspray. I had no idea what a press agent was, but thought, “I love Rent and Hairspray, so that sounds good to me!” It became clear very quickly that I’d found my place in the theatre community—it was a perfect combination of people skills, writing, creativity, and organization. There, I also met Rick Miramontez, who started O&M Co. in 2006 and gave me my first real job out of college the same year, so I was able to learn on the job and grow with the company. And I’ve never looked back!

Chelsea: Growing up in New York, I always knew I enjoyed theatre, but it wasn’t until I left to study psychology at the University of Michigan that I realized how just how much it meant to me. I would spend hours on the theatre websites, taking in as much news and media that was available at the time (back before #social #media was really a #thing). When I was a senior in college, I looked up job listings for internships on Playbill.com, applied to anything and everything, and heard back from one office: O&M. I started as an intern on June 1, 2010, and never looked back.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?

Molly: I’ve been really lucky to be part of many important, groundbreaking shows and really fun campaigns, but working on the musical Fun Home was probably my proudest moment. Not only did it win Best Musical and get a life on Broadway that many thought would never happen, but it was a wonderful, important musical that did a lot to highlight visibility for women and the LGBT community on Broadway and beyond. I remember the night UN Ambassador Samantha Power brought 15 United Nations Ambassadors to see the show—many of whom were from countries where LGBT rights were still restricted or non-existent—and hearing them say that seeing Fun Home had humanized gay people in a way nothing had for them before. I genuinely think Broadway is better because Fun Home was able to play on Broadway and tour the United States, and working with the team to craft a press campaign that helped make that happen is something I’ll always be really proud of and grateful I was part of.

Chelsea: It would be easy to answer this question with a mention of some scattered accolades, multiple successful Tony campaigns, or meeting Beyoncé without fainting, but when I think about it, it’s probably how much I’ve grown. 15-year-old-Chelsea would be lo. sing. her. *expletive.* mind over the things I’ve gotten to do, the people I’ve gotten to meet, and the rooms I’ve gotten to be in over the last 7 years. By some bizarre twist of fate, the people whose talents I admire most have become my closest friends. Or maybe it was that time backstage at Driving Miss Daisy that James Earl Jones, Darth Vader himself, told me I have eyes like a villain? Hard to say.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 

Molly: This isn’t necessarily a gender issue, since there are lots of men who have children or are primary caregivers (nor is it specific to the theatre industry), but I think we have to make it easier for people to have children in this business and still be successful at their jobs. So many jobs in theatre have crazy work hours or are expected to be 24/7 gigs, and they foster a lifestyle that makes it really difficult to have families at the same time. Brainstorming ways to help make both a family and a successful career in theatre a little easier would make sure we don’t drive strong, smart women out of the business. Separately, it does seem that we’re seeing more and more strong female women leading major shows and more women represented on creative teams and behind-the-scenes, so more of that, please!

Chelsea: More Sara Bareilles musicals.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?

Molly: Starting grapevine public relations is the dream project! In this new venture, my work partner Chelsea and I will get to take on clients we’re excited about, and we can work under a structure that works for us. As much as we love working on shows and being part of a show from beginning to end, we also love working with the talent—the writers, directors, actors, composers, etc. Everyone who works in theatre does it because they love the community and the work. So knowing that we can continue to be part of the community we love so much, and working directly with artists to make sure theatre has as much exposure in the pop culture zeitgeist as possible—but doing it on our own terms really is the dream.

Chelsea: I’ve been lucky enough to be living my dream for over 7 years. Looking ahead, I just want to continue working with great people on great projects. Oh, and Jessica Chastain, if you’re reading this… call me.


Jennifer DiBella
Director of Education, Roundabout Theatre Company


The Basics: Jennifer M. DiBella currently serves as Director of Education at Roundabout Theatre Company, where she has worked since 2005. Roundabout’s education department reaches over 30,000 people each year through in-school partnerships, career and workforce development, professional development, after-school initiatives, and audience enhancement programming. Jennifer holds a MA in Educational Theatre from NYU and a BA in Theatre Education from Wagner College where she also received her NY State Teaching Certification. She has extensive theatrical directing and teaching experience with artists of all ages. Jennifer serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable and on the Audience Engagement Committee for the Broadway League. In 2011, Jennifer was proud to receive the Dina Rees Evans Theatre in our Schools Award.

Follow Her: Twitter: @jendibella


Tell us a little about what you do. 
Turning our theatres into classrooms and the classrooms of NYC into theatres—that is what Education at Roundabout does each year for over 30,000 people throughout the five boroughs of NYC and around the country. As the Director of Education at Roundabout, I have the great privilege of leading a team of fiercely dedicated arts administrators and 50 of the most creative and talented teaching artists in the city. For over 20 years, we have developed education programs that provide students with access to the arts, encourage them to be active participants in their education, cultivate skills they will need to succeed in college and careers, and give their teachers the tools to help students flourish. Education at Roundabout has expanded to include diverse programming ranging from student matinees, to classroom residencies and school-wide partnerships in the NYC public schools, to professional development workshops for teachers, audience engagement programming for our subscribers, intensive career and workforce programs, and our after-school program, Roundabout Youth Ensemble. Every program is developed with and customized for our participants. For example, we might have a lighting design teaching artist in a math classroom helping students connect the concepts they are learning in their trigonometry class to the real world application of creating a theatrical light plot, or a playwright support a group of students as they research and devise an original play highlighting issues of global warming. There is a special kind of magic that is sparked when a professional artist enters a room and shares their craft with the participants.

This year, Roundabout will contribute over $3.5M to Education’s work—that is an amazing testament to the organization’s deep commitment to our public schools and the community at large. A big portion of my time is spent raising awareness about our programs and helping to build and maintain relationships with our partners. However, the most exciting part of my job is working with our team of artists, staff, educators, and students to create innovative solutions for the problems facing our community and to achieve a more just and equitable society.

What was your path to your job? 
I was originally trained as a director but also received a NY State Teaching Certificate. I worked as a director and teaching artist in schools across the tri-state area and in Philadelphia. I moved back to New York for grad school and landed at Roundabout in 2005. I’ve been working in the Education department ever since. I’ve worn lots of hats at Roundabout and kind of feel like I’ve grown up with the organization. It is thrilling to be able to leverage the resources of one of the nation’s largest professional theatre companies to create responsive partnerships that use theatre as a tool to captivate and mobilize our community. I feel so lucky to be working in an industry that I love and to be able to help others find avenues into meaningful and sustainable careers.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
Soon after I arrived at Roundabout, our Education Director at the time, Margie Salvante, encouraged me to create an after school program where the students worked autonomously in producing their own theatre. In the 2006, we founded the Roundabout Youth Ensemble (formerly called Student Production Workshop). The Ensemble mirrors Roundabout’s professional process. Student leaders learn the skills to produce original full-scale productions in our black box theatre. They make all their own artistic and managerial choices. The program supports the young artists’ social-emotional development and helps equip them with valuable trade skills. Since we started the program in 2006, 100% of the seniors who have participated in the program have graduated high school. A few years after our first Ensemble graduated, we started to learn that many of our alumni lacked a direct pathway to careers in the arts. In 2016 we launched the arts sector’s first workforce development program, which trains and places non-college-bound students in highly-skilled technical theatre careers in partnership with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union. I am incredibly proud of the program we developed and grateful to have these smart, vibrant, and talented young technicians as my colleagues.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
I believe that theatre has the power to activate a community of empathetic, creative, and critically-responsive citizens who are connected deeply to the world around them. However, this can only happen if we face the very real sexism, racism, classism, ableism, etc. that exists in our industry. I have been fortunate to have worked with and learned from many strong female leaders who have encouraged me to take risks and stand up for what I believe in. However, we know that we have a long way to go. As a mom of a young child, I would love to see better support mechanisms in place for working parents, especially mothers. I’d love to see more programs, like our workforce development program, that break down the barriers of entry to traditionally male-dominated trades. As a person of Mexican and mixed European heritage, I’d love to see more diversity at every level of our industry. I know our American theatre will be stronger and more vibrant when we can achieve parity at all levels.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I would love to find a way to share our work on a more national and international scale. We employ a highly effective and unique teaching methodology called the Theatrical Teaching Framework which posits that every great lesson has the elements of a great play. I’d love to see more teachers adopt the framework and empower their students to be agents in their own learning and artistry. I’d also love to work with our colleagues around the country to create workforce programs that breakdown barriers that exist their communities so we can see some real systemic change in our industry.


Emily Fleisher
Associate Director of Development, Manhattan Theatre Club


The Basics: Emily Fleisher has been with Manhattan Theatre Club since 2008. Before joining the MTC staff, she spent five seasons at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in their Education and Marketing departments. Emily volunteered time and fundraising expertise as member of the Project Advisory Board of the critically-acclaimed, off-Broadway world premiere play, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, (now a major motion picture) at 3LD Art & Technology Center. She is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and of the Trinity/La MaMa urban arts semester. She lives in South Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and one-year-old daughter.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I’m the Associate Director of Development for Manhattan Theatre Club. MTC is a not-for-profit theatre, so only a little more than half of our budget comes from ticket sales. The rest comes from contributions. That translates to roughly $13M in contributed income. I’m responsible for teams that raise more than $6M of that every year.

My average day might consist of some combination of answering staff questions, making decisions, internal meetings (we love meetings), lunch with a donor, and then dashing out the door at the end of the day to a pre-show donor dinner or board meeting. Oh, and right now, pumping breast milk in a stage management office.

Highlights: a work night for me can be a cocktail party in a board member’s stunning New York City apartment, hearing from Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon about their processes alternating roles in The Little Foxes. I always tell our interns: if you like people and you like theatre, development is a pretty great way to make a living.

The most surprising things about my job – especially to other people – is that it’s not scary to ask people for money. It’s exhilarating! It’s not like I’m asking for myself. I’m asking for a cause I really believe in. The arts are how civilizations are remembered. Broadway is what makes New York New York.

What was your path to your job? 
I graduated with a degree in theatre and dance. I call it “romper room” – there was a lot of rolling around on the ground. I started my career as an education intern at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I thought I’d do this internship for a year and then move to New York and audition. Well, you learn a lot about yourself in the real world, as opposed to the safety of a college campus, and I learned that I need stability, that I like knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, and that I didn’t want to look for work every few months. Berkeley Rep has a school of theatre, with classes for kids and adults taught by working actors. I was a teaching assistant, so I got to see up close and personal what the lives of working actors are like, and it’s a hard life. You have to travel for work and take jobs that don’t necessarily inspire you – and that’s assuming you’re getting work. I also learned that I like working in an office – at least a theatre office. It shared a lot of the qualities I loved about putting on a play: it was collaborative and creative, and I still felt close to the (art) work and like I was part of an ensemble.

