Hey everyone, it’s a pleasure to have you all here for another episode of the Leader Show with Lou Carter. Our guest today is Andrew Kato, the producing artistic director of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, Florida. Kato has an impressive background in the arts, having produced the Tony Awards and worked with famous actors at the Burt Reynolds Museum.
Now, without further ado, let’s go behind the scenes with Andrew.
To begin, Lou asks Andrew about his love for the arts and how it drives his work as a leader of the Maltz Theatre. Kato, an eight-time Emmy award-winning Broadway producer, highlights how he learned to manifest the things he wanted in life at an early age. He wrote to the executive producers of the Tony Awards for five years before he got the opportunity to work with them.
On that note, he highlights the importance of being grateful to the people who give you opportunities and how he tries to do the same for his staff at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, helping them develop their artistic careers.
Subsequently, Lou asks Andrew about his role as a coordinating producer for the 65th Annual Tony Awards and how he approached creating the video components of the show, including the In Memoriam segment. Kato describes working with executive producers Ricky Kirshner and Glen Weiss and the honor of making a mark on theater history.
He also discusses his role as a leader at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre and their corporate philosophy of being “talented and kind” and “taking responsibility for the energy brought into the building.”
On a similar note, Andrew talks about the importance of the company culture at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, where the values of being talented and kind are prioritized. The phrase “take responsibility for the energy you bring into this building” is a reminder for everyone to bring their best selves to work.
According to Andrew, this culture sets the tone for the organization and helps everyone work together towards a specific vision. He also mentions that leading with kindness is a huge value for him, and he is proud to have it as a legacy.
Moving on, Andrew and Lou discuss the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, which is the largest regional theater in the lower half of the United States. The Theatre is a producing organization that brings economic benefits to the local community. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre creates original shows that are rehearsed for three weeks, followed by a five-day tech process, and then the shows run for two to four weeks, depending on the popularity of the production.
He mentions that the Theatre aims to create a unique experience for the audience by adding new seasoning to each production. Donors appreciate the Theatre’s emphasis on being creators of art, and the shows are not done again, making the experience unique to each audience. Andrew notes that musical theatre incorporates every art form and is a monumental feat to accomplish in just three weeks. However, the goal is always to make it look effortless.
Next, Lou and Andrew discuss the power of art in creating meaningful connections and inspiring personal growth. Lou notes that art has effects on T-cells, oxytocin levels, and our overall health. He also highlights how art can make us better human beings and plant seeds in our minds about ways we can improve ourselves.
Kato adds that approaching art has changed in recent years, and people are no longer just art appreciators but critics. He strongly believes that this is due to the popularity of shows where people are asked to give a thumbs up or thumbs down instead of having deeper conversations about the production.
Andrew highlights that criticism doesn’t have to be negative and that even if we don’t enjoy a show, it’s still worth our time because it can prompt internal conversations about what we did or didn’t like.
Moving on, Lou asks Andrew what it’s like to work at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. In reply, Andrew highlights how they have a full marketing department, a creative team that creates all the original artwork, and a sales team. He mentions that they take a creative approach to everything and are also very strategic, planning their season 15 months to two years ahead.
Development and fundraising are critical aspects of their business. They have a creative person on staff dedicated to special events, making their galas interactive and feel like you’re walking into a play.
Lou asks Kato what motivates someone to get involved in creative play and become part of a community and what causes them to invest their time and money in it. The former basically wants to know the tipping point for someone to make that decision.
Andrew explains that the goal is to inspire people as they come in, and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre does this through various events and programs that bring its mission statement to life. They focus on education and offer scholarships for children, which people are eager to fund. They also offer backstage tours and masterclasses, where people can learn more about how they produce shows and gain insight into the process.
Andrew cites how people appreciate hearing from actors and learning about their experiences, which draws them in closer and makes them want to be more involved.
Lastly, Lou asks Andrew about his favorite performance at the Maltz Theatre. Andrew mentions Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as a show she could watch over and over again. They discuss the importance of dialogue with the audience and how it deepens their appreciation for the arts. Lou mentions Ben Folds and how he also values audience interaction, and Kato shares her experience of asking the audience how a play made them feel and the profound responses he received.
Lou and Andrew go into much greater detail throughout this conversation. Thank you for listening!
