‘I’m still that kid who can’t believe this is happening.’
“When I was 7, my mom took me to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ I had to get dressed up with a jacket and bowtie. I remember her saying, ‘You have to sit still, and you can’t make noise because this is live and they can hear you.’ It scared me! On the way out she said, ‘I have never seen you sit so still! I’m going to have to take you to more shows!’ At 9, I realized theater is what I wanted to do.
“I couldn’t sing or dance, but I intuitively guessed that there must be someone who’s in charge of all of the moving parts. I’d see shows on Broadway and touring shows on Long Island. I went to SUNY Oneonta and traveled into the city four times a year for a seminar from the [American] Theatre Wing about working in theater. One day, Isabelle Stevenson came up to me and said, ‘You’re here all the time. Are you in the business?’ I said, ‘No, but I’m desperate to get into it. I love theater!’ She told me about a new MFA [master of fine arts] program at Columbia University in arts management. I thought my interview there couldn’t have gone worse. They said, ‘It’s a very competitive program. Why should we admit you?’ I blurted out, ‘Because no one wants it more or will work harder than me.’ To my surprise, I was accepted!
I still get excited every time I see a theater and I watch people enter it.
“I shadowed a stage manager and interned in a box office and as Sheryl Lee Ralph’s assistant during ‘Dreamgirls.’ I got a job managing operations at Minetta Lane Theatre and worked my way up until I came on board ‘Jelly’s Last Jam’ as an associate. Thirty years later, I’m very proud of the work I’ve done, including ‘Kinky Boots’ and ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie.’ I’m bringing over ‘Life of Pi’ from London and working on the revival of ‘Here Lies Love.’
“I’m still that kid who can’t believe this is happening. Even after two Tonys, I think I suffered from impostor syndrome. I’m finally able to look at my shows and know I helped create wonderful stories that will live on. I’ve learned that I have the capacity to be anxious and effective at the same time and to face my fears. Someone mentioned retirement. I know it will be time to retire when I walk into a theater and I don’t feel a butterfly in my stomach. I still get excited every time I see a theater and I watch people enter it.”
Interviewed by Iris Wiener