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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Drama

Kentuckians in Theater

Production Manager Celeste Santamassino
Pittsburgh, PA

Who Celeste Santamassino has been a director and assistant director for the Kentucky Opera and Bunbury Theater in Louisville, KY and served as production manager for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in Louisville for more than five years. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and theater from Centre College in Danville, KY and is working toward her master’s degree in production technology and management at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

What “The production manager is in charge of making sure that all the technical elements of a play come together—lights, sound, set, costumes. I check on how much money we’re spending, and I do a lot of scheduling—of rehearsal and performance spaces, how to move the show into the theater, the tech rehearsal schedule. Ninety percent of my job is talking to people to make sure that they’ve talked to other people—to make sure the designers are talking to the director about what they see coming up as the show is being built, and so on. I make sure people have what they need to do their job well, whether that’s money or time.”

When/Where “When the people I need to talk to are working, that’s when I need to talk to them—which can be any time of the day or night. But production managers can work a more normal schedule than some people in theater. When we’re in tech [rehearsal], I have to be there, but I don’t have to be there during the run of a show. A production manager works in an office, and also makes rounds to all the different departments. The scene shop is often not anywhere near the costume shop. Sometimes in a large theater company, the sets are built in a different city.”

How “People skills are most helpful. You have to be a good listener because people are going to tell you when things are going wrong, but sometimes they don’t tell you how badly. You have to know when people are asking for help. You run a lot of interference between people, cooling their jets, making peace between departments. You find ways for things to work. There’s a lot of problem solving. You have to work to get lots of artistic people, creative people, to agree. That’s the collaborative nature of theater. It’s the most collaborative art form.... Organization is helpful and essential. There’s all the paperwork—contracts for the staff, all the receipts for everything that gets spent, calendars, schedules, organization of the timing of things, like when you’re loading a show into a theater and arranging how all the technical departments will interact with one another.”

Why “I like the interaction. One of the things that compelled me to do production management was that I couldn’t ever decide what I wanted to do in theater—I like too many things. When I started to see what a production manager did, I thought, ‘This is what I want. I get to talk to everybody.’”

Getting There “Get a comfortable training in every department: building sets, costumes, lights, and so on. You have to be able to talk to every department. You need as much technical theater knowledge as you can get to balance out the management training you have.”

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