It's difficult to pin down exactly what a theatrical company manager does simply because they do so much: negotiate contracts, organize payroll, write the checks for purchases of outside materials, organize rehearsals, arrange transportation and lodging for cast and crew, assist the director with notating and communicating changes, and—of course—handle emergencies inside and outside of the theater. Crucially, company managers also act as the link between the general manager—their boss—and the rest of the company. A generalized problem solver with a focus on human resources and logistics, the company manager's work is never over, and rarely the same from day to day.
Company managers use incredible multitasking and organizational skills to manage multiple departments with entirely different purposes, while also applying a laser-like focus to solving day-to-day problems and achieving long-term goals.
When accidents happen, such as a wardrobe malfunction or lost luggage, the company manager is the first call and first responder. Similarly, it's the company manager's job to keep track of the health and availability of the various production crew members, schedule rotating nights on and off for ensemble cast members, and ensure that there are no pre-show surprises for dance captains and stage managers. If the company has their own performance space, the manager may oversee the theater's operations and audience services departments, responsible for stocking bars and concessions, running the box office, and staffing the front of house. Otherwise, the manager is likely responsible for finding and booking spaces for rehearsal and performance. In addition, the company manager may work closely with the production managers and/or business manager.
Company Manager (Theater) at a Glance
The company manager is one of the highest-ranking professionals in any theater company or production, responsible for overseeing almost all logistical and administrative processes. While a company manager could feasibly get by with no more than a bachelor's degree, most theater companies prefer a master's degree in theater management, business management, or arts administration.
Many company managers get started as stage managers, working directly with the director, actors, and designers in rehearsal and calling the show. Over time, they may move gradually towards the broader logistical duties of a company manager, perhaps progressing first to become the head of operations or audience services, two departments which company managers frequently oversee. As this is a high-ranking position, most company managers advance by seeking long-term positions with prestigious and well-funded companies. They can also progress to become general managers or producers, while those with an interest in budgeting and finance may choose to become production managers.
Company managers work in two primary capacities: as long-term logistical leaders at established theater companies, or as independent contractors performing a one-time role, usually on a Broadway or West End-level show. Either way, most are lifelong members of the theater world who have worked their way up to such positions by working as stage managers, business managers, or directors of operations or audience services departments.
- Theater production
- Nonprofit management
- Accounting (taxes, etc.)
- Labor laws (unions, etc.)
- Project management
- Technical acuity
Company managers know how to get things done. They use incredible multitasking and organizational skills to manage multiple departments with entirely different purposes, while also applying a laser-like focus to solving day-to-day problems and achieving long-term goals. They are also patient, empathetic, and have excellent listening and communication skills.
The life and responsibilities of a company manager vary based on the size of the company, but in general the hours are long and the work is demanding. Most company managers work in a backstage or nearby office. They likely flit in and out of rehearsals and backstage areas, but spend the majority of their time in the office writing emails, making phone calls, and generally keeping everything running. Like many in the theater world, occasional overtime is a part of life—particularly because company managers are expected to resolve any emergency situations that might arise for the theater.
While looking for work is a part of life for freelance company managers—who usually work in and around large markets like New York City's Broadway and London's West End—it's worth noting that even a freelance engagement can last for years, if the show is successful enough.