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6 Theatre Workers You Should Know

From a downtown NYC artistic director to a Philadelphia-based composer, here are some stage folks to keep your eye on.

Adrienne Campbell-Holt

Adrienne Campbell-Holt
Adrienne Campbell-Holt

Profession: Director
Hometowns: Newbury, Vt., and Boston
Current home: Brooklyn
Known for: As artistic director of Colt Coeur, Campbell-Holt has staged several new works, including the 2014 world premiere of Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Dry Land.
What’s next: She’ll direct Ana Nogueira’s Empithrax for Colt Coeur at HERE in New York City Sept. 10-Oct. 2. “I love this play because it’s funny and searing and explores quite viscerally what it means to feel what someone else is feeling,” she says. “It also has one of the most theatrical and surprising endings of any play I’ve ever read.” She’s also associate director for the musical Dear Evan Hansen, which will begin performances on Broadway in November.
What makes her special: Lisa McNulty, producing artistic director of WP Theater in NYC, worked with Campbell-Holt when she was in the company’s lab and calls her “an artist of the first order. This business isn’t a particularly welcoming one to young artists or young companies, but Adrienne’s mix of blistering talent, ear for brilliant writing, and Pied Piper-like ability to bring folks along for whatever artistic thrill ride she’s on has forced the theatre community to take notice and clear a way for her. Mark my words: She will run this town one day and we’ll all be in great hands.”
Let’s pretend: Campbell-Holt came to theatre through dance, growing up as a ballerina, and recalls the ways her childhood shaped her creativity. “We didn’t have a lot of money…but my mom hung up a shower curtain in our living room and my sister and I would put on shows constantly,” she recalls. “That spirit of play and making something out of nothing—I try to remember that spirit on every show I work on. We are making theatre. It’s not a movie. It’s not a TV show. Let’s be scrappy and creative and build something beautiful and ephemeral together.”


Allison Goetzman

Allison Goetzman (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)
Allison Goetzman (Photo by Joe Mazza/BraveLux)

Profession: Production manager
Hometown: Atlanta
Current home: Santa Fe, N.M.
Known for: In 19 years of stage mana­ging prior to relocating to Santa Fe in 2015, two of her Chicago productions won Joseph Jefferson Awards: The Mother at Oracle Productions in 2014 and La Bête at Trap Door Theatre in 2015.
What’s next: As production manager of the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe, Goetzman is working with outside presenters and promoters and overseeing the start of the 2016-17 season, whose first theatre offering will be Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card on Sept. 19.
What makes her special: Says Max Truax, artistic director of Chicago’s Red Tape Theatre, who worked with Goetzman at several Windy City theatres, “As far as I have been able to determine, Allison is utterly unflappable; she has and will undoubtedly always overcome every challenge with unwavering confidence.” Her current supervisor, Lensic director of operations and production Steph Smith, seems to agree, calling Goetzman “a scrappy perfectionist” who is “not interested in dead ends.” He adds, though, that Goetzman is never less than “considerate and thoughtful” and “sets the tone of a presenter’s experience at the Lensic. She is doing an excellent job.”
From camaraderie to career: During her first year of high school, Goetzman recalls, “My best friend had a crush on a guy in the [tech theatre] crew and wanted to join, but she didn’t want to be the only girl. I joined with her and stuck with it ever since.” What led her to stay? “The ever-changing nature of the industry, coupled with the ever-important collaborative, creative problem-solving, is what keeps me here,” she says. “No day is the same, and I love that I can’t do my job or art by myself.”


David Roberts

David Roberts (Photo by Lelund Durond Thompson)
David Roberts (Photo by Lelund Durond Thompson)

Profession: Producer/manager
Hometown: Flint, Mich.
Current home: New York City
Known for: As managing director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, Roberts has expanded income, audience, and programming and reduced deficits, and forged partnerships with the Apollo Thea­ter, Penn State Centre Stage, and City Parks Foundation.
What’s next: Fit for a Queen, a new play by Betty Shamieh, directed by Tamilla Woodard, at CTH Oct. 2-30, and The First Noel, slated for the mainstage of the Apollo for an encore after its world premiere last year on the intimate Apollo Soundstage.
What makes him special: Roberta Pereira, producing director at New York’s Playwrights Realm, finds Roberts “an extremely generous professional, always making time for colleagues and artists. He is a true champion of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the arts, and the work that he has been doing at Classical Theatre of Harlem with Ty Jones is reaching audiences and artists across New York City and beyond.”
What makes a good leader: “The best producers have a sense of business and art, and are only as good as the teams they bring together,” says Roberts. The best managing directors, he adds, are “wingmen and collaborators par excellence.” Artists get the glory, but he thinks of what he does as “directing the experience,” by which he means overseeing the “numerous points of entry, points of view, and participants in our collaborative art form…Not many recognize good solid management outside a circle of staff, boards, or funders—but everyone recognizes and feels the effect when it is absent!” As role models he cites “the late, great Ben Mordecai,” the producer/manager who helped August Wilson’s plays reach Broadway, and two current executive directors in NYC, Patrick Willingham of the Public Theater and Erika Mallin at Signature Theatre.


