Meet the Staff
Andy Palmer, Associate Production Manager
By Theresa MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born during a blizzard in Connecticut, on the western side of the state in Watertown. I was fortunate enough to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where I received both a BFA in Technical Theatre as well as a Masters in Arts Management. From there, I have worked at theatres in Washington, D.C.; Knoxville, Tennessee; and, finally, here at Hartford Stage.
Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.
Growing up, my parents and I attended many different cultural events. My first Broadway show that I saw was Moon Over Buffalo, which is a fun comedy, and I was really taken with the costume and set design. I remember thinking “This is amazing.” But, it wasn’t until years later when I read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that I understood that dramas, musicals, and comedies could be much more than just entertainment and spectacle.
Who or what inspired you to go into this line of work?
In high school, I started out in the drama club working in the sound department. Eventually, I was the sound engineer for the band concerts, chorus, and the drama club. I remember meeting with my guidance counselor, and we were discussing what I might study in college. He mentioned that I was spending a lot of time working in the school’s theatre so why not pursue that as a career. My first thought was “I can get paid for this…Right on!” From there, I was hooked. Luckily, my parents encouraged me the entire way.
What does a day in the life of an Associate Production Manager look like?
Every day is different and can be somewhat unexpected. I manage a lot of the paper work for the production department – from production payroll, bills, and working on designer contracts. I also handle the unusual emergencies. I remember waking up one morning last season to find out I needed to head into New York City to purchase some sound equipment, as we needed to repair our system for that evening’s performance. So, that day I was up at 5 am, went to New York City, got the gear, and came back to Hartford. Sounds simple, but that day led me to Manhattan, then to a warehouse in Brooklyn, and finally back to the theatre so I could watch the preview that evening and run a production meeting post-performance.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Part of the job of both the Production Manager and the Associate is to aid the creative team in creating the show, while maintaining costs of materials and labor. Many times, not unlike in other businesses, these two things are in direct opposition to each other. It can be difficult managing all of those things and keeping calm throughout. But, when it all comes together, that’s when the magic can happen.
How do you prepare for a large-scale musical production like Kiss Me, Kate? Are there additional steps you need to take?
The larger the production, the more planning and time our department needs. Although, a professor of mine once told me “If you can manage a show that has budget of $500 and only two weeks of rehearsals, you can manage any production.” What he was trying to impress upon me is that a show is a show; and I should try and approach them all with the same amount of energy, commitment, and skill. So, while a musical like Kiss Me, Kate consumes more resources than a two-person comedy, I strive to do my best on both. Some productions just have more flaming torches to juggle.
Do you have any funny on-the-job stories to share?
On the evening of the first performance of Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time, I was walking back to the theatre with dinner for myself and the company manager. I couldn’t remember the last time either of us had eaten that day. As I walked back into the building, our company manager ran up to me and shouted – it was more like a frantic scream – “Did you get salt?” Startled, I dropped the bagged dinners and dug out several salt packets. The company manager ran back to the dressing rooms with the salt, mixed it with water, and handed it to Elaine. She needed to gargle with it before starting the show. Apparently, moments before the show was about to start, Elaine made the last-minute request of needing the salt water. We managed to get it to her and get her on stage before any more requests were thrown our way.
What has been your personal favorite production at Hartford Stage and why?
There have been a few favorite productions over the years, but one show that stands out in my mind is Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The play was a commission by Hartford Stage, and I was fortunate enough to have worked on the workshop productions and the full production on our Main Stage in 2011. The script was amazing, and I feel lucky to have worked on such a beautiful and moving production. It was definitely a highlight to finally see the production on opening night!
Do you have other talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
Not sure about talents, but I have a passion for sports. I am a rabid fan of college football. I usually go to a few games every year, and I have been known to fly around the country to try and catch a game in person.
What is your personal motto in life?
When asked what made him successful, Andrew Carnegie replied by saying “My heart is in the work.” I try to remind myself of that often.