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Theater company managers manage live on- and off-Broadway theatrical productions, touring productions and sometimes productions in regional theaters across the country. They take care of the day-to-day operations so that the artistic team, including a production’s director and its actors, can focus on the production itself.
A company manager's responsibilities include taking care of personnel, including actors, musicians and production staff. Other responsibilities include overseeing contract negotiations, arranging travel and lodging and making sure that everyone gets paid. In an interview with Pia Lindstrom of the American Theatre Wing, company manager Lisa M. Poyer said that her primary responsibility is taking care of the behind-the-scenes details to help keep the show on time and under budget. Company managers work closely with a production’s technical team, to help bring the director’s vision to life and make sure that everything is in place for opening night and beyond.
Budgeting and Communications
Company managers make most of the financial decisions related to a production. They develop a production's budget and keep the production from exceeding it. This may include negotiating pricing with vendors, such as those providing cleaning and catering services. They also liaise with a production’s marketing department. If an actor in the production wants to give tickets to friends and family, the company manager will make sure that the tickets are at the box office. If the marketing department wants to set up an interview between a publication and a member of the artistic team, the company manager will make it happen.
You can study theater management in college. Students at the Theatre School at DePaul University, for example, can earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject. The four-year program covers understanding the theatrical process, performing arts management, financial management, marketing, human resources and strategic planning. It also includes internship opportunities at companies in Chicago and other cities. Students enrolled in the University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre and Dance can earn a master’s degree in theater management. Students here supplement theater and dance management classes with business and communications classes.
Training and Experience
How much previous experience you need to work as a theater’s company manager will vary by theater. The Harford Dance Theatre expects its company managers to have at least an associate degree and between one and three years of administration and events management experience. The Spoleto Festival prefers that its company managers have experience in arts administration and large-scale event coordination. Randy Meyer, the company manager for the U.S. national tour of Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” told South Carolina’s ETV that supplementing a business background with hands-on theater experience will help you succeed as a company manager.
Company managers must be organized, able to work well with others as well as independently, and skilled communicators. You need to be comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and able to spot and solve problems quickly. If you love theatrical productions, all the better, as you’ll spend much of your time watching them, first during rehearsals, then on opening night and on subsequent nights, making sure that the show, as they say, goes on.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.