TeleCourse Raw Notes

The Role of the Company Manager
April 7 , 1998



Q: What is the role of the company manager?

A: The company manager is hired by the producer or general manager to make all the contracts that have been negotiated come to life. During pre-production, she/he is responsible for: - making payments - dealing with the unions - rehearsals (making sure actors and stage managers are there) - working with a budget designed by the producer or GM (letting everyone know when they’re going over budget) Once the show opens, the CM is running a business and is responsible for making sure everything is going smoothly. (Maybe an actor wants time off to get married, or do a TV pilot, or the ad agency wants you to do things ...)

Q: During pre-production, do you do contracts with the GM?

A: It could be either way. Sometimes the CM prepares contracts or sometimes implements contracts that have already been signed. Usually you would work out of the GM’s office.

Q: What’s the difference between a GM account and a show account?

A: Usually a money market account is put together for the show, and it’s not available until it’s capitalized. The front money is usually in the GM’s account. The payroll account is separate and convenient.

Q: When the money comes in at the box office, what account does it go into?

A: It goes into the GM’s account. When there’s an excess you put it into the money market account. You put money from the GM’s account into the payroll account to cover payroll each week.

Q: What’s your interaction with the accountant?

A: They’re your lifeline; they put the statement together so you can see if you’re hitting your marks on your budget. The purchase order system, which you find more in the corporate world than in theater, is a paper trail nightmare but it does work.

Q: How involved are you in bidding, shopwork, when the set is taken in, etc.?

A: Usually you’re aware of it but it depends on the timetable of when things are happening vs. when you are hired. You usually simply go with the cheapest bid, but the light and set designers will usually have strong opinions about where the set or light comes from. The producer will have an opinion too....

Q: What’s the interaction between you and your producer? Do you teach producers who aren’t experienced?

A: Whether a producer is experienced or not, you usually go with the cheapest bids. Producers range from being very involved to turning the reigns over to the GM. A young producer wants to and should be involved with every step. Some experienced producers don’t feel the need to be involved.

Q: What’s the difference in your role whether Broadway or off-Broadway, straight play or musical?

A: In the Broadway world the big support system is the musical. Straight plays are supposed to be easier to company manage, but, for example, ANNE FRANK is a straight play and it has not proved to be easier than a musical. Off-Broadway is a whole different ballgame because you’re just doing everything by yourself.

Q: What do you do backstage and with different personnel – the GM, the producer?

A: Backstage you’re troubleshooting, checking in with department heads, seeing what’s going on. You see about everyone’s vacation time, costumes wearing out, where do we get a new one since the first one was store-bought at a store that’s closed now, hair problems – you’re responsible for all performers and tech people, heat, air conditioning, dressing room problems.....

Q: What is your relationship with the cast and producers vs. the stage manager’s relationship with them?

A: The CM’s relationship with the cast is on the inside but still you’re “management.” As time goes on, the cast trusts you more, especially if you keep their confidence and trust. Keep things positive. Generally the SM has a much more personal relationship with the actors. The SM also fills out a report every day and distributes it to everyone; the report includes start and end time, audience, any incidents or accidents that occur, any AEA issues. SM’s are in AEA; CM’s are in ATPAM.

Q: What is a typical evening at the show like for you? What do you do?

A: Between 7 and 7:15, I stop at the box office, check in for business of the day and of the week, ask about any special promotions going on, see the house seats order. Then I walk through the theater, see if it’s too cool or hot; you must check all surroundings and be aware of everything. Then I stop in the SM’s office, then head to wardrobe, then see the actors. At 8:00, I go back to the box office. If there’s any problem, I go to the department head and work it out. After the box office statement is signed, I call in the figures to the producers.

Here’s a sample problem: let’s say it’s a sold-out performance and you have a cancellation line of 5 people. There are 2 guaranteed house seat orders equaling 5 people, but they’re not there. Here’s what I would do: sell the tickets to the people there waiting, then sweat bullets wondering if the house seat people will show up. In all my years of being a CM, they’ve never shown up!

Q: What’s the difference between computerized and hard tickets?

A: On a computerized ticket, the box office statement tells you: gross, full price, groups with different prices, TKTS, special promotions, TDF, American Express promotions, comps, etc.... The box office must prove how the tickets were sold. If there were 20 comps, they must show where they went. Commissions are then deducted. The rest is done through Telecharge.

If you have hard tickets, you count the unsold tickets (deadwood). (On the computerized statement you don’t do this.) You also manually count comps, TKTS, etc. – you look at stubs to count. The CM waits till it balances.

Q: What’s ICE?

A: Ice is money that treasurers receive when they sell tickets to brokers. Say the ticket is $60 – the broker pays $60 then kicks in $200/ticket for the best seats. For example, at CATSKILLS ON BROADWAY, they apparently just weren’t putting money on the statement; they were selling tickets and saying they were comps then pocketing the money. You must LOOK IN the theater so you can estimate the number of people and make sure the BO statement makes sense.

Q: What do you say when you call a producer?

A: You report the gross, whether it’s up or down, the number of people at the show, the wrap (business that BO takes in today, for this or future performances, which shows you how advertising is working each day), the advance (everything past this performance, which tells you how advertising should go). They’ll get a more complete version the next day; you just give them an overview.

Q: Where does the money go at the end of the day?

A: An armored car comes to the theater 2 to 3 times each week. The following Tuesday you get a recap of gross, expenses (salaries, advertising bill, weekly expenses to attorneys and casting people, etc.). If any is left over, it goes to the investors.

Q: What role do you play in the closing?

A: The CM often knows before the producers know. You prepare an inventory list, figure out where does the set go, etc. – do you sell it? Will there be a national tour so you store it? You continue working 1 or 2 weeks after the show closes, doing unemployment forms, tying up any loose ends.

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