The following is a guest post by Office Manager, Chloé Malaisé.
In previous Jumpstart blog posts, you learned about the main tasks of a Broadway General Manager, including budgeting & negotiating contracts, as well as the everyday tasks of being a Company Manager; however, in a general management office, one more crucial position exists that helps keep the boat afloat: the Office Manager.
While being an office manager at a Broadway General Management office carries similar administrative responsibilities as any other office manager position, there are a few aspects of the theater industry that make this position slightly more demanding — and fun.
The first line of defense
If company managers are soldiers on the front line of the show they’re currently managing, office managers are the first line of defense for every single show the office either worked on in the past, is working on currently, or hopes to work on in the future. Office managers are in charge of picking up the phone and directing the calls to the appropriate manager depending on the show; however, more often than not, both the general managers and company managers are crazy busy so it’s on the office manager to put on a detective hat and hunt down the answer or information the caller is looking for.
The company manager takes a load off of the general manager, and the office manager helps take a load off of both managers to ensure their full attention is on the absolute most important matters. In order to do this efficiently, office managers require a little more than basic knowledge on a number of industry practices such as unions, contracts, payroll, accounting, taxes and more. This knowledge is quickly attained at the “intern” level.
Jumpstarting a show
In some instances, while a show is in development but a company manager is yet to be hired, the office manager will perform the duties required to “jumpstart” the show including setting up payroll, filing bonds with the appropriate unions, getting insurance, making sure that contracts negotiated by GMs are properly executed, and, most fun of all, booking flights and hotels. Between all the hiring, rehearsals, invitations, opening night, opening night party & more, the run up to a show’s opening is often the busiest. Until the show is well past opening and the Tony Awards, the office manager plays a big role in keeping both the general manager and company manager sane and stress-free.
Death of a show
A large chunk of an office manager’s duties however, lie after a show has ended. Every show is its own Limited Liability Company — or LLC — and when a show closes, the company is still very much alive, sometimes only for a few years, but sometimes for more than 15 years. After a show officially closes, a company manager is usually still on board for about four to six weeks to ensure a smooth post-closing process. Once the company manager’s time is up, the torch — sometimes with a tiny little spark, other times with a large flame still burning — gets passed on to the office manager.
Well how much work could exist after a show closes?
A lot. This is usually more visible, quite literally, during tax season, when dozens of tax return packets for all of the shows that have closed, but are still receiving income, arrive in the office, and the frenzy to collect signatures from dozens of producers begins. With multiple shows all with different producers, and accountants, and taxes being incredibly important, this is the time of year when an office manager really has to bring his or her A-game to the ballpark.
So you might ask, but I thought the show closed, why would there be any income? Good question! This is where subsidiary rights come in, or sub-rights. By definition, a subsidiary right is the right to produce or publish a product in different formats based on the original material. Sub-rights generally come from touring productions, stock and amateur productions and, sometimes, film adaptations. For example, Rock of Ages closed on Broadway in January of 2015, yet there are still productions of the show in Las Vegas and on a cruise ship; those productions generate subsidiary income for the Broadway production. All these payments need to be deposited into the account and recorded into the accounting software. Once a closed show has received a fair amount of income, checks are cut to disburse the income back to the investors.
The stepping stone
So, while being an office manager entails the usual administrative tasks of any office, such as answering the phones, sorting the mail and ordering office supplies, the nature of the theater business creates an opportunity where the Office Manager is truly intertwined with the everyday activities of both the general managers & company managers, learning all the lingo and getting a first-hand view of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into bringing a show to life, from inception until it’s never dying death.
At Jumpstart, about 65% of the interns have gone on to become office managers, and 90% of office managers have gone on to become amazing company managers.
So if you woke up one day with the Theatre Bug and want to become a General Manager, an Office Manager position at a Broadway General Management office is a great place to start!