Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Superwoman? Production Manager? Or BOTH?!

Jo Williams – Production Manager

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When deciding on who to interview, I thought I would reach outside of the Front of House Team and into another portion of the production.  Jo Williams is the Production Manager and she is basically in charge of anything and everything pre and post production.  She has been in production managing special events for over 7 years and has been specifically managing theatre for 3 years.  Stated in her title, she is the person who manages the entire production whether she is on site or not, and tends to start about 6 months before the production begins.

Jo stated that the Production Manager (PM) position changes from company to company, but “for the most part PM’s oversee the scheduling of load-in, tech, and strike as well as assisting with rehearsals and performances”.  She really made it clear that the main responsibility outside of maintaining the schedule and budget is to COMMUNICATE.  Communication is a key factor for a PM so everyone can get their job done in the most efficient way possible without causing confusion in other aspects of the show.

Working with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company made her feel like the best PM ever. “I feel so fortunate to be working with such a talented and supportive group of people that it always feels like a ‘win/win’ situation”, said Jo when asked what her experience has been as the PM for CSC.  She has worked for a few not-for-profit theatre companies in the past, and they focused mainly on people donating their time and expecting so much commitment.  She is proud to say that “CSC has a healthy level of respect for paying people for their talents and time and [she] truly appreciate[s] that [she] can hire really good people to work; even if they aren’t getting paid top dollar for what they are worth, they will be treated well and paid on-time”.

As the Production Manager for CSC, life got pretty busy as time got closer to the performances.  This position required unique qualities and duties since it was based on the Boston Common and not in an actual theatre; this is where her background in special events really helped prepare her.  There were so many other logistics to be handled outside of the design of the show: “from getting park permits, to ordering toilets, trailers, PODS, dumpsters, forklifts, generators.  Setting up schedules for getting the lifts re-fueled, toilets serviced, water coolers re-filled; tables and chairs to be rented, offices to be set-up, and make-shift dressing rooms and green rooms to be created.  And of course, since [we] started with nothing [we] actually had to create the ‘theatre’ that the design was going to be installed on which involved setting up and entire deck, truss system, and backstage area.  [We] started with an open plot of land and built an entire theatre and backstage area”.  The fact that Jo scheduled and organized all of this was pretty incredible, and she created a spectacular team to back her on this, making the entire system worked out wonderfully.

Realistically, Jo was needed to get the show through opening night and then just be on call the rest of the run.  Jo did not stick to that, she ended up only taking two nights off during the three week run because there were some situations that arose that needed added attention and she also just really enjoyed being a part of this production.  She loves her job and more specifically loves working with CSC.  My favorite quote of hers was “I’m not going to say it didn’t kick my [butt] this year in terms of time commitment but there is always a large learning curve on a project of this size”.  This is so true, and even though my internship was not even close to the amount of work Jo put into this production, I felt as though this quote was exactly how I felt as my internship ran its course.