Louis Carter : It is awesome to be here today. I'm really excited. We have Andrew Kato, who's the director of the Maltz Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, which is just an incredible theater. And we are going to talk about many things with him today. He has quite an amazing bio. He's produced the Tony Awards, he has done amazing things on Broadway. He has worked with some of the most famous actors at the Burt Reynolds Museum now, and he has an amazing history in the arts, and it's just a pleasure to have him here today. Hi, Andrew, welcome to the Newsweek Leader Show.
Andrew Kato : Thank you. Thanks for having me, Lou.
LC : Well, this is terrific, a lot to talk about. And you know, the community of Jupiter and the Maltz Theatre is just a, it's very vibrant. There's a lot of people who just love being in that community and they love the arts. And we were just talking a little, a bit before about the importance of community. You know, when we, you know, there's times when, you know, we are in the hospital or we need help from people, or we just, we need people around us. And this happened to me before, you know, we're at times when we just need help from a community and we reach out. And the arts is there, people who have contributed to your new building and renovations and the creation of your work through their own economic stimulus. How has this manifested for you and your leadership of the Maltz Theatre?
AK : Yeah. Community is a huge part of what we do. In fact, it's a major component of our mission statement to educate, entertain, and inspire. And the last two words is ‘our community’. And it's something that I've put a lot of energy into over the last few years because obviously the gated communities and the wealth here in Jupiter have been very supportive with both to get purchases and financial support as a 501(c)(3).
But really, you know, when we rebuilt our 62,000 square foot building, we very much view the Maltz Jupiter Theatre as a community center. We happen to focus on the arts, but in many ways, we are here for our community, not only in the programs that we create on our stage, but through our conservatory, our school for kids as well. So reaching out and making sure that everyone feels that the Maltz Jupiter Theatre is their home, and that is a beacon for not just entertainment, but for, you know, conversations and all kinds of things. It goes beyond just being a theater.
LC : Outstanding. You know, I want to definitely jump into the joy I know that you have in doing what you do, and being an eight time Emmy award-winning Broadway producer, that's no small shakes [laugh]. It's a pretty significant accomplishment. So I want to hear more about that and really how that's begun. How that drives everything you do, right? How your love of the arts drives the work you do as a leader of the Maltz Theatre. I'd love to hear more about that. Maybe tell us one of the Broadway plays you're particularly proud of, perhaps? Or, you want to talk about, and how that informed your work.
AK : Sure, well, first of all, the Tony Awards I had the pleasure of working on for 13 years.
LC : Mm-hmm. [Affirmative]
AK : I started with when Wicked won that year, and I ended with Hamilton. So I think those were great bookends. I do want to clarify that the Tony Awards won the Emmy for their TV broadcast, but, as a result of that, I get to say I worked on an Emmy award-winning show, let's put it that way. So I don't like to take credit for things, you know, that really were the body of work of a lot of people.
But going off of what you were saying about working on Broadway, you know, as a kid, I learned very young, at a young age to manifest, you know, the things that I wanted in my life. And it's been very accurate, actually. Everything that I've wanted to do, I've done. And, you know, I think that, that's very profound, especially for speaking with young people about organizing their lives.
You can do whatever you want in your life if you have the and life kind of takes you where you need to go as well. But the Tony Awards was something that I had written to the executive producers for five years. And I finally thought, okay, well, I guess it's just not going to happen. When I got a phone call asking if I wanted to be the creative consultant to the Tony Awards, that they were new as executive producers, and I, you know, I kind of dropped the phone and I was so excited.
And, midway through my first year, they sent the line producer to me and he said, why are you here every day? And I was kind of surprised. And he said, don't get me wrong, we're thrilled with the work that you're doing. But I basically just showed up, you know, I was just there and I learned how to work on a TV show, which was, I don't think, probably their original thought for me. But I worked with the editors and they promoted me then to coordinating producer the next year on the Tony Awards, where I did that for many years.
So, I think it's kind of a combination of manifesting and then also being grateful to the people who give you opportunities in your life. And that's why here at the Matlz Jupiter Theatre, my eye is always for just that, whether you're giving a young designer or director an opportunity or a staff member an opportunity to move up through the ranks. You know, when staff members come to me and they say, “oh, I have an interest in this.” I'm like, “yeah, let's pursue that”, because that was granted to me.
LC : So that was the 65th Annual Tony Awards. And, can you remember, going into it, the, I guess who, you know, the specifics behind it, some of the hosts that you created, and what, how did you, what was your thinking around the direction of it? How did you create that, manifest that creation?