After five years in Berkeley and at Berkeley Rep, I was ready to take my next step. The Berkeley Rep managing director told me, “We’re a not-for-profit. We’re in the business of creating theatre, not jobs. It might be time for you to fly the nest.” I started to look for jobs in New York and in development, which offers job stability since you’re bringing in revenue for the organization. I figured if I was going to stay in the nonprofit sector, I might as well figure out a way to make a decent living. A fellow former Berkeley Rep intern submitted my application to MTC. It would never have gotten looked at otherwise. Every job I’ve held has grounded me in my community. The New York philanthropic community is fascinating and generous, and makes New York City what it is.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of the millions of dollars I’ve raised in support of artists and developing and creating largely new work. I’m proud that the two organizations I’ve worked for have been committed to sharing that work with students. I know what theatre did for me as a kid, the confidence it gave me, and I was lucky enough that my family could and did take me to theatre, and my school system (in Montgomery County, Maryland) had an exceptional arts program. It’s important to me to work for making those opportunities available to kids who don’t have that kind of access. And I’m proud of the staff and interns I’ve mentored, who’ve gone on to do great things in and around New York City.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
Offer paid, gender-neutral parental leave. I became a first-time mom almost a year ago. I’m lucky that my organization offers eight weeks of paid leave to birth mothers. Data shows that parental leave is better for the physical and emotional health of babies and parents alike, as well as for the financial health of businesses. Just as it’s expensive to acquire new donors, it’s expensive to replace staff – the more senior the position, the more expensive. Parental leave helps women stay in the workforce, and women who receive paid leave are more likely to earn more subsequently. In a community where there are still more men than women leading, it’s the Lean In thesis: women have to stay in the theatre community to become leaders in the theatre community.

Leave for fathers/partners helps women too. My husband’s company (not in the theatre community) offers 10 weeks paid leave to fathers/partners. He and I staggered our leave. We took the first three weeks together; I took my eight weeks of maternity leave plus five weeks of vacation/personal time; then he stayed home with our daughter for another seven weeks. It was huge. It meant that I could worry about getting myself back to work, which is a transition in and of itself, without having to worry about transitioning our daughter into daycare at the same time. Putting a five month old in daycare is totally different from putting a three month old in daycare. She was so much stronger. She could roll over. I worried about her so much less.

My husband’s parental leave completely changed his relationship to our daughter, and our relationship to each another. Rather than me being the manager and delegating responsibility, he truly became the primary caregiver in those last seven weeks, and we’re equal parents because of it.

Policies within the theatre community vary widely, but I think a good start would be for theatres to offer 12 weeks of gender-neutral paid leave, so that employees don’t have to use vacation time to get to that number. Parental leave is not a vacation!

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
MTC is going to turn 50 in 2020, so this is a moment in time for us to really take stock and plan for the future. What do we, the current staff, want the next 50 years to look like at MTC – this place that’s been such a player in The American Theatre? How do we make sure we continue to take risks but operate on sound financial footing? How can I as a fundraiser support our artistic staff’s dream projects? How can we best articulate what makes our education program so special? And on a smaller scale – but no less exciting for me – how can we turn our development department into lean, mean, sophisticated fundraisers? MTC started off-off Broadway. Our leaders have one of the longest-standing partnerships in the community – which is a huge part of what makes MTC unique to our donors. The development department reflects that growth over the last four decades. We’re raising millions of dollars, but we’ve been doing it by the skin of our teeth, in this really kind of grassroots way. Don’t get me wrong: it’s been really successful, but we’re going to have to expand as the organization does. Our fundraising program may never look like a hospital or university, but there’s a lot of room for efficiency, and I’m excited to find that with our team. I joke about “living the nonprofit dream,” but working on Broadway was a dream growing up. The thrill of seeing my name in our Playbills is never lost on me.


Deadria Harrington
Creative Producer


The Basics: Deadria Harrington is a NYC based creative producer and member of the Producing Artistic Leadership Team of The Movement Theatre Company [TMTC]. With TMTC she develops new works by artists of color, most recently And She Would Stand Like This by Harrison David Rivers, directed by David Mendizábal. Select credits: Off Broadway – Architecture of Becoming (Lead Producer, Women’s Project Theatre), Alligator (Line Producer, New Georges). Off-Off Broadway: At Buffalo (NYMF, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat), Catalyst: Moving The Black Theatre Legacy Forward (Project Manager, National Black Theatre). Harrington was a Time Warner Foundation Fellow of the 2012-2014 Producers Lab at Women’s Project Theater and Next Generation Leader of Color at the 2014 Latina/o Theatre Commons Second National Convening. She’s currently the Producing and Management Associate at New Georges and serves on The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York’s Theater Board.

Follow Her: Instagram: @deadria_h


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I don’t think there’s an average day in the life of a producer. Our primary job is to solve problems. Whether there is a costume emergency or you’re trying to negotiate a rental agreement or trying to find the best design team, it’s all about tackling challenges and solving problems to best support an artistic endeavor. Currently I spend the majority of my time on three projects. One is running The Movement Theatre Company; a Harlem based company dedicated to developing and producing new work by artists of color, with my small and mighty team of four (David Mendizábal, Taylor Reynolds and Eric Lockley). The second is working part time, downtown with the ladies of New Georges (Susan Bernfield and Jaynie Saunders Tiller) as the Producing and Management Associate. At New Georges, we focus on developing and producing new work by female identified artists. It’s great to see how the missions’ of my two primary organizations speak to each other as at their core they focus on creating space and showcasing voices that are seldom heard. Lastly, I’m the development producer on a new musical entitled At Buffalo about the 1901 World’s Fair by Dr. Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, Joshua Williams and Khalil Sullivan where we’re preparing for a residency in Buffalo this November. Therefore, what a regular day looks like all depends on the day. Sometimes I spend most of my day at the New Georges office prepping for upcoming programs. Other days I’m all over the city heading to different meetings with my collaborators at The Movement, phone, skype meetings and zoom meetings with the creative team of At Buffalo and finding time to see and read new work.

The favorite parts of my job are the dreaming and scheming meetings I have with my team at The Movement. There’s always a come to Jesus moment with every project where we have to buckle down and figure out how to make the show or program happen. We brainstorm all of the possibilities, different community partners and artists we can get involved, funding streams, and innovative ways to reach our audience and community. The sky is the limit! Dreaming big and figuring out what’s possible is always exciting, and though daunting at times, more often than not we find more is possible than we imagined.

What was your path to your job? 
When I first started, I had no idea I was a producer, let alone a creative producer. I will never forget the moment when it clicked. It was the first public reading of The Movement’s second mainstage production and an actress, came up to me and asked “What’s your role on the project?” I said “Ooohh, well, I was the dramaturg, I organized the reading, put this reception together etc.” and she said “So you’re the lead producer?” and I said “Yup, that’s me!” That was when my journey of becoming a creative producer truly began. I started to investigate what it means to be a producer and really started to lean into my gifts. A couple years after that I was in the Women’s Project producing lab which was an amazing and challenging experience where I worked collaboratively with 14 artists (producers, directors and writers) to conceive, develop and produce a new off-Broadway show during our two year residency. Through that formative experience, as well as being able to forge my own path working with The Movement and New Georges, I’ve been able to hone my skills and define what being a producer means to me. While many think being a producer is focused on raising money, I believe it is much more than that. Being a creative producer is about service, about locating and matching opportunities and resources with a project and artistic team. All of the decisions I make, every single budget, rehearsal space, and programmatic decision is a creative decision; it’s all about how allocating a certain amount of resources, whether it’s time or money to one area, to best tell the story and move a project forward.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I am most proud of taking a chance on myself and leaving my full time, non-arts day job to fully pursue my career as a creative producer. Many of us straddle the line between having a day job, with a regular pay check, paid time off, benefits etc, and being a full time artist, in particular a freelancer, which doesn’t always provide those things. This past spring there were many opportunities on the horizon that could push my career forward and the only way I could make space for them was to take a leap of faith on myself and leave the security of my day job. This decision was thrilling, terrifying, and in no small part made possible by my amazing community of artists, mentors, friends and family members who championed for me, encouraged me and fully supported me in this transition. While being a freelancer is challenging (I’m still figuring out how to balance multiple projects and find time to eat and sleep) it’s exhilarating to wake up every day and know that all of my work is towards pursuing my passion and purpose.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
The best way to help improve gender equality, and equality in general, is by supporting the theatres that have always been dedicated to supporting gender equality; the organizations where you see equality represented in every aspect of the organization, from the board, to its leadership, to the artists and the work that’s presented onstage. I think the field is moving too slowly, and far too often the change around equality is simply surface level. Programming a few plays by women but not changing the make-up of the organization and its leadership isn’t tackling the issue at hand. Many of us are doing the work around equality and have always been doing the work, and it’s time the funding world, field and theatre goers recognize that and put money and resources behind those organizations.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
Yes! Owning a space in Harlem. While there are a few great spaces, they are in high depend, and finding affordable rehearsal and performance space uptown is still extremely challenging. The last show we produced at Movement was in midtown and while extremely successful, there’s nothing like producing in Harlem; the sense of community we have, the number of local and small businesses of color we’re able to support, and the impact we have with our community is much greater in Harlem, as many of our artists and audience members live there. Furthermore, the biggest and greatest resource we can provide our artists with is space. At the early stages of development of a new work, access to quality, affordable space is invaluable. Being able to provide and create a centralized space for The Movement, our artists and programming would be a huge resource.


Cathy Kwon
Company Manager


The Basics: Cathy Kwon is currently the Company Manager of the Broadway revival of Miss Saigon. She has also worked on the Broadway productions of Holiday Inn, Bright Star, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Hands on a Hardbody, Scandalous, Private Lives, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Promises, Promises and The Phantom of the Opera. Other Company Management experience includes Lone Star Love (5th Avenue Theatre) and Fugue (Off-Broadway), among others. Prior to moving to New York, she also worked in Company Management at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
As a Company Manager, we are responsible for the day-to-day operations of a production. This can vary from arranging travel and housing for artists, processing payroll and royalties, paying bills, assisting with budgets and contracts, programming pricing and tickets, to organizing company events, and taking artists to the doctor. I am in the office during the day to deal with emails, phone calls, and all the paperwork for the production, and then head to the theatre in the evening to check in with everyone who physically works at the theatre, which includes cast, crew, box office staff, etc. I feel so fortunate to work in a position that allows me to interact with everyone in the production, from the producers to the ushers; we are the eyes and ears of the show for the producers and are one of the few people that work in conjunction with most, if not all of the departments that come together to bring the production to life every day. We come across new challenges each day and I love that oftentimes no two days are alike. Several of the company managers and I joke and say, “Well, if it’s no one else’s job, it’s ours!” Having such a varied list of responsibilities keeps my job interesting to me and I feel that I continue to learn and challenge myself on a regular basis.

