When you go see a play or musical there are many people who have worked together to make that production a success. Of course, we all know the actors and actresses are on-stage sharing the words that the playwright has created, carrying out the vision of the director, singing the notes and sharing the emotions conceived by the composer and lyricist. There are the technicians who are executing the plan from the sound and lighting designers; there are the hair, make-up and wardrobe workers who help the performers become their roles; there are musicians in the pit to create a backdrop for the singers. Additionally, there are the ushers who hand out the programs and help audience members find their seats, there are concession workers providing snacks and drinks to patrons, and there are the box office staff selling tickets and season subscriptions. However, who oversees all of these people?
Who is it that makes sure that a show runs smoothly? Enter the Theatre Manager. Large theatre companies have numerous roles in upper management that ensure that a production is executed to its best abilities. The Theatre Manager typically oversees the day-to- day operations of the theatre. When it’s time to hire new technicians, the Theatre Manager will work with their human resources department to compose the job posting, review the resumes of candidates and help conduct the interviews. Once they get hired, they make sure employees go through the proper training for their position. As productions come into their venue, the Theatre Manager will usually schedule the technicians according to the contract agreements and ensure that the technicians receive proper payment through their time sheets and skill levels. As outside companies look to use a venue, the Theatre Manager is the one that prospective renters will meet with to see if the venue is the best for that particular production.
They will give tours of the facility to show all areas available for use: the stage, the box office, and the dressing rooms. Using their expertise, they may help companies understand what technical needs there will be for the production or what limitations the venue may have. If the users decide the venue will work for their production, they will submit an application to the Theatre Manager. From there, the Theatre Manager will look at the master calendar to ensure the production can be held at the desired time, create an estimate and contract to be agreed upon by both parties, and schedule the technicians and house staff. For some organizations, the Theatre Manager is the first person to arrive at the venue and the last one to leave. They have to make sure that all areas needed by the production are open and available; after the production they help do a sweep through the house to make sure there are no lost items.
As mentioned, one of the most important aspects of a Theatre Manager’s job is maintaining the master calendar. The master calendar will have the schedule of venue use: this may include rehearsals, productions, tours, or classes taught at the venue, with the goal of hosting the outside organizations on their preferred date(s), but there are times when something else is booked on that day. The Theatre Manager will then present potential alternative dates to the organization, the goal being able to work together with their renters. Another key element of being a Theatre Manager is being out in the community and supporting other organizations. For large companies, this aspect of the job is usually reserved for the Executive Director. If there isn’t an Executive Director, the Theatre Manager is the “face” of the organization. A Theatre Manager may also have to apply for grants that will allow the organization to create programming or improve the venue. They will have meetings with local government officials to develop a working relationship, they will meet with local business owners to establish potential sponsorship opportunities, and they will support other arts organizations. If there are non-profit organizations that work to help support programming at the venue, the Theatre Manger will attend those meetings to provide insight to the day-to-day operations or offer their expertise on how to execute the plans of the organization. The arts truly are a collaborative industry, everyone needs each other to survive.
One of the most inspiring qualities of theatre is all the dedication from so many people working together to put on a production. A Theatre Manager needs to have the skills to run the theatre like a business yet still understand how to maintain the artistic integrity of the productions that use the venue. While productions come and go out of a venue, the Theatre Manager gets to stay to see the next piece of theatre magic come in to create new memories.
About the Author: Tom Lund
Tom Lund has been active in the local theatre community for 26 years, starting with the CTG, way up at the Sierra Highway location. Over those years he has performed in over 60 different productions and has worked on over 40 different productions as a lighting designer, vocal director, stage manager, assistant director, and director. Over the past 3 years, Tom has worked as the Theatre Manager for the newly renovated Newhall Family Theatre for the Performing Arts located at Newhall Elementary School in 2017. During that time, he has helped guide NFT to be one of the go-to performance venues in the Santa Clarita Valley. The Newhall Family Theatre is a state-of-the-art venue with over 500 seats, hosts performances for schools within the Newhall School District, and is available to rent by local organizations.
About the Curator: Olive Branch Theatricals
Olive Branch Theatricals is a 501c3 non-profit theatre in Santa Clarita. The OBT Team created the Backdrop9 Blog to build a spirit of collaboration and understanding within the local community. If you are passionate about theatre, and have something to contribute to Backdrop9, please contact us.
Olive Branch Theatricals, a believer in unity throughout the local arts community. Our passion for theatre and performing arts has extended our reach into various community programs including our sensory friendly theatre program, our ASL Interpretation Program, our ticket sponsorship program, and our community vocal group, Portfolio.