AK : Well, the show has two amazing executive producers, Ricky Kirshner and Glen Weiss. And Glen and Ricky both work on the Academy Awards. They do the Kennedy Center Honors. They're very prolific, wonderful producers. And as the coordinating producer, my job was mainly to oversee most of the video components that came through. And I also produced the Memoriam in Memoriam segment.
LC : Mm-hmm. [Affirmative].
AK : So with Josh Groban, I worked with one year. And, you know, every year it was a little bit different, but if there was ever a rollout of like, the year in musicals, and we, they say, let's take a look, those segments were pieces that I produced with an editor. And there are a couple famous moments in the show too that I had the pleasure of working with the producers on. And, you know, so you're kind of making a small mark on history because young kids like me, when I was a kid, I would watch the Tony Awards to figure out what shows I wanted to go see in New York or be in touch with the Broadway community.
And here I am, here I was then in the, you know, in a decision making position to make a mark on Theatre history because it's, you know, it's kept around for a very long time. And it was a great honor, quite a bit different from what I do here at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. I'm not the CEO, but it's kind of like being the CEO of a company. And so my job is, I view it as being like the conductor of an orchestra. I don't play any instruments, but I know when an instrument is out of tune or if someone's off tempo or something. And I feel like my job as the conductor is to make sure that it's like, you know, join the other players and let's do this together. We're playing one song, you know.
The other thing too that I'm really proud of from a work standpoint is we have a corporate philosophy here that is two words, ‘talented’ and ‘kind’. They're branded in all of our facilities and backstage as a reminder to our staff. And on our back door, as you open the door and you look down, it says, please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this building. And again, that just, that doesn't say how to be, it just says, take responsibility, you know, bring your best self into work. And it gets a lot of attention. People take pictures of it all the time. They're like, oh, I need that reminder for myself.
LC : Let's talk about your culture then. Let's go to that. So tell me, in what ways have you seen talented and kind and the “be careful about the energy you bring into the building” taking place, and where did you, how did you get inspired to get there? Is it some, is there something like an experience that you had or something that motivated you to help co-create that with others? I'm sure others had something to do with the creation of it.
AK : Yeah, I think it stems out of my own personal values and my own desire to be able to go to work and have a good experience and be happy. And I think that those things weren't always necessarily afforded to me in every job that I've ever had. And, I think that what we do in the arts is very difficult.
It's very long hours and time-consuming that really, especially for a theater, you want to leave the drama on the stage, right? You don't want it to be filtering. And it kind of sets a tone for everyone that of your expectations. And I feel like most people want to do, you know, do what is asked of them. If that's not a value that you hold for yourself and not a value hold for the company, then people tend to act out.
But if you say, listen, you don't have to be happy every day. You know, people have tough parts of their life, and lives, but at least attempt when you're here to bring your best self to our organization. So it sets kind of a ground rule, and most people want to live up to that. And that's why it's important to me. Obviously, talented is the bigger of the two words, because everyone, whether you're an actor or a designer or an employee in the marketing department or in development, or even finance, being talented is a huge part of what we need in a theater.
But the kind part speaks to my heart and who I am as an individual. And again, I'm a flawed human being too, and I don't always get it right, but I do my best. I don't know if you know the four agreements, but that's one of the four agreements is do your best. You know? So not being raised in a religion kind of follow my conscience and my heart, and I let that be kind of my guiding force in what I do.
LC : I like that. I definitely want to go back to, you know what led you to that? Because certainly things happen in our lives that bring us to that conclusion and make us really have that feeling toward kindness and wanting it from others. And, so we can go back to that a little bit. I wanted to also mention about the talented and kind that I liked is that some companies say it's our family. And I say, and we've seen this over and over again at really successful companies. It's not quite family. [laugh] Family's a lot different. It's talented and kind people achieving a specific vision.
AK : That's correct. Yeah. And also, we don't always get along with our family [laugh], you know.
LC : That’s, there it is.
AK : I mean, just, you know, one would hope that you would, most of your family, but the analogy of being a family sometimes I think is intended to be a positive thing, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. For me, it's not being family, because there's more intimacy involved with that and a level of care that obviously you can't give to, you know, a hundred visiting artists, 400 volunteers, 50 staff members, you know, it's just not possible.