What was your path to your job? 
I was at UCSD for my undergraduate degree in Theatre and Communications when I met the Company Manager at La Jolla Playhouse, which is located on the campus of the University. He asked me if I would be interested in interning for them over the summer; at that time I had no idea what Company Management was, but I thought, “Hey, let’s give it a shot.” I ended up staying at the Playhouse for about four seasons and then eventually decided to make the leap to New York. Coming from a regional theatre, I wasn’t prepared for how different Company Management was in a commercial world compared to what I had been doing in La Jolla. At the Playhouse, a lot of my focus was on artist relations, travel, and housing, and coming into a commercial world, there is a lot more of the business aspect incorporated. I had to learn how to interpret reports and financials and create spreadsheets that I had never even seen before. Even now, it’s so interesting to see the differences between regional, touring, and commercial theatre and what our responsibilities are for each production. I am fortunate enough to have wonderful mentors and other Company Managers that I can ask questions and learn from.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
It’s such a fulfilling experience bringing a project to life and seeing it go from pages in a script to a production on stage. Each project is a new experience and I have learned and grown from each production I have worked on, but I do especially love being a part of new works that are produced. On a new show, there are so many changes and revisions the show goes through before you get to Opening Night, and seeing this new piece evolve and become a part of theatre history is something that is truly remarkable. I am also extremely proud to be a part of the theatre community in general. The theatre community is such a strong and supportive family, and we are all coming together to do what we can to create art to put out in the world, and in the process we invest in each other and forge these amazing relationships with one another. When someone is in need, the community just rallies together and that’s just a beautiful thing.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
I feel fortunate that I have already seen many changes in the industry to support and promote women in the arts and theatre. Even during my experience on Broadway, I have seen an increase in female producers, managers, and crew heads. I think we are on the right path, but I think that educating youth and young women on the various jobs that exist both in front of and behind the stage is such a valuable tool. Just exposing young women to people working in the industry, whether it is through mentorships, shadowing someone, or even just speaking to a class helps them see that there are women that have made the steps and are successfully working in theatre, it’s possible and they can do it.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
Every project that I work on is so different and I learn so much from each. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked on such varying shows, and I guess just continuing to work on these amazing projects with the talented, smart, and passionate people surrounding and creating them is a dream for me in itself—I get to work in theatre!


Sarah Lunnie
Literary Director, Playwrights Horizons & dramaturg at-large


The Basics: Sarah Lunnie is a new play dramaturg based in New York, where she is the Literary Director at Playwrights Horizons and a company member with The Mad Ones. She has worked as a dramaturg on productions of new plays by Mallery Avidon, Lucas Hnath, Mona Mansour, Charles L. Mee, Heidi Schreck, and Anne Washburn, and developed new work with Jeff Augustin, Mary Elizabeth Hamilton, Basil Kreimendahl, Mara Nelson-Greenberg, A. Rey Pamatmat, Jen Silverman, and Kate Tarker, among many others. She was previously the Literary Manager at Actors Theatre of Louisville.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
As you might expect, I read a lot of plays. At Playwrights Horizons we maintain an open submissions policy and read and respond to just shy of 1,000 scripts each year. I work with Tim Sanford [Artistic Director] and Adam Greenfield [Associate Artistic Director] to plan our seasons, award new play commissions, and program our development wing, the New Works Lab. Though it’s not Playwrights’ practice to staff production dramaturgs to the projects in our season, we do provide that support less formally/more flexibly to the many writers who come through our building. Those conversations—talking with playwrights about their new work—are a particular highlight of my job.

When I’m talking with folks outside the theatre, I sometimes describe my job as a cross between what an editor might do at a publishing house and what a curator might do in an art museum. It’s a bit fuzzy and approximate, but I think that description captures not only the range of responsibilities, but also the philosophical orientation toward the work, which extends in two directions: towards artists, as we work to respond to, advocate for, and support the development and production of their new plays, and towards the audience, as we strive to present them with work we find singular and valuable, and to provide context that hopefully will enrich their experience of it.

I also maintain an active career as a freelance dramaturg. These days, the work I do in that arena is less about research and play-world contextualization, and more about crafting dramatic and theatrical story. I work with playwrights and directors in a collaborative editorial capacity. This past year, I dramaturged productions of The Mad Ones’ Miles for Mary at The Bushwick Starr, Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House Part 2 on Broadway, and Heidi Schreck’s What The Constitution Means to Me at Clubbed Thumb, and developed new plays with Mara Nelson-Greenberg at Texas Tech University and Mary Elizabeth Hamilton at the O’Neill. Every collaboration is different, but I find I’m most energized by working closely with a writer or team to shape something that’s new and still becoming itself.

What was your path to your job? 
I interned in the literary office at Actors Theatre of Louisville one summer in college. After graduating, I returned for a fellowship, fell in love with the city, and kept finding ways to stick around, until after a few years they hired me for a permanent position. Eventually, I became the Literary Manager. One day I heard that Adam Greenfield was hiring an associate at Playwrights; that was the job that brought me to New York.

It’s all taken on a retrospective coherence, but during those early years in Louisville, I didn’t really know what it would add up to or exactly what I wanted. At one point, the Kentucky Foundation for Women supported me with a grant that let me take some time off work to write a bunch of short stories, and I briefly explored pursuing an MFA in fiction writing. Meanwhile, as I began to define my own relationship to dramaturgical collaboration, particularly via the Humana Festival, I remember feeling pulled in several directions. A moment when something clicked, I think, was clocking that those seemingly divergent creative impulses weren’t necessarily in conflict with one another, but could be of a piece and could add up to a life.

As with anything, hurdles remain. A lot of people don’t know what a dramaturg does (and there are lots of different answers to that question), which can complicate things when working with a new collaborator, particularly if we’ve been sort of arbitrarily assigned to one another. On the other hand, that ambiguity can create rich space to define the scope of the collaboration. I also sense in some people a suspicion that a dramaturg is actually some kind of thwarted generative artist, a disappointed writer or director. That one’s not really a hurdle so much as a point of protest; though I do write (prose, not plays), I continue to find new play dramaturgy to be a distinct and engaging form of creative practice. It’s given me a means to live in ongoing conversation with artists who inspire me, and with the world, in ways I find continually surprising.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
Because effective collaboration depends so much on trust, mutual affinity, the development of a common language, and shared instincts about the work, I find long-term artistic partnerships particularly productive and particularly rewarding. In that spirit, I really cherish my working relationships with a few longtime collaborators—Lucas Hnath, Lila Neugebauer, and The Mad Ones—all of which began in Louisville almost a decade ago, and which bore particularly gratifying fruit in the last year. I worked with The Mad Ones as they conceived and developed Miles for Mary, and collaborated with them on its premiere at the Bushwick Starr last October. That production is returning for an encore run here at Playwrights this winter, which for me represents a wonderful collision of artistic worlds. And I worked with Lucas and Sam Gold as the dramaturg on A Doll’s House Part 2, first in a series of script-focused workshops last fall and winter, and then on the Broadway production in the spring. It was thrilling—and, frankly, surreal—to accompany Lucas on that journey, seven or so years after pulling a short play about Anna Nicole Smith out of a pile in Kentucky and thinking, “Oh my god, who is this guy?” I’m similarly proud of my work with Lucas as he wrote The Christians, and of my collaboration with him and Les Waters on its first production.

Those are examples of a few rare, muscular, direct collaborations; whereas the daily work of literary management involves a thousand small, mostly invisible acts of care and attention, repeated again and again, for the most part without control over outcomes, because you believe in the value of new work and in the people who make it. An open submissions process is a wildly inefficient, unwieldy thing, in some ways so shambolic you can only keep it going for any length of time for love (even as you sometimes feel like the angel of death, sending all those rejection letters to writers whose work you appreciate so much). I’m proud to be the steward of a process I believe in, at a theatre that devotes itself to writers with such singular purpose.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
We need to learn to notice and celebrate female leadership in action, which starts by recognizing it where it’s happening, all over the place. I don’t want to be reductive and say that there’s a characteristically female style of leadership—I don’t believe that’s true—but I will say that, in my experience, women in positions of authority often embody their power differently than men do. Sometimes I wonder if our culture is capable of even recognizing leadership that doesn’t express itself through force and volume. And if this might have something to do with our dearth of female directors, artistic directors, presidents…

Not every woman wants to be a parent (and of course, not all parents are women), but we can promote gender equity in the theatre by making it more possible for women who become parents to keep working and growing in their careers. And by providing comprehensive paid family leave to all parents, of any gender, and encouraging people to use it.

And we can look at how institutions embody and perpetuate larger, culturally ingrained systems of power—not only patriarchy, but also white supremacy and ableism, among others—and hold ourselves accountable for working to dismantle them. As a white, straight, able-bodied, college-educated ciswoman occupying a gatekeeping position at a big Off-Broadway theatre, right now I’m trying to focus my energy on taking an honest inventory of my own complicity in perpetuating inequity in the theatre. It’s easy to feel powerless, but focusing on the power you don’t have excuses inaction and stasis. I think it’s more productive and responsible to focus on the power you do have, whatever its bounds or limitations. It reveals immediate pathways to action. It gives you a place to start.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I’ve never been a person who felt I was called to do one specific thing. This used to make me vaguely anxious, but now I find it liberating. I think one day it might make me very happy to chair a playwriting program. I think about artistic directorship (I work at a theatre run by a dramaturg, and I think it’s a good model!). If I knew it was a line I could cross in both directions, I might be more seriously inclined to think about theatre criticism (and I’m interested to see how Sara Holdren will navigate balancing her new gig with her ongoing artistic practice). I think about a world with no email! I think about all the things I can’t imagine yet.

Lately, I find myself thinking less about the shape of my future and more about my experience of the present. You asked earlier about hurdles, and a hurdle before, which I frequently stand scratching my head about, is that of my own writing—or these days, more often, my not-writing—which I blame on everything outside of me (mostly time), but is actually, of course, a profoundly internal thing. I think as we pursue mastery and stability in our work, we can trap ourselves in boxes, or repetitive loops. To transform that conception from a hurdle into a dream—I dream about making more space in my life for more parts of myself. Whenever I see another woman give herself permission to play around in other sandboxes, I feel bolstered by her example. I love the work I do, and I also have a dream of doing more.


Nidia Medina
Line Producer, Public Theater


The Basics: Nidia Medina is currently a Line Producer at The Public Theater. Before that, she had the pleasure of being Associate Producer at INTAR, and also produced an internationally touring one-woman show called The God Box that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities all over. Other producing projects include Off-Off-Broadway shows, fundraiser performances, and some wacky variety shows. She has spent the past ten years backstage, onstage, and in the offices of some great NYC theatre companies. She makes art, too. Just call her a “Theatre Person.” She holds a Master’s degree in Arts and Cultural Management from Pratt Institute.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
Generally, after I run down the various parts of my job to someone who has just asked what it is I do, they say to me, “Oh, so you get things done.” That’s pretty much the truth right there. In any given day, I could be sitting and listening to an artist about a project as their sounding board, giving my artistic opinion about a show we’re doing, appealing to the higher-ups for extra money for a particular thing that we totally need, scheduling a variety of meetings for artists and admin to intersect on various aspects of a show, explaining the artistic intentions of a creative team to various admin departments, working on budgets and planning for a new program, and so on and so forth. It’s a mix of logistics, business, and art, sometimes with some psychology thrown in there.

My job is, above all else, about people. Just like theatre is about people. I build relationships, I reconcile many differing opinions, I collaborate with artists and staff. Whether it’s a difficult conversation or a crazy idea that I need to make reality, I’m going to make it happen!

