Earlier this week I followed one of our incredible Anastasia Company Managers Kimberly Kelley over to The Broadhurst Theatre to shadow her on the job. In this post, along with describing my nearly life-changing experience, I'm going to do my best to even scratch the surface of what a Company Manager does, but there is a reason those duties are only even summarized in entire novels devoted to Broadway general management.
On our walk down to The Broadhurst Theatre from the RCI office on Times Square, I'm able to ask Kim some questions about her work and experience (check out her IMPRESSIVE list of credits here: https://goo.gl/LqwyZq ). Company Managers are, more or less, liaisons between all aspects of the production. From ensuring the box office is running in tip-top shape, to making sure all members of the cast are happy, healthy, and being treated under Actor's Equity rules, Company Managers have their heart and soul in every aspect of a Broadway show from the first rehearsal to the closing night party. Kim has been in NYC for a while now, having moved here from her hometown of Chicago, where working in the theater industry continues to be a passion and source of excitement for her.
Walking up to the stage door of any Broadway theatre is a special and exciting moment, but none more so, I think, than that of The Broadhurst's. Just before the 1,143-person house opens for a packed Wednesday matinee performance of Anastasia, a line of families and patrons from all over the world, electrified with excitement, winds around the block. Anastasia brings a particularly special crowd of families, whose young ones are about to have their first real Broadway experience. The lights, the bright and spectacular costumes and the beautiful and authentic performances are about to be branded forever in their first memories of New York City.
Kim and I cut through the line forming around the corner from Shubert Alley to the stage door. As we enter the stage door, I can't help but notice the eyes of those families looking and wondering "who are those people?" I decide for now to let them believe that I am more than just an intern.
So here I am, back stage in a real Broadway theatre. My first feeling is of a large naval ship, with narrow stairwells connecting each deck, and notice boards where Union and Equity information echo of crew and cargo manifests. I feel the halls resonating with excitement (or... maybe it's just me) and follow Kim closely as we wind down one of the metal staircases to the lowest level of the theatre. Our first task is checking in with every department for any concerns, complaints or otherwise. It soon becomes clear why Kim is known to be so incredible at her job. She is a master at being kind and open, and in a high stress and close quarters environment such as Broadway, a person like that is a breath of fresh air and (to keep going with the ship metaphor) keeps the wind in everybody's sails. I follow her through the lowest level of The Broadhurst where the costume and sound departments, orchestra pit, and stage management offices are located. The entire building is full with a warm feeling of camaraderie. When meeting with everybody, it becomes clear why: everyone here loves what they do and why they do it. As Kim checks in with every department, she introduces me (me! An intern!) and I have the opportunity to learn even more about the day-to-day of a Broadway theatre.
"Fifteen minutes to places," is called by the stage manager over the loudspeaker and the theatre begins to bustle with activity. Members of the orchestra start filing into the pit, and actors with last minute costuming needs make their way to the costume shop. I follow Kim up another even smaller staircase and find ourselves in the stage left wing. Looking up, I'm startled to see the massive set pieces hanging from the ceiling! The backstage is an incredible system of tracks and cranes that are designed to efficiently move the massive set pieces quickly and quietly.
Kim starts walking through the wing and onto the stage. I follow suit to center stage and suddenly stop in my tracks. The 1,143 person house was nearly full at this point and through the proscenium stage's curtain I can hear the chatter and feel the excitement for the art that is about to take place: the extraordinary shared experience of theatre at the highest level happening live on stage.
"Kim," I hear my voice crack. "I'm really trying to be cool about this, but I am totally freaking out right now".
"Don't worry," Kim serenely responds. "I've been doing this for years and sometimes even I have to take a moment".
The actors take to the stage to run choreography and Kim begins checking in with them individually to respond to any questions and comments they have. Again, Kim introduces me and I try my best to be professional.
We finally exit the stage and walk through the corridor to the Box Office. This is the main reason for Kim's visit today: to verify the Box Office Statement.
The Broadway Box Office Statement is essential to a clear understanding of how well the thousands of aspects of putting on a Broadway show are working together. The Box Office Statement requires three signatures to be verified: that of the Company Manager on behalf of the Producer, the Theatre Manager, and the Theatre Treasurer. It compiles the gross and net profits from each performance into a comprehensive report that is to be sent to the theatre owners for their financial records (in the case of The Broadhurst, the The Shubert Organization). Kim also looks at another report that chronicles all the ways tickets have been sold for each performance: Group sales, special promotions, "comps" (I've learned on Broadway there is no such thing as a free ticket), any type of discount and full price tickets. The Company Manager's part in this is to meticulously verify that there are no discrepancies in the way people have purchased tickets. For example, if a promo code has been used that should no longer be active, or if an actor has been allowed more than their allotted house seats that week. In other words, she ensures there aren't any stowaways hiding in a barrel of spreadsheets (I will never be done with the ship thing).
Kim says her goodbyes and we make our way out of the box office, through the stage door and on to the street. Kim turns to me and asks me if I would like to stop in and watch a few minutes of the show. I had already seen the production as a perk of interning at RCI, but it seemed silly to say no. We duck through the main entrance and stand in the back of the house right as the curtain is lifted. Throughout the opening number, it occurs to me what I had just seen.
I had just met dozens of the hundreds of people involved with Anastasia who are all working close together to create some of the most anticipated and sought after theatrical productions in the WORLD. Eight times a week, every single person backstage and on-stage puts their passions and strengths into creating what is unfolding in front of an audience of over 1,000 people. Throughout Broadway's 41 Theaters and the streets of New York City, thousands of people create an art that is enjoyed by millions of theatre-goers from all over the world.
This is an industry that can known for its divas and drama, but for any one of those moments there are a thousand beautiful and hardworking individuals striving to create something on stage that will make others laugh, cry, and maybe most importantly...
Thank you so much for checking out the RCI Intern blog! Be sure to check back for updates on what life is like as an intern in a Broadway General Management Office!
~ Emery Major