But, the general care, and consideration and thought process that goes into managing people is important to me. And again, I wouldn't say any one particular incident that made me think of this, but just kind of a living, you know, a long enough life of experiences that I just, I thought they were too good, two good words, to kind of narrow in exactly what we were looking for within our company.
LC : It's also a lot more fun to lead and live that way, you know, it's like, how do I want to create the company that I go into every day and lead? Well, that sounds good, talented and kind. Let's bring your best energy. Don't bring your negative around me. That's a great way for people to remember too. Repetition is so important for people to keep hearing it and to keep those three areas; talented, kind. “Be careful the energy you bring into this building”, which is so important. You know, this is interesting. Somebody just said “excellent thought, we get along with family because we have to, we get along as a theatrical community because we want to [laugh].
AK : Yes.
LC : It's a good point, isn't it?
AK : The phrase on the back says, “take responsibility for the energy”. And what I love about responsibility is that it's a choice. You know, it's an active thing to do. We're not actually not telling people how to behave. We're saying use your heart and your values to bring your best, take responsibility for the energy you bring into this building. And even energy is a little bit open-ended, you know, what does that mean, right?
But I think overall, I think the message is clear that, you know, when you walk into the building, do your best. So, I'm particularly proud of that. And if there was ever a legacy, you know, to have it would be kind of leading with kindness. And it's a very huge value.
LC : I like that in terms of taking responsibility for what that energy is, right? So you're setting up a culture of accountability by saying that. So if, you know, if you are going to give, whatever your response is, is fine psychologically, right? It's okay, it's your response. However, now that's your response, whether it's a positive response or an angry response, excited response, that's now your response.
So, you know, you may want to, so I always say it may be better to be regulated [laugh] in the way that we speak, because that way we create an equilibrium or balance really, of the way we can create a great culture for the most of theater.
AK : Yeah. And there's a lot of personalities. I affectionately refer to all of us as the island of misfit toys, [laugh], we all have our quirks, right? And, in how we bounce off of each other, we're not going to always agree on everything. But, you know, it's my kind of way of saying, “look, we're all flawed, but you know, if you can forgive my, you know, areas where I'm not particularly strong, I'll forgive yours. And we're all in this together. So yeah.
LC : At the end of the day, I always say, well, we're all a beautiful mess. I'm a beautiful mess. You are, we are. Whenever I'm having a hard conversation, and it's funny when people, I just had this yesterday saying it was constant blaming about the past, couldn't stop blaming for like 10 minutes. I said, okay, when are you going to start telling me what you'd like me to do in the future? Because all I hear is blah, blah, blah, blah. But what I did wrong, fine. How can I do it better? So there's this blame culture that exists. We just say, we think of the things how we've been wronged about the past. We can't do anything about the past. We can only do our best for the future and know what we can do better from people. Give me feed forward, not feedback.
AK : Yeah. And, also being self-critical I think is also important. Look, it's okay to make a mistake. And, I think we've all learned to give grace through the pandemic and all that came with that. And so, affording someone grace, when they're not doing their best, you know, it's impossible to do everything right, right? So we extend that kindness to people. But you had mentioned something about not looking back and holding grudges or, I think the Buddhist again, I'm not a Buddhist, but from what limited I know about them is they don't look back or forward. This is the perfect moment. And I love that idea too. It's like this moment that you and I are having right now is the perfect moment, and this is where we need to live. And I think probably a lot of anxiety could be reduced if we all just stayed in the moment.
And, you know, again, it's something easier to preach than to practice, you know, because we live in a complicated world. But, I really cherish those kinds of “in the moment” times that we have with each other. Because how many times have you woken up and said, oh gosh, you know, I've got 10 meetings, and like, this sounds like it's going to be a really crappy day. And then come out on the other side and say, oh my gosh, that was really actually quite a wonderful day. I had that many wonderful experiences and the idea that I potentially kind of wished that day away.
What a shame. You know, what a terrible way to approach, you know, your day. And I'm guilty of it. I'm guilty of it. I look every day and I'm like, you know, you kind of make a judgment on the day, so something that I need to work on for myself.
LC : And that's okay. You let it go.
AK : Yeah.
LC : You breathe it out. And that's the thing, there's a guy by the name of Thích Nhất Hạnh, he's a Buddhist as well. He wrote the book, ‘Peace With Every Step’, and he's exactly talking about what you're saying, which is stay with the moment. Because if we keep worrying about the next moments, even if that moment's really horrible [laugh], because it very well may be a horrible moment, or it might be a joyