By Joe Giovannetti
Now a little over halfway into my internship, I am loving my experience as a Company Management/General Management intern at the La Jolla Playhouse! However, outside of the theater industry, I always get the same question: “What is Company Management?”
At a professional regional theatre, the Company Management department is responsible for taking care of the actors and designers that visit the Playhouse. Because most of the artists come to the Playhouse from New York, we aim to make San Diego their “home away from home” for a few short months. To provide a sense of what I’ve been helping accomplish at the Playhouse this summer, here is a small snapshot of what managing a theatrical company is like from start to finish.
It’s arrival day. Today, a new company arrives to begin their first rehearsal for a show that opens in three weeks. About a month ago, you reached out to the actors and booked their flights from NYC/LA to San Diego. Additionally, you’ve assigned each visiting artist to one of the 24 apartments that you own and maintain.
A few days ago, you moved out the previous company, took them to the airport, and shipped all of their belongings back to New York. Needing to turn over the apartment quickly for the new company, you inventoried the apartment only to find that some of the items required by Actor’s Equity Association (the collective bargaining union for actors) are missing in the units. You fill the apartment, making sure the correct number of spoons, pots, glasses, towels, and linens are available. Key packets for each artist are organized and ready to go.
Today, you’re setting up a spread of bagels, fruit, and coffee for the Company Breakfast: an event (that your department runs) where the entire team of a new show meets for the first time, gives design presentations, and reads through the entire script with an invited audience. You have a limited time to set up the chairs, cups, and food before you need to hop in the driver’s seat of a 15-passenger van to pick up the actors for their first day of work.
In the coming days, you will get to know the actors very well on their way to and from rehearsal. You’ll make sure that they receive tickets to opening night. You’ll take them to the doctor when they pull a muscle performing fight choreography. You’ll try to fix their internet connection and sit with the plumber when their sink malfunctions. You’ll throw them a fancy opening night party, and coordinate a wonderful dinner at the end of long, grueling tech week where they’ve had to learn new lines and blocking every single day. You’ll constantly be on-call for anything and everything they may need, and your days will be full of surprises.
And then one day, they’ll be gone. When the curtain goes down on their final show, you’ll sit on the set with them and enjoy one last night before they fly back to New York. They won’t want to go, and you won’t want them to either. It’s then that you’ll realize that in some way, however small, you were a part of something bigger than yourself.
But, you don’t have much time to contemplate. Another company is in tech, a third company arrives in a few days, 3128 B needs a new mattress, and a dancer needs to go to the emergency room, STAT!
You roll up your sleeves, you share a glance with your team, and you smile. You have work to do.