What was your path to your job? 
Having, like most people, trained as an actor first, I didn’t really realize that I was producing so much from the very beginning of my career. At my undergrad college (Emerson), we were kind of told, “If you don’t get into the show, make your own show.” So we were always putting up shows (original and otherwise)! This idea of, “Oh, I’ll just make the show,” came with me to New York, where even though I was an actor or working wardrobe or whatever I was doing for money at the moment, I was producing my own shows as well without really even thinking about it!

Then I noticed that my colleagues in the theatre world were asking me to help them produce this thing or that thing. Again, not really thinking about it, I just went along for the ride and produced these things—they were plays I wrote, or cared about, or had a collaborative hand in. To me, I was just making things happen. I was also spending time in various other jobs around the theatre, getting a pretty holistic view of all the things it takes to make a show come together.

I then realized I kept using the word “business” when talking about theatre, so I thought formalizing my arts-business education wasn’t a horrible idea—so I went to graduate school at Pratt for Arts and Cultural Management. Shortly after I started there, I ended up producing a touring one-woman show, which went on for years, and learned so much about the touring world from that experience.

Turns out I’ve been a producer all along. I finally admitted this to myself when I got the chance to work with INTAR—which was just so fantastic—and it was then that I started to truly embrace what I was doing. And from there, I ended up at The Public, where I am able to mix art and business every day in a pretty satisfying way!

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
Hmm, I’m going to cheat and say a bunch of things. I’m proud of producing two shows up at the Delacorte this summer (Midsummer and Public Works’ As You Like It), and I’m also very proud of one of the shows I have rehearsing now at the Public that is going up soon (Oedipus El Rey by Luis Alfaro, Directed by Chay Yew). Overall, however, I’m most proud that I have journeyed all around the New York theatre scene, met so many wonderful artists (and still meeting more every day), and that somehow my work managed to bring me to the Producing Department here at the Public. I still love to just walk up to the building and think—wow—I work here. How lucky that someone at The Public thought I might be an interesting enough person to call me in for an interview. Around 10 years ago I was volunteering for LAByrinth while they were in residence here, spending hours and hours in the Shiva, and to be here now, still working in theatre and loving the people I work with, having the ability to create, debate and strategize in such a rich environment—I’m honored.

I’m also rather proud of being a mom of two young kids, and being very visible and vocal about that in the workplace. I hate to see women deciding not to have kids, or to step away from their careers, not because they want to make these choices, but because they just think it’s too hard to do both in our field. I try to be very open that I intend to grow into a leadership position in the theatre world, and I plan to do it while mom-ing two kids. I am proud of this because I have had many women come up to me and say things like, “Seeing you do this makes me think I can do it.” It’s very inspiring to me and I am proud and honored to be trying to do my own small part in pushing this forward in theatre.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
One: making choices in hiring or building teams that involve keeping a very conscious eye on the gender breakdown of any particular project (not to mention applying this same practice to hiring people of color). Being very aware of gender diversity as you are staffing, choosing stories, choosing artists is a huge step towards gender equality. I feel strongly that, in general, if you’re trying to make some kind of equality happen, you have to do it on purpose, because our normal systems are skewed, and in order to change them we have to be very purposeful about our choices.

The other does not seemingly apply to everyone but then… I think it does. Supporting both men and women with families in the workplace. I worry that we’ve lost a lot of great women in the field once they had kids due to the theatre world not necessarily seeming kid and parent-friendly. Meaning both that they didn’t feel they could be working moms, and also that their partners weren’t getting the support they needed from their workplace to take on their share of childcare. That needs to change! Women shouldn’t be scared of telling their bosses they’re pregnant, or worried that their pregnancies could affect their jobs negatively; men should be given the same opportunity for parental leave, and the theatre world should be constantly looking for ways to support employees with children. It’s just a fact—most of the time, women are the ones having the babies. This is not the end of the world, and it doesn’t feel like it helps the theatre world at all to not support strong theatre professionals who are going to have a kid, or adopt a kid, or foster a kid. We need those people in the community too—we need those voices!

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
My true hope is to continue to grow in my field as clearly a woman of color and clearly a mom, as an artist and a producer, and become a member of artistic leadership in the theatre world. I have always wanted, and continue to want to just make the art that I want to see become a reality. I care about new work, I care about changing the conversation in American Theatre to include a lot more people at the table. That’s my goal.


Annie Middleton
Managing Director, Rattlestick Theater


The Basics: Annie Middleton is the Managing Director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in the West Village in NYC. She recently received an MFA in Theater Management from Yale School of Drama. At YSD, she served as Managing Director of Yale Cabaret, Company Manager for Yale Repertory Theatre, and Management Fellow at Roundabout Theatre Company. Prior to grad school, Annie lived in Los Angeles, where she spent a year at WME, followed by two years at Carousel Productions, a film/TV production company led by actor, producer, and writer Steve Carell. Annie received a B.S. in Theatre from Northwestern University.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
My job has evolved over my 16 months at Rattlestick. I joined the company in June 2016, just after Daniella Topol succeeded founder David Van Asselt as Artistic Director. Daniella hired me to join her in guiding the company through a time of transition and change, so our first year involved a lot of learning about and embracing the company’s history while planning for its future and sustainability. For me, the learning involved a lot of time with our finance committee to work on financial planning and problem-solving, understanding all of the rules around unions, navigating the intricate regulations and policies surrounding the management of a facility in New York City, and communicating with the several artists that work at Rattlestick (and their representation) about the logistics that go into producing work in a way that best meets the artists’ needs.

The company is now in a position of growth, and my role has expanded into one that involves not only the management of the company’s finances, facility, rentals, human resources, compliance, etc., as well as the general management of our productions (contracts, budgets, etc.), but one that also involves working with Daniella and our board on long-term planning and strategy for the company, development and fundraising, and growing our education programs. I consider these aspects of my position to be the highlights, and it’s rewarding to work on them in partnership with the artistic leader of the company. I appreciate working at a company where collaboration is key. Daniella and I have agreed that our partnership works well because she is an artist with a managerial mindset, and I am a manager with an artistic mindset. That is a special partnership and a very important one to have in this field. Small companies like ours thrive when there is great artistic ambition met with a mindfulness of the company’s existing parameters. That is how we can achieve excellence while also planning for sustainability.

What was your path to your job? 
Theatre has always been at the center of my world. I come from a family that values stories and storytelling, music, plays, films, and books. I grew up just outside of New York City, and my public school had strong and respected drama and music programs that encouraged me to discover and cultivate my passion. I was given the great (and often rare) opportunity as a young student to explore the arts and use them to develop vital human skills, including self-expression, communication, empathy, and dedication.

I worked in the film business for a few years following college, but theatre always had my heart. During my brief time away, I genuinely missed the community of artists and the joy of being in a theatre. While working for a film company, I developed an educational theatre workshop with some friends from college to host at Crenshaw High School in Compton in Los Angeles. We raised money, gathered a group of volunteer teaching artists, and worked with 60 high school students over our 4-day workshop. which culminated in a performance of original music, poetry, rap, and dance. It was incredible to watch so many young people transform in front of our eyes as they were handed the proverbial (and at times literal) microphone to express their thoughts, dreams, fears. The program was aptly named “CommunicateME,” and the experience confirmed my ambition in life: to work in spaces that provide people the freedom to discover and explore the power and significance of their voices, as well as make room for stories that evoke compassion and love from audiences of all backgrounds.

It was at this point that I decided to go to Yale School of Drama for my MFA, because I wanted to learn whatever I could to support my ambition. Up to that point I didn’t have much experience in management or producing, so grad school seemed like the best and most efficient way to learn as much as possible while also connecting with several leaders in the industry. It was a very challenging and rewarding program chaired by former Guthrie Theater Managing Director Ed Martenson (who retired from YSD this past year), focused heavily on leadership and mission-based industry analysis. We were required to write case studies on existing arts organizations, and this kind of strategic thinking focused around mission really developed and shaped my perspective in a way that prepared me for my job at Rattlestick, where mission is absolutely key to the decisions we make.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of the leaps of faith and moves away from my comfort zone I took in order to be where I am now. CommunicateME was an ambitious project at the time, and it fueled the flame that was simmering inside me to do more. I’m grateful that I fought the impostor syndrome I felt at the beginning of grad school as someone who had not worked in the theatre world professionally and who had little experience in management. I believed to some degree that, as a younger woman who had grown up mostly onstage, I wasn’t meant or even allowed to be in a leadership or managerial position, to be making decisions that impact an entire company and the group of people working for it. I owe a great deal of gaining confidence in my leadership ability to my time at YSD, where responsibility and accountability was thrust upon me, ready or not!

Rattlestick has been a similar experience, and I’m feeling proud these days to work for a company led by a strong, fearless female Artistic Director, who is one of the most passionate and ambitious humans I know. Joined by our Associate Producer, Victor Cervantes Jr., whose work spans from community engagement, audience development, and developing his own artistry as a director and playwright, our core staff works every day to walk the walk and encourage conversations and produce work that challenges and disrupts existing systems.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
Hire more women. Have more women both on and off the stage. Have more women on boards of theatre companies. Program more women in the season—in every role of the production. The field in general is having more conversations about gender equality, how the arts can be used to fight racism and other forms of systemic oppression, as well as how to encourage equity, diversity, and inclusion of all gender identities, races, and sexual orientations. These conversations are crucial, but the challenge I pose for the field is to go beyond having the conversations and take action.

We’re living in a time where there is a lot of confusion, anger, and fear in the world. Now more than ever there is a need for artists and art-makers who are motivated to create and produce work that goes beyond “escapism” and truly challenges existing systems in ways that can potentially lead to deepening compassion.

At a recent board meeting, one of our board members posed the question, “What can we do to make the questions and conversations that are difficult to have less difficult and more accessible?” I encourage leaders in our field to have these conversations with their boards, and I encourage theatre-makers everywhere to have these conversations with everyone. I charge us all to make this a priority, and there are resources available in the field to assist with this priority. Make the information, research, articles, and data available to your board, donors, and community. Data goes a long way, and the more information we have out there about hiring and pay inequity and the imbalance of leadership in our field, the more we can actually address the issue.

And when it comes to gender inequality, engage men in these conversations. Make sure they know that they are not only welcome to join the conversation, but they are vital to it.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I want to produce theatre that not only celebrates social justice, but insists upon it. To be honest, the project I’m currently working on at Rattlestick is a dream: Diana Oh’s {my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! The Final Installation, which addresses gender-based violence and is staged to provide a safer and more courageous world for women, queer, trans, and non-binary humans to live in. Diana is a visionary, young female-identifying artist-activist, and I’m thrilled to share her work on our stage.

My dream for the company is that Diana’s show and all of the work we produce leaves an impact on the viewer. We can’t necessarily change people’s minds or beliefs with one production, but we can leave them wanting to learn more—or better yet, we can shift their perspective on issues around the existing cultural issues involving race, equity, diversity, and inclusion of all people.

The big pie in the sky dream for me is to give every young person the opportunity to be the future Diana Oh. I want every school in this country to offer arts programs, STRONG arts programs, that get students into theatres and encourage them to write and perform. I envision bringing a program like CommunicateME, where students are creating work together, into more schools around the country, year-round. Theatre has a powerful ability to act as an educational tool that promotes self-expression, confidence, and understanding in a deeply impactful way. It has made me the woman I am, and if all young people had access to theatre, I would be confident in the future leaders of our industry and country.


