What was your vision when you and Michael Hamilton created Stages St. Louis 35 years ago?
My original vision was to open a summer stock theater where I could split my time between St. Louis in the summer and then return to New York for the rest of the year.
But then Stages snowballed. The company grew in subscribers and additional performances. I thought, "Oh. This is going to be bigger than we thought." That's when I started envisioning working out of a dedicated performing arts center. I couldn't be happier that we partnered with the City of Kirkwood. It was the astute powers-at-be in Kirkwood, specifically Mayor Tim Griffin, who said, "We are going to build this once. We can change the face of Kirkwood and the region if we build it right." And boy – did they ever build it right. I mean, this performing arts center is astonishing. There is no way we could have envisioned this.
So, as I sit here, I do not take this for granted for a second. I am full of gratitude. I'm a member of the Broadway League and a two-time Tony winner, and I still feel like a kid. I pinch myself. I am incredibly grateful.
What do you envision for the future of Stages?
The future for Stages is limitless. I won't be with Stages much longer, but I'll tell you what I hope to see. Being a Broadway producer with New York connections, my hope and dream for Stages is to be known as the place shows go before they open on Broadway. The Kirkwood Performing Arts Center allows Broadway to say, "Oh yeah. You go to St. Louis to try out shows." I want to put St. Louis on the map because St. Louis deserves it.
Regarding the immediate future of Stages, we have launched an endowment campaign. The Ross Family gave a very generous gift for the main stage. But in addition to that, we are raising the $8MM for a cash reserve. That money will hopefully never be touched. It's there for emergencies such as this past year. We have raised close to $5MM. Every donation of any size helps. Those gifts will secure the future of Stages.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I'm producing BLINDNESS, the off-Broadway show that reopened New York theater. I wanted to be a part of reopening New York theater on the spiritual level. The show is monumental theater. There are no actors, but you feel immersed in this entire world.
It's about a pandemic where people go blind except the person narrating the story. Simon Stevenson adapted the novel for a play with one voice. The voice is acclaimed British actress Juliet Stevenson. The play is breathtaking. Scarry. Moving. Brilliant.
I am also one of the lead producers on the national tour of THE PROM, which opens in Cleveland in November. We’ll play the Fabulous Fox in January/February 2022.
I love finding new and eclectic shows. I've seen over 1,000 performances on Broadway, and still to this day, I get excited when the lights go down. My heart starts to race. I want the show to be great.
What do you do in your downtime?
I love to cook, and I find baking very relaxing. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour because I'm working on so many projects at one time.
I love films and documentaries. I love learning about the world as I travel. I love to read the New York Times and New York Magazine. I get them delivered because I like the way they feel in my hands.
I was an English and Journalism major in college, so I love words. I love the journey of a script. I love composing sentences and stories and writing letters. I love composing emails.
What is one way you give back to the theater community?
I've had some excellent life coaches and mentors help me personally and professionally. So now, when I see someone trying to find their way, I offer help. I've been a life coach and mentor to a lot of people. It's a spiritual thing. It truly fulfills my soul. And I learn from them. I also continue to learn so much from my staff, actors, and board. I never want to stop learning. You become a much more successful person when you get out of your head. It’s made me a better producer.
I think it's essential that if you have been fortunate enough to enjoy a good life and are generally a happy person, you should give back. From an early age, I've been given a lot in my life. I come from a very strong faith. My parents were extraordinary. My dad was a New York City cop. My mom was an amazing human being. Education was important to them. They supported their children's passion, whatever it was. They worried about me going into the theater and how I was going to make a living. But they still supported me. There is nothing quite as wonderful as helping someone. It's part of the journey.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Jack Lane and Michael Hamilton made a difference in the arts in St. Louis. They cared. They cared about their community, and they cared about their people. They made people smile. They told remarkable stories.