Daniel Perelstein

Daniel Perelstein (Photo Courtesy of Plate3.com)
Daniel Perelstein (Photo Courtesy of Plate3.com)

Profession: Composer, sound designer, musical director
Hometown: Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Current home: Philadelphia
Known for: At the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, he worked with artistic director Blanka Zizka on The Hard Problem (2016), Under the Whaleback (2013), and Our Class (2011). He created music and sound design for Emily Mann’s 2015 staging of Five Mile Lake at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., and worked on ANDY: A Popera, a Bearded Ladies Cabaret production at the Opera Philadelphia in 2015.
What’s next: Sound design, original music, and musical direction for Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird (Sept. 15-Oct. 16) at Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia; sound design for Kingdom Come (Oct. 7-Dec. 18) for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City; sound design and original music for The Lake Effect (Feb. 2-19, 2017) at Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, N.Y.; sound design for Adapt! (March 22-April 22, 2017) at the Wilma; and an album with mezzo-soprano Maren Montalbano.
What makes him special: Clayton Tejada, production manager at the Wilma, who has worked with Perelstein on multiple productions, says that Perelstein’s “dedication to his craft as a composer/musician/designer, coupled with a fierce support of the production as a whole, make him an invaluable collaborator for both new work and new visions of existing texts.” Emily Mann says, “I loved working with him! He transformed subtly shifting emotion into exquisite music. He’s a rare artist.”
Making it: While pursuing degrees in music and computer engineering, Perelstein met sound designer Nick Kourtides and started working on college plays. “When a director described an idea for me, I could hear it in my head,” he recalls. “It’d take me a trivial amount of time to make what I heard in my head, and a seemingly eternal amount of time to dig through libraries searching for something similar. Composition was the most direct way for me to translate a director’s vision into a finished product.”


Gavin Lawrence

Gavin Lawrence
Gavin Lawrence

Profession: Actor and playwright
Hometown: Born in Georgetown, Guyana, raised in Washington, D.C.
Current cities: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Baltimore
Known for: As an actor, he won the AUDELCO award for playing Simon Cato in Carlyle Brown’s Pure Confidence at 59E59 in New York City in 2009. As a playwright, he’s known for Cut Flowers, which has enjoyed runs in Minneapolis, Chicago, and D.C.
What’s next: He’s currently in rep at Spring Green, Wisc.’s American Players Theatre in The African Company Presents Richard III, An Ideal Husband, and Arcadia. Lawrence is also a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellow at Baltimore’s Center Stage, a partnership that will culminate with the performance of a solo show about the “destruction of the black body,” a phrase Lawrence borrows from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Explains Lawrence, “I will take the audience on a journey as we explore the various parts of the black body and how they have been exploited and destroyed, misused and used as currency from past to present.”
What makes him special: Playwright Nambi E. Kelley recalls that when she had Lawrence do a reading of one of her plays, “It was the first time I understood the depth of my own writing.” Kelley adds that Lawrence is “smart, kind, intense, authentic, a natural-born leader, and hands down one of the premier actors of his generation.”
How he caught the bug: “When I was 7, I saw a production of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men by Lonne Elder III on PBS,” says Lawrence. “Glynn Turman’s performance made me feel for the first time that I wasn’t alone in this world. It filled a hole inside and planted an undeniable need in me to be a part of crea­ting that mystical event that is theatre. I’ve pretty much since that day spent my life chasing that moment.”


Madhuri Shekar

Madhuri Shekar
Madhuri Shekar

Profession: Playwright
Hometown: Born in San Jose, Calif., raised in Chennai, India
Current cities: New York City and Chennai
Known for: In Love and Warcraft and Antigone, presented by the girls of St. Cathe­rine’s, both at the Alliance Thea­tre in Atlanta; A Nice Indian Boy at East West Players in Los Angeles in 2014.
What’s next: In Love and Warcraft at Theatre N16 in London (Nov. 6-17) and Queen at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago (April 14-May 14, 2017). This fall she joins the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at Juilliard in New York City.
What makes her special: Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth praises Shekar’s “consistent sense of breathtaking adventure,” adding, “She is very clear-eyed about the impossible messiness of being human, but couples that with this gorgeous compassion for her characters. If there’s any common denominator in her subject matter…it’s that she looks for the contexts in which we are most vulnerable as humans and says, ‘There. I want to write about what happens there.’”
Her first theatrical moment: One of her earliest memories is of seeing her dad act in a play when she was 3 years old. “I was so moved, or so bored, by the show that I jumped out of my seat, ran up to the stage, and hugged his leg, refusing to let go. My mom says I saved the production.” As for her own writing, she follows a bit of advice from playwright Luis Alfaro: “Every play needs to have a nugget of new information—that I leave the audience with at least one idea, fact, or insight into a world they may never experience themselves.”

*An earlier version of this piece referred to Steph Smith using the wrong gender pronoun.

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