Lauren Port
Casting Director, Caparelliotis Casting


The Basics: Lauren has been at Caparelliotis Casting since May of 2009.  In that time, she has worked on the casting of countless Broadway/Off Broadway and regional theatre productions.  Some Broadway highlights include: Junk, Meteor Shower, A Doll’s House Part 2, The Front Page, It’s Only a Play, Disgraced, Fish in the Dark, Holler If Ya Hear Me, The Trip to Bountiful, Grace, Death of a Salesman, Seminar, Stick Fly, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Lend Me a Tenor, and Fences.  NYC theatre includes casting for: Signature, Atlantic Stage 2, LCT3, Ars Nova and The Play Company. Regional: The Old Globe, Steppenwolf, Goodman, Arena Stage, McCarter among othersFilm/TV:“American Odyssey” (NBC), “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC, pilot), “Ironside” (NBC) and “Steel Magnolias” (Sony for Lifetime). Lauren also casts/has cast for: Second Stage Uptown, City Theatre, Pittsburgh Public, Studio Theatre and Seattle Rep.  Lauren has a BFA from Syracuse University, and is a proud member of The Casting Society of America.  She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband Randy and their dog Stout.  Lauren and Stout are an ASPCA Pet Partners Therapy Animal team and volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes in NYC.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
In short, as a Casting Director, I am responsible for assembling the cast of actors that end up on stage or screen. This can be, and is, done in a variety of ways depending on a variety of factors. Casting is one of those professions where there is no “typical day” or “typical process,” which is probably one of the reasons I enjoy it so much; it’s certainly never boring and it keeps me on my toes. The process by which we get a cast of actors on the stage is usually the same, but based on a myriad number of unknown variables, the road we take to get there is different with every show. An average day for me might include (but is certainly not limited to): conference calls with creative teams to discuss roles that are to be cast, making idea lists, writing breakdowns, pre-screening actors, going through submissions, holding auditions, doing outreach/research, etc. I think one of the most interesting things about my job is actually the misconception people have of it both inside the industry and out. You’d be shocked by the number of people who don’t know the difference between a Casting Director and an agent. Or who don’t understand the role we play within a creative process.

What was your path to your job? 
Truthfully, my road to casting is pretty boring. I can remember in college (I was an acting major in an BFA program within a university) listening to successful alums who were making their living as working actors who came back to speak about their careers. They would answer the questions “How did you get an agent?” “How did you get your big break?” “How did you book your first job?” with, “I was just so lucky.” It made me hate them. How did luck make a career? At the time, it seemed so unfair to me. But then, almost a decade later, I was asked back to my alma mater to answer questions in the same forum. When a student asked how I got my start in casting, I had an out of body experience as I watched the words, “I was just really lucky” come out of my mouth! But, in a way, I was. Lucky, that is. I am a planner, and I knew myself well enough to know that the reality of my day to day life as a working actor would make me miserable. I do best with a schedule. So, I thought about the experiences I’d had while interning in college (perhaps the fact that I chose to spend my summers interning at theatres instead of doing summer stock was foreshadowing) and the moments I spent watching auditions were the memories that popped. So, I looked up shows I had seen in NYC and realized there was a profession titled “Casting Director,” and sent my resume out. I told myself when I moved to New York to work that if I really felt the itch to audition I could, but by the second day of my first casting internship, I knew I had found the thing I was meant to do. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
There are many things I am most proud of. I’m immensely proud of having built my career from the ground up, starting as an intern and knowing next to nothing about casting. I’m proud of the kind of Casting Director I am. By that I mean that I like to think that I am open and kind in the room, that I make the room a safe space for the actor, that actors enjoy auditioning for me, and that my teams trust me and know that I understand what they are looking for and bring in actors that speak to that. Outside the audition room, I always feel a sense of pride when I see a show I’ve cast. I feel proud when a director says on opening night that they loved the cast. Or when the one actor I encouraged the director to take a chance on ends up being their favorite. I’m proud when reviews mention good casting. I’m proud when I get to see actors I’ve cast doing great work in other productions or on screen. It makes my heart burst with pride when I’m able to give an actor their professional debut, or their Equity card, or their Broadway debut. Those are life-changing milestones for an actor, and to be a small part of that moment in their career is incredibly rewarding for me. I’m proud to know so many incredibly wonderful humans who also happen to be great actors, and I’m grateful for their big hearts and willingness to be game for anything in this crazy business. I’m proud of the caliber of projects and creative teams I’ve been able to work on and with at Caparelliotis Casting alongside Dave Cap. I’m very proud to be a member of CSA and of our small(ish) but mighty New York casting community.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
I think, quite simply, that as women, we have to keep making space for the work of women to be produced. I think part of that definitely has to come from a programming perspective. If theatres don’t program plays written by women, or hire women to direct, to design, to cast, then how do we keep promoting the work of women in the theatre? More often that not though, I feel quite fortunate to work in an industry that often doesn’t feel discriminatory at all, let alone specifically to gender. But I also realize that I am lucky to work in an industry that is also such a close knit community. I realize how rare that is. And I do think we have been shifting towards producing more work by women—theatre is meant to inspire conversation, incite change and action, and gender inequality is happening right now in our country in a very real way. It needs to continue to be at the forefront of our consciousness and talked about, until it is no longer inequality. And I hope that through the arts, and theatre specifically, we can continue to be a voice for that.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I don’t know if I have a dream project I’d like to cast, but I always find a certain adventure in casting new works. There’s something thrilling to me about working on a play that doesn’t have a pre-existing life on the stage. A blank casting canvas, so to speak. Sometimes I find I have the most creative freedom when there are no preconceived notions about who the characters are or have to be. It’s my chance to do what I do best and bring in actors who speak to the roles on the page as written and the vision of the director/playwright. But, it’s also a chance for me to bring in actors who don’t speak to the characters on the page as written, who push the boundaries of what we may think the characters are but haven’t thought about or considered yet. It forces a creative conversation about the world we are looking to create. If a team is deeply attached to an idea of who a character has to be, it can sometimes be challenging to see outside the box, to take a leap of faith on an actor that may be outside their comfort zone. But those audition moments when an actor in the room begins to define the role are true magic.


Emily Shooltz
Associate Artistic Director, Ars Nova


The Basics: Emily Shooltz is the Associate Artistic Director at Ars Nova, where she has helped to commission, develop, and produce critically-acclaimed and award-winning shows including Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812; Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard’s Underground Railroad Game; Bess Wohl’s Small Mouth Sounds; The Debate Society’s Jacuzzi; César Alvaez and the Lisps’ FUTURITY; Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s boom, Liz Flahive’s From Up Here, and Nick Jones & Raja Azar’s pirate-puppet-rock show, Jollyship The Whiz-Bang, among many others. She also oversees Ars Nova’s multiple artist development programs, where she works with hundreds of emerging artists each year. Prior to Ars Nova, she served as the Literary Manager at Manhattan Theatre Club. She has held staff and freelance dramaturgy positions at the Wilma Theater; Centerstage, Baltimore; Yale Repertory Theatre and the O’Neill Theater Center, and served on the selection committees for the Kesselring Prize and Princess Grace Award. Emily holds an MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from the Yale School of Drama.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I oversee Ars Nova’s new work development and residency programs and am part of the core producing team for our full productions. I also work on institutional development and long-range planning. That all sounds fairly straightforward, but one of the delights of my job is that there is no average day; with the huge variety of artists and work we support at Ars Nova, each day is different and my role shape-shifts accordingly. I love the constant surprises of approaching each piece in development on its own terms and finding inventive ways to support an artist or collaborative team’s vision. That can be through artistic feedback, creative matchmaking, thoughtful budgeting, outside-the-box problem solving, or just attention to all the tiny details that I hope make Ars Nova a place that artists and audiences want to come back to again and again. The people I spend my day with are the highlights of my job. I love the oddballs and brave, openhearted weirdoes that make Ars Nova unique. Give me a passionate artistic vision and a theatrical puzzle to solve and I’m yours.

What was your path to your job? 
A wise college professor was kind enough to break the news that I was a mediocre actress and had other skills I might explore if I was serious about a career in theatre. After a series of internships and fellowships, I wound up pursuing a masters degree in dramaturgy at the Yale School of Drama, where I was lucky to learn on my feet from some crazy-brilliant peers—playwrights, directors, designers, managers—my friends taught me invaluable lessons about collaboration. My trajectory from there took me into non-profit theatre and new play circles, but it wasn’t until I landed at Ars Nova that I really found my niche. Artistic Director Jason Eagan is a windmill-tilting visionary and the spirit of yes that pervades Ars Nova allowed me to learn by doing things I had no idea were in my skill set. The philosophy of, “We’re not sure how to do this, but let’s keep trying until we get it right,” has underscored the last ten years of my life.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of building Ars Nova from a scrappy start-up into the still scrappy, but stable, place it is today. When I joined the staff, Jason and our founders, Jenny and Jon Steingart, had just embarked on the process of transitioning Ars Nova into a fully functioning not-for-profit, and being a part of the team that built something lasting from those early dreams has been incredibly fulfilling. The artists who have developed under our roof, the one-of-a-kind work that is born here, and the relationships that I see continuing on in the field all around us bring me great joy.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
We have to find creative ways to make it possible for parents to balance family and theatre work. Our industry is built on factors that just don’t mix well with parenting—long hours, travel, low pay, and lots of nights out. This is hard for all parents, but mothers of young children have it especially rough, and many of us end up feeling like we have to bow out of opportunity after opportunity after our kids are born. I want our industry to be talking about childcare subsidies, family housing, creative rehearsal scheduling, comfortable nursing and/or pumping spaces, paid maternity leave, morning coffees in lieu of post-show drinks, and plenty of other things that I’m sure smart people will come up with if we all put our minds to it. It means being proactive about asking the questions and looking for solutions.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I dream of a beautiful retreat center where we could be supporting development work outside the grind of New York City year round. Anyone have a few acres of land and a treasure chest of cash to spare?


Ally Shuster
Agent, Creative Artists Agency


The Basics: Ally was born in New York City and raised in NYC and on Long Island. After graduating from the University at Buffalo in 2007 with a degree in Women’s Studies, she attended Hofstra University School of Law where she graduated with honors in 2010. Ally then attended Cardozo Law School to pursue her LLM degree in Intellectual Property with a focus on Entertainment Law. Ally began her career in entertainment in the mailroom of Paradigm Talent Agency where she quickly found her way to the theatre department. After working there for a little over two years, Ally joined Creative Artists Agency as an agent in the theatre department in January of 2015. Ally represents writers, directors, composers, choreographers, and performers in their on-stage endeavors.

