Nathan Schachter, Summer Intern, UConn ’19
Aside from the many actors, directors, and designers employed by the Playhouse on Park for each show, there are many people who work daily year-round to keep our wonderful theatre running! I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mollie Cook, Stage Manager and Box Office Manager, to hear about the day to day routine of running a non-profit theatre.
Tell me about yourself!
I graduated from UMass Amherst in 2014 with a BA in Theater. I intentionally didn’t try to get a BFA and fail. I love golden retrievers a lot, and soon I’m moving to New York City!
How long have you been at the Playhouse?
I’ve been working here for six and a half years.
What was your first job here?
My first job was Assistant Stage Manager and Wardrobe Chief for Trapezium. It was the last show of our first season in 2010.
What is your daily routine like here at the Playhouse?
It depends on what I’m doing because I have many different jobs here. As Stage Manager and during rehearsals, I may not even be at the theatre. However, on a normal day, I come in at 10. The first thing I do is check my email (and I usually have a lot!). I check the phone for any messages and check the ticketing system for any unprinted tickets to be printed and sorted. I then sit and wait for any customers to come in or call to buy tickets! Basically, I make sure everything goes smoothly in the box office and answer anyone’s questions about the Playhouse.
What is the process like before a show opens?
As a stage manager, in order to get a show up, I coordinate and make sure everything that’s supposed to happen, happens. It’s hard to describe because there are so many different tasks that come under one umbrella – sending lots of emails, networking with people, emotionally supporting a whole cast and crew. I like to think of myself as the parent of the production, but that’s not a great analogy because it implies a difference in status and it’s not. I consider everyone – actors, directors, designers – to be on the same level doing different jobs.
What is it like being involved both in the office and on a production?
It’s actually really rewarding because I can experience the full breadth of what theatre has to offer. I really like stage managing but there’s an isolating quality about sitting by myself in a dark booth all the time. I like being in the box office – in the LIGHT – interacting with people. One of my favorite things is when patrons give me honest feedback about the show, but they don’t know I’m also the Stage Manager. Most people wouldn’t get to hear that they messed up a lighting cue or that something went wrong in the show. It’s interesting to have these kinds of interactions being on both side of the business. Both satisfy very different professional interests.
What’s the most challenging part about working for a theatre?
Artistic personalities! Both of my jobs are about management and being organized. I love arts people, but they’re so focused on their work that often its difficult to figure out the most effective way to communicate to them. I’m not criticizing them; I’ve been in their shoes! I would also consider myself an artist from costume designing shows.
What is the most rewarding?
The best part is when I’m able to figure out how to talk to them! It’s like a piece of the puzzle coming together when everyone gets on the same page to reach a common goal.
Do you have any other hobbies?
Honestly, no. Another challenge about working for a theatre is that I have very little spare time. I love what I do at work, but when I’m home, I like to sleep, eat, and not move as much as possible. Kathleen (Company Manager and Education Associate at Playhouse on Park) and I love watching Free Form (formerly ABC) on Tuesday nights.
I know that you’re heading into your last few weeks before leaving the Playhouse after 7 years! What do you think you’ll take with you the most from this experience? What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I’ve definitely acquired a very intense work ethic. I’ll be able to be self sufficient in any job because of this theatre. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in the future because I want to be a wedding planner, but I also want to open an old dog sanctuary. I may even be in a scientific study for the aquagenic wrinkling of my palms! I’ll probably stay in theatre because that’s where my training is. I could see myself stage managing Off-Broadway.