Follow Her: Instagram: @allyshuster


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I feel fortunate to have a job that I love. I’m always excited to get to the office to see where the day will take me. Each day is different, and dictated by the projects that my clients are working on at any given time. I spend much of my day on the phone and on e-mail corresponding with clients, colleagues, producers, literary and artistic directors, theatre owners, lawyers, and general managers. My favorite part of this job is when I’m putting a new project together with a client. It’s really rewarding to help someone shape an idea and work on projects from their most nascent of stages. I often attend readings of new shows that clients are working on, which is a fun way to preview a piece that isn’t fully baked yet. In the evenings, you can catch me at a play or musical, both to see client projects and stay abreast of the latest shows.

What was your path to your job? 
I’ve known that I wanted a career in entertainment for as long as I can remember. My mom used to pull me out of school for Wednesday matinees, so theatre has always been an important part of my life. After majoring in Women’s Studies in college, I went to law school and received my JD degree. I then did an additional year at Cardozo Law School where I received my LLM, which is a legal Master’s degree. Cardozo has a great intellectual property program, and I was able to focus specifically on Entertainment Law. All those years of law school have proven to be very helpful in my career as an agent. I spend a lot of time negotiating deals for my clients, so a legal background comes in very handy.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of actively seeking out artists to represent who are working to create positive change and to make a real difference in the world through the stories they’re telling. This can be someone like writer/performer/activist Sarah Jones, whose play SELL/BUY/DATE shines a light on the exploitation of sex workers, or playwright Martyna Majok, who is writing magnificent plays about immigrant experiences from a female viewpoint, or director Tyne Rafaeli, who is developing a piece about the invention of birth control that I think will be incredibly important. These are the types of stories that historically haven’t been told on stage via a major platform, so it’s exciting to be advocating for these pieces and guiding clients through the various developmental processes.

I’m also proud of the work I’m doing to help clients cross over into other mediums in addition to their thriving theatre careers. Lindsey Ferrentino is a brilliant playwright who is currently working on her first feature film with an Oscar-winning director who is a major force in the film world. It has been an absolute joy to work with Lindsey every step of the way to build her career from its earliest stages. Michael Weiner and Alan Zachary are successful musical theatre songwriters who recently wrote the songs for a musical episode of the hit TV show Once Upon a Time, and have upcoming TV projects with Scooter Braun Productions and The Weinstein Company. It’s also important to me to ensure that theatre clients remain with a foot firmly planted in this world as they achieve success in other areas. An example of this is director client Maggie Burrows, who is attached to direct her first feature film but is carving out time this spring to be the associate director on My Fair Lady.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
It’s the same thing that we could do to achieve racial equality in the theatre community. I think change needs to happen at every level. but it definitely starts at the top. There are so few female or diverse artistic directors—more diversity in leadership roles would likely go a long way in achieving parity. The same goes for commercial theatre producers, the vast majority of whom are white men. Artistic directors and others who are in a position to do so should be insisting on parity at this point. However, I have seen a slight shift in the right direction since I began my career. It’s starting to feel like women in the theatre community will no longer accept the status quo, but there is still a long way to go. Every marginalized group could bring a lot to the table if they were just given a seat at the table.

I’ve found that it is particularly tricky for emerging female directors to break into the industry because there are so few opportunities for those just starting out. It would be excellent if more of the major non-profit theatres would implement mentorship programs for female directors the same way we encourage and cultivate emerging playwrights. My client list is about 75% female, which isn’t a coincidence, it’s by design. I’m most drawn to female-driven projects and stories, and I’m lucky to be in a position where I get to advocate for these pieces and hopefully help affect change in the right direction.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I’d like to see more female-centric musical comedies on Broadway. This makes a lot of commercial sense, given that the vast majority of Broadway ticket buyers are women. Think Book of Mormon-style comedy, but with female protagonists. There have been many examples in the last few years in the film world—Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, and Bad Moms to name a few. I’d like to see more of this genre on stage—a piece that is raucous and truly laugh-out-loud funny. Luckily, many of my clients share this sentiment, so stay tuned!


Emily Simoness
Co-Founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm


The Basics: Emily Simoness is the founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm. A former actress, Emily worked at some of the premier theatrical venues in the nation including Williamstown Theatre Festival and The Public Theater. Additionally, she has developed and taught curriculum for NYU and UNCSA. Outside of her work in the arts, Emily is a consultant for Bi-Jingo, a management development firm that specializes in communication and leadership skills; she is certified in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Steps I and II. In 2013, she was the Chief of Staff for the Beijing International Screenwriting Competition. In 2015, she gave a talk at TEDx Broadway. She holds a BFA in Acting from UNCSA where she is the inaugural Kenan Arts Research Fellow. She sits on the Advisory Board of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and is on the Board of Directors for Ryder Farm Inc.. Earlier this year, Emily was honored with the Lucille Lortel Visionary Award by the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Follow Her: Instagram: @emsimmy


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I’m the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SPACE on Ryder Farm. SPACE is an artist residency housed on a 222 year old working organic farm in Brewster, NY. I’ve been at this for about 8 years. I don’t really have an average day at work. During our season, which runs June-October, we ask that all residents, staff, and interns be present for three farm fresh communal meals. So I suppose those meals are the only real constant. Aside from the meals, my days are often chaotic, which I like, and busy busy busy. I work six days a week on season, and often wish that days were longer than 24 hours. Some of my work days are spent in dozens of meetings (phone or in person), other days ask that I do check-in with employees and interns, some days demand that I curate a residency program or a special dinner that we’re throwing, some include meeting with architects and builders regarding the buildings that we rent at the farm, and some are spent with funders and patrons. Part of what I love about my job is that my time is incredibly varied. I am not one for routine, so my days fit my disposition quite well. One of the more interesting things about my job is how much it has changed over seven years. In the beginning, everyone involved was a volunteer. As the years marched on, I became an employee, so it was me and a crew of hearty interns. In the past five years, we have grown the staff to five full time, and approximately 12 contractors and interns. So, what is on my plate has changed. I do a lot of management and visioning now—that wasn’t always the case.

What was your path to your job? 
I have a BFA in Acting and was pursuing it when I first visited Ryder Farm. The farm has been in my family since 1795, but I grew up in the middle of the country and didn’t step foot on the farm until 2009. At that time, I was in the middle of a community of theatre artists that I didn’t feel had the proper resources to create and develop new work. While I love NYC, I didn’t feel like the city itself was the most supportive place for artists and their work. I felt (and still feel) that people need literal and figurative time and space. When I visited the farm I saw an incredible place, one that my family had managed to hold onto since 1795. That said, it needed (and still needs) a tremendous amount of TLC. Those two needs—the artists’ and the farm’s—were individually rattling around in my brain until they crashed together and SPACE was conceived. I feel like I visited the farm at the exact right window of my life. I saw an opportunity and jumped. Because I was identifying as an actress at the time and SPACE was a side project, I think that lessened the pressure on SPACE. What started as a hobby became my career.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m pretty proud that SPACE exists. We’re in our 7th season now and looking back, the anthem of the first five years was, “Could it happen? Would people actually apply? Would folks support it? Could we make the necessary improvements to the buildings?” I feel like sometime last year, our 6th season, it became clear that SPACE had in fact “happened.” The fact that a scrappy group of artist volunteers, Board members with hearts of gold, and a family who was trustful enough to allow us access—that all of these different groups came together and were aligned is a miracle. At this point, SPACE has supported over 1,000 artists and activists, and that support has in turn supported a 222 year old farm.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in theatre? 
Hire women. Hire women. Hire women.

If you are a gatekeeper, give women opportunities. Put women in leadership positions. Populate your Board and Advisory Boards with women. If you aren’t a gatekeeper, think about and strategize how you can bend the ear of a gatekeeper you know. Encourage that person(s) to contemplate their hiring practices and their curation practices—we have to be having these conversations about equality.

I’m reading Hillary’s book, and this quote has stuck with me, “It is hard to be a woman. You must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a young girl, and work like a horse.” If this is true (which, given my experience, I find it to be) stop holding women to some superhuman and impossible standard!

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
I’ve got all sorts of dreams for my job. I suppose the biggest one, though, is that the Ryder Farm where we are housed sees another 222 years. And if art and culture and theatre can play a meaningful role in the survival of the farm, then that is a dream worth continuing to pursue.


Natasha Sinha
Associate Director of LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater


The Basics: Natasha Sinha is a producer and dramaturg, focusing on new plays, musicals, and devised work. She is the Associate Director of LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater, which exclusively produces premieres (including Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, Rude Mechs’ Stop Hitting Yourself, Dave Malloy’s PreludesWar by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Bull in a China Shop by Bryna Turner), and co-founder of Beehive Dramaturgy Studio. Prior to joining LCT3, she was the Associate Producer at Barrington Stage Company. Natasha is also on the Advisory Boards of Musical Theatre Factory and SPACE on Ryder Farm, and has served as a judge on award committees, taught classes, and curated events focused on inclusivity. Graduate of Barnard College.


Tell us a little about what you do. 
I’m the Associate Director of LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater, which means I work closely with the Artistic Director (the generous Evan Cabnet) to find, commission, develop, and produce new theatrical work by new artists. So I spend my days reading/seeing work, meeting with promising artists who may be right for LCT3, talking to agents, discussing how best to develop/produce our projects, and helping put all the pieces together. It’s perfect! So perfect that honestly all I want to do is more of it.

That’s why I also help artists develop outside projects and sit on selection committees/panels and help produce events (instead of sleeping! Just kidding. Sort of. Work/life balance is hard as a young woman in theatre). In the last year or so, I’ve brought some of my freelance work under the umbrella of Beehive Dramaturgy Studio, which I co-founded with Jeremy Stoller and Molly Marinik. Beehive is a collective of active dramaturgs, and we’ve started partnering with other theatres/organizations—such as Musical Theatre Factory, where I’ve been on the Advisory Board since the start. This season, Beehive is curating a reading series about intersecting identities for APAC, and we have other collaborations percolating.

I feel incredibly lucky because I get to hone skills and focus my passions without choosing one side of something versus the other. For example, I develop work dramaturgically, but I also produce. I work on disarmingly relevant plays, but I also work on surprising musicals. I work at a big institution to get significant resources into the hands of newer artists, and I also work at nimble little companies that can be really flexible in a scrappy way. By balancing all of this, I get to maintain perspective over the whole of the “new theatre” world here in NYC, which keeps me constantly revved up to find more ways to realistically support the artists who excite me.

What was your path to your job? 
I was “supposed to” be a doctor, so many years went by before I admitted my love of exploring humanity by watching characters live through an arc onstage that’s sculpted by elements like language and light and tone and style. And even more years went by before I learned what a producer really does or that there’s something called a “dramaturg” (ie: before I was aware that there was a place for me in theatre). I also hoped no one would notice that I looked very different from anyone I encountered in the theatre world—I was a shy and awkward Indian kid, so throwing myself into a pool of folks where I stood out (sort of more than ever before) was scary. I tried to wholly ignore it. Now all people want to talk about is how I’m a woman of color in theatre—but that wasn’t cool ‘n’ trendy ’til pretty recently!

I skipped my university graduation to start as the assistant to Mark Subias when he was operating out of his apartment. Over the next 10 months or so, Mark gave me a whirlwind crash course about the theatre industry. I was particularly intrigued by new play development superhero Paige Evans, and so he graciously set up a coffee meeting—and from then on, my dream was to work with Paige at the (then) upcoming LCT3. I worked at a couple more theatre agencies, always for the agents representing writers/directors/composers, since I craved the scripts that were waiting to be discovered. I read everything I could get my hands on. But I didn’t want to be an agent, so I soon fled to Barrington Stage Company, where Julie Boyd dubbed me a producer and trusted me to initiate and oversee all kinds of projects, for which I’m eternally grateful. I was doing a new short play festival when I got a call from Paige, saying she was finally able to hire an associate at LCT3. It was literally a dream come true.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I’m happiest I pursued this whole theatre thing any time I land on a question that unlocks what an artist is trying to figure out—structurally, tonally, etc. And what’s most important to me is to combine strong, intentional, and theatrical storytelling with inclusivity. For example, I co-moderate MTF’s People of Color Representation Roundtable, which is a monthly forum exclusively for musical theatre artists of color. It’s a safe space for the folks who join us, and I feel that part of my role is to illuminate the pathways out of that space and into the rest of MTF and the theatre world at large. Starting the Roundtable last year led to our concert showcase at Joe’s Pub where every song was written by musical theatre writers of color. It was also a total dream to commission Michael R. Jackson and Grace McLean to write new musicals for LCT3—I’d dramaturged work for them on a freelance basis, but it’s important to me that writers of all genders and races (and etc., etc.) aren’t limited to “downtown”/smaller/niche spaces, since those often offer fewer resources and less visibility. Musical theatre—and anything else, really—won’t fully reflect our world until everyone has equal access to a seat at the main table. So I’m proud to have made it to a level where I can center the kinds of talented artists who have historically been omitted or marginalized. If everyone is clamoring for the one non-male/non-white spot in a theatre’s season, there are still drastically fewer opportunities for non-male/non-white artists to learn through experience—plus, then there’s no chance at seeing the deeper complexities within a given community, and the beautiful diversity within diversity. I find it frustrating when outrage about America today doesn’t translate to action via power and privilege in the community where you choose to spend your life. That’s what we need now. We all know what to do. We don’t need to waste energy on endless panels and think-pieces. We need consistent action, at all levels. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but I’m not satisfied—there’s a lot more to do.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
Just program more plays that aren’t by men. It’s pretty simple. Give directors and designers the chance to continually grow from production experience. They’ll make mistakes sometimes—that’s okay. Men do, too. Make sure a story about a woman isn’t written/directed exclusively by men (Bizarre). Listen to women. Don’t perpetuate stereotypes. Let women be wonderful, flawed, and complete human beings, just like—gasp—in real life! And I’m asking this of all genders in power. No one is immune. Gender inequality is a systemic problem and its effects trickle into the ways we all think and behave. So let’s be vigilant!

Instead of being trusted to grow into a bigger role with time, a woman behind the scenes generally has to be extraordinary, prove more specific skills, and rack up much more experience to get the same opportunities that a man is trusted with sooner and more easily. There’s less faith, even if it’s not outright. There’s also the balance of being personable yet also presenting an air of authority. Also helps to not be too young, or, probably, too old. We waste time proving ourselves worthy of responsibility, and sometimes just respect. Getting more significant leadership opportunities earlier would be lovely, instead of a delayed arrival combined with the pressure to be perfect right out of the gate. Learning curves are learning curves for any gender. We’re strong, focused, and resilient—we had no other choice for how to be if we wanted to even get to where we are now—so why wouldn’t you want us as leaders? I’ve worked with people who saw that in me and gave me a chance to get to where I am today, but I’ve been lucky! The strongest leaders I’ve ever known have been women. I spent years working closely with Artistic Directors Paige Evans (Signature Theatre, formerly LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater) and Julie Boyd (Barrington Stage Company). They have very different styles, but it takes real intelligence and savvy to marry artistic dreams with reality, and they each have smart, decisive, and thoughtful ways to navigate all of that.

And I’m in awe of any theatre person who manages to raise another human being. Can’t we help those parents out?!

Lastly: intersectionality. Gender parity is not all we need, and that alone won’t solve our community’s deeply-rooted problems. In theatre, or in America, or in the world.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
Oh, I have Gmail drafts full o’ dreams! Let’s see… type of show? I’ve always been curious about working on something great that I feel connected to and which is about India, and so I’m excited to dramaturg an upcoming international Mahabharata adaptation with Why Not Theatre. Implementing a program? Sure, I’d love to find a way to give 3-week staged developmental workshops to inspired new writers and directors—particularly from all those underrepresented demographics. Expanding what I’m doing? Yes, please! However possible!

A structural change in theatre in general? Just that white cis men aren’t the default—purely because I want theatre to reflect our world! Again, it’s pretty simple. There’s been a lot of language around all of this, but at the end of the day, I hope more and more people find active ways to use their particular power to push for a theatre community that more accurately represents our real-life community. It won’t be easy and mistakes will happen and we’ll need to figure out the answers to questions that never came up before—that’s actually great, in my opinion. Growing pains are a great sign.

I want to push the envelope and support work that challenges, but still engages mainstream/relatively-mainstream audiences. Personally, I love seeing experimental work, but perhaps because I landed in institutional theatre, I’m curious about thoughtfully and continually stretching who and what are seen as “mainstream.” I want to work on theatre that preserves as much of our world’s plurality and digs into as much of its complexity as possible. I think seeing stories like that can grow our empathy. Plays can crack open a big or small truth about the world, so I don’t want to waste that by preaching to the choir or pandering. I want to support the brilliant artists who are asking us to consider new perspectives, so that audiences of all kinds have access to a wider range of stories.


Jennifer Ashley Tepper
Creative and Programming Director at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Author of The Untold Stories of Broadway book series.


The Basics: Jennifer Ashley Tepper is the Creative and Programming Director at Feinstein’s/54 Below, where she has curated or produced over 3,000 shows, including musicals in concert, original solo acts, theatrical reunions, songwriter celebrations, and more. As a writer, Tepper has authored three volumes of The Untold Stories of Broadway series, published by Dress Circle. NBC New York has called the books an “inspiring Must-Read.” On Broadway, Tepper has worked on [title of show], The Performers, Godspell, and Macbeth. In addition, she’s the co-creator of the Bistro Award-winning concert series, If It Only Even Runs A Minute, now in its 7th year. She collaborates often with the group known as Joe Iconis & Family.

Follow Her: jenniferashleytepper.com , Instagram: @JenAshTep, Twitter: @JenAshTep


Tell us a little about what you do. 
As the Creative and Programming Director at Feinstein’s/54 Below, I’m responsible for arranging the 16-20 performances we have at our venue every week. From solo concerts, to musicals in concert, to songwriters presenting their work; from established Broadway legends, to up-and-coming stars-to-watch, to brand new emerging artists—all of the content that ends up on our stage is essentially under my jurisdiction.

On a typical day, I might reach out to artists I think are worthwhile with an invitation to make their solo debuts, give a concert producer advice on casting his musical, negotiate contracts with agents as far as an artist’s ticket price, fee, and number of performances, oversee logistics for a complicated production that involves multiple departments, seek out producers to facilitate show ideas I have on my wish list, make offers including specific time slots to artists based on their show proposals, answer questions from upcoming shows, collaborate with our marketing team to make a positive impact on ticket sales, invite headliners to return and discuss a new show with them, and lead our programming team in facilitating the hundreds of upcoming shows successfully. And that’s just a sample day!

I love that I get to advocate for performers, writers, and material I believe in by giving them support and a stage. It is always interesting to figure out the best way to make each performance the most positive experience possible for both the artist and the audience. And it’s fulfilling to give audience members a special experience that they will remember, find new audiences for worthwhile work, and connect creative people for the first time who go on to continue to collaborate. I love when people on stage or in the audience tell me how meaningful a show here was to them.

I also work as a theatre historian and have authored three volumes of the book series The Untold Stories of Broadway. For those, I have interviewed over 250 theatre professionals about their experiences working in each Broadway house. Theatre by theatre, readers get to hear from actors, stage hands, producers, ushers, directors, musicians, and so on with their stories that took place there, and also history and discoveries I’ve made.

What was your path to your job? 

I always knew what I wanted to do was be a theatre historian who also made theatre happen. That’s not a job that you can apply for or major in, so I had to carve my own path every step of the way. I majored in Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts because I loved theatre and writing, but it was a department for playwrights and screenwriters and I was sitting in class going, “I want to dissect the different versions of Follies” to crickets.

I started to create my own education almost immediately, and New York City became my campus. I would go to every show I could and absorb everything like a sponge. Any time NYU had comps to a production in previews, I would attend multiple times and take notes on the changes. I created my own theatre piece at NYU where I got to work hands-on with students from other departments on musical theatre material and I invited writers whose material we featured to come speak to us. I gave myself reading assignments of several books a month that were not part of the class curriculum. During school and after graduation, I pursued internships and volunteer jobs with a wide assortment of theatre organizations, from the York Theatre, to BC/EFA, to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, to the Actor’s Fund, to [title of show]. I wrote to theatre professionals I admired and asked if I could assist, be a gofer, observe.

All of this active and self-motivated work started leading to paid jobs and a career—but not quickly. I stayed at it and was lucky enough to have a very supportive family, and the kind of energy and motivation that allowed me to pursue all of this after I graduated while also juggling day jobs like tutoring and babysitting.

It was definitely a challenge to maintain the faith that I would get to employ my specific set of skills, while other friends either A) had a full-time entry level job in the area they were pursuing or, B) knew their specific and easily explainable goal (to act, to write, to direct) and had tangible means of achieving it. But I just continued to put my passion out into the world proudly and loudly, for everything from underappreciated Broadway musicals to new musical theatre, and believed that my knowledge and dedication would lead me somewhere excellent.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
I am most proud that I’ve been able to amplify the voices of artists I believe in. In 2009, the year after I graduated college, I started working with musical theatre writer Joe Iconis on all of his concerts and shows and projects. I believe in his work so much, and think his shows deserve to be seen in New York in a huge way. Everything I’ve been able to do over the years to promote his voice and his musicals has made me feel proud.

In 2009, I also started the concert series If It Only Even Runs A Minute (Our 17th edition is coming up at Feinstein’s/54 Below in January!). We celebrate underappreciated musicals by sharing stories, songs, and photos from them, including many by original cast members and writers of the shows. I’m so proud of the way that we’ve been able to bring forgotten musicals of the past back into the spotlight.

And both of these things helped me learn and lay the groundwork for what I’m now able to do as Creative and Programming Director of Feinstein’s/54 Below, which is to present a significant volume of both work by new musical theatre writers and also underappreciated shows of the past. My hands-on experience with both Joe Iconis and with Runs A Minute helped me understand the best ways to advocate for all new writers and rare shows.

I love that I’ve been able to bring theatre I believe in to folks who have never experienced it before, and that I’m able to give artists I think are worthwhile a platform to share their work.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
I would love it if people stopped insisting that theatre can only be made by people who look and act like the characters. Ideally, there would be gender, race, and all forms of equality across the board in terms of writers, directors, actors, and other creatives and employees who are hired. That should be done in a thoughtful way. But I think it is self-defeating and misunderstanding of what art is when people say, “I don’t want those men to write a story about women,” or, “I don’t want that white director to direct a show about black characters.” No matter how unequal the personnel landscape may be, that messaging is not helpful to anyone in the long run.

What we should say is, “I want there to be more female writers on Broadway,” or, “I want more black directors to have opportunities.” But reducing the equality conversation to say that any story can only be created by people who are the same “type” implies that we think women should only write about women as well. And I don’t want to ever imply that! I want to see women writing about men and black artists directing shows with white casts and actors who identify as LGBTQ+ playing straight characters. I want to see people creating stories about others who are different nationalities and religions than they are. I want to see theatre that is well researched and displays the empathy that people from different backgrounds can have for an experience that is not technically “theirs” if they really seek to understand it.

No one loves autobiographical art more than me. I love authenticity in theatre and count shows like The Heidi Chronicles and Rent and Elegies: A Song Cycle among my favorite work. But that doesn’t mean all theatre needs to be like this, or that theatre needs to be like this in order to be good.

If what genuinely inspires a male writer is a story about a woman, he should write it. We should also have more female writers being produced. But these two things do not contradict each other, and to imply they do is to narrow the scope of what art is, and set up a limitation for female writers that is actually damaging. The majority of popular Christmas songs were written by Jews. Art is about seeking to understand and elevate an experience different than yours. Put a woman on your creative team because you want her talent in all regards, not because you want her perspective specifically on women.

If you find the execution of a piece of art to be misogynistic, inaccurate, or inauthentic, that’s completely valid—but you can’t judge it by the person who created it before you see it.

Another thing I think we’re not talking about is why we don’t have more revivals of shows by women. Do you know who Rachel Crothers is? She had 31 Broadway productions as a playwright produced in her lifetime. 31! These were all between 1906 and 1943. She was considered an incredibly important trailblazing feminist playwright at the time. And yet we haven’t seen a revival of any of her plays on Broadway in over 70 years. Why? I think that one of the reasons for this is that theatre by members of marginalized communities has not usually “aged” as well as theatre by straight white men. A woman’s experience has changed much more than a man’s has in the last 70 years, and thus a play from a woman’s perspective that chronicles life at that time is often seen as “dated” or not as relevant to today’s audiences. We have to combat this. I think audiences are smart enough to watch a play by a woman written in 1920 and understand its context and import, even if certain aspects are not directly applicable to life in 2017.

I think it’s worth mentioning that for similar reasons, we never see any of the worthwhile musicals that were written by black artists in the first 40 years of the 20th century. They are too “unlike” what we are used to seeing today, and many would find black artists’ articulation of their own experiences 100 years ago offensive today, so we just erase this history by never producing it. It’s a shame.

Much of the focus in the gender equality conversation is on supporting current female writers. I think it would have immense value if effort was made to revive the work of past female writers as well, within a knowledgeable framework. It’s also a domino effect. We are far more familiar with the male playwrights we revive because we’ve been doing that for so long, and thus they have the brand names to sell tickets.

Theatre is the best, most alive time machine we have. It can take a person to a different era entirely, in real time—so, let it. Critics, producers, directors, influencers, audience members, citizens: do not insist that everything you see needs to relate directly to you, in an obvious way, in the moment you’re seeing it. That is limiting. And re-think what you find offensive. If a play by a woman written 100 years ago seems anti-feminist under a 2017 lens, explore why that is rather than cheering on a play by a man instead that is not “problematic” in the same ways, because the male experience has not evolved in the same ways.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
My dream is to continue to expand the ways that I can present both new musicals I believe in and underappreciated musicals of the past. And to continue to expand the ways that I can advocate for writers of both as well.


Alexis Williams
Literary Agent, Bret Adams Ltd.


The Basics: Alexis Williams is a literary agent at Bret Adams Artists’ Agency, a New York based agency representing actors, playwrights, directors, composers, and designers. Before joining Bret Adams, Alexis held positions at McCarter Theatre, Contemporary Stage Company, and served as Literary Manager for Detroit’s Planet Ant Theatre. In her time in the theatre she has worked as a director, a producer, a dramaturg, a teaching artist, and has assumed multiple other roles in the industry. Alexis is on the advisory board of SPACE on Ryder Farm, is an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Tell us a little about what you do. 
I’m a literary agent in the theatre, representing playwrights, designers, directors, composers, choreographers, and beyond.

So the question everyone asks: what exactly does that mean I do? In my mind, an agent is another champion for an artist and their work. Someone to say, “Hey, do you know this artist? I think they’re great! And could be great for you—and here’s why.” My job is primarily two-fold: promoting artists and their work, and protecting artists and their work. There’s also a healthy dash of guidance/consultation along the way.

Days are generally spent reading and going to see clients’ work, telling producers about artists and their projects (who I’m telling varies case by case, as every artist is different, every project is different, every institution and what they’re looking for is different), inviting folks to clients’ productions, workshops, readings—that’s the promotion part.

Days are also spent making sure client contracts look above board, and negotiating terms according to industry standards and where priorities lie for each specific project—that’s the protection part.

The consultation / guidance can be anything from providing dramaturgical feedback on drafts of scripts to advising an artist on how to best navigate a conflict with a collaborator to helping a playwright decide which theatre should produce their world premiere.

Before stumbling into the world of agenting I had a very specific image of what agents were/did/how they behaved (think Jeremy Piven in Entourage or Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire). I pictured brash men barking, “That’s not enough!” into the phone while doing blow off of an expensive desk and hurling staplers at a terrified assistant. I’ve happily learned that that’s not it at all. It’s truly just about supporting your clients—advising them on what may or may not be achievable, guiding them towards smart paths to take moving forward. That’s pretty easy to do when you’re excited about the work and when you also really like your clients as human beings—and I’ve been very lucky on both fronts!

What was your path to your job? 
I’m from metro Detroit, and growing up, my folks had subscriptions to theatres, symphonies, opera, we would go up to the Stratford Festival every summer, and I just loved it. I caught the bug.

I acted in plays throughout high school and my junior year even tried to put together a production of Uncle Vanya with friends I had coerced. That only lasted two rehearsals—a blessing to theatre in cafetoriums everywhere. I went on to study theatre at Northwestern, where my focus swiftly became directing (my college swan song was a production of Equus starring a pre-Friday Night Lights 19-year-old Zach Gilford). I graduated, freelanced, and did a year-long directing/producing internship at the fabulous McCarter Theatre. At the end of that year, I realized the stamina of freelance life wasn’t for me—I wanted to put down roots. I also realized there were other ways one could remain in the industry and continue to champion artists. And so I fell into the land of agenting.

The first few months of the gig were challenging. I understand things best when I see how all the pieces ultimately fit together, and the gestation period of a new play in the agent world is so long—from first draft of a script to, hopefully, the first of many opening nights. It’s much longer than the process I’d experienced as a director. I often was unsure how each individual task fit into the greater scheme; couple that with learning all about industry standards and unions, and it was a lot.

The agent gig clicked when I first saw a completed life cycle of a project. Eight years ago, I read Kathryn Grant’s new play The Good Counselor, submitted it for Premiere Stage’s New Play Festival, it was selected, I negotiated contract terms with the theatre, I saw it produced—and then there was the unexpected bonus of seeing it published by Samuel French thereafter. I saw how each part of the puzzle was a greater part of the whole, and it all fell into place in a very rewarding, tangible way. I still have that script on my bookshelf.

So far in your career, what’s the thing you’re most proud of?
It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but there is one common theme I’ve noticed. While I adore working with my more established clients, there’s always a real thrill that comes at that moment when you’ve been working with an emerging client from the very beginning—like before the greater theatre community even knew their name beginning—and you start to send the work around and eventually see them getting some traction.

The first time I experienced that was when, after two and a half years of working together and watching him steadily get encouraging feedback about his work, Nick Gandiello nabbed the P73 Fellowship—and I’ve been lucky enough to witness similar moments again and again with many incredible clients.

I love those moments when theatres call out of the blue to say, “I just read so-and-so’s play. I loved it!”; moments when those artists newer to the scene start to get those awards, productions, rave reviews; heck, even when I get a really positive pass letter from the first time I’m sending a new client’s work around—when the Goodman writes to say, “We’re not doing this play, but WOW what a voice. Who is this artist?! Tell us more and please do keep us posted on them and the work.” That’s really cool.

It’s easy to feel like you’re sometimes sending plays out into the theatrical void, but those moments remind me that I’m not, that each submission can have a tangible result, a connection forged, a step forward in an artist’s career. It’s always thrilling and makes me feel both unbelievably proud of and happy for my clients, and also reassures me that sometimes I just might have good taste.

What’s something you think the theatre community can do to help improve gender equality in the industry? 
I think acknowledging the problem is the first step to finding a solution. I do think that some companies are at least starting to do so. Organizations like the Kilroys are amazing and helping the situation significantly by calling attention to the problem and offering up baller plays as a resource to aid in the solution.

Often these days when I’m talking to theatres and asking what they’re reading for, folks will say, “Always looking for great new plays by women and writers of color,” so that is step one, at least. The key is for that acknowledgment to not just be lip service, but to actually result in productions. Notice I say productions; putting a production-ready script in a theatre’s reading series for its 6th developmental reading doesn’t count.

Also, if we’re talking about diversity overall and not only gender parity, having one play by a writer of color in your season—some August Wilson play that runs in February—doesn’t count. If you’re at a theatre and programming a season and notice that all the plays in your season in are by white men, well, you need to go back to the drawing board and find some more plays. There’s plenty of fantastic work out there by women and writers of color.

Additionally, there’s the question of the theatre administration—the folks calling the shots. The percentage of leadership roles held by women in institutional theatre is around 25%. We need to do better. I also think we’re at a very interesting moment. There’s something like 20+ open (or soon to be open) Artistic Director gigs in the American Theatre right now, which I think is a real opportunity to instill some exciting change if theatres choose to seize the moment.

Do you have a dream project/dream for your job?
Of the many hats I wear as an agent, I think my favorite is that of a new play shepherd. I’ve found a way to use that both on the job and outside of it—I’m on the advisory boards for SPACE on Ryder Farm and Northwestern’s MFA program, have done panels and speaking engagements for the Musical Theatre Factory, InterAct,curated a few salons, helped produce a few shows here and there. Back in my freelance days I started up a late night series at a theatre in Metro Detroit. Before that, I charged a handful of emerging writers to create an evening of new short plays around a common theme.

Recently, I’ve been plotting the idea of putting together a writers’ group for folks a step away from emerging but who I wouldn’t quite call “mid-career” yet. I feel like in this industry there’s a real penchant for the very famous or the new, bright, and shiny. And while there are lot of amazing (and very necessary) available groups in NYC for emerging writers (Ars Nova’s Play Group, Emerging Writers Group at the Public, Youngblood, P73, to name a few), there are far fewer of those opportunities for folks who have “graduated” from a handful of those programs, folks who have had a few productions but are still wanting some sort of theatrical home, or even just deadlines, feedback, and a community. I can think of maybe one or two that exist but I think there’s space for more and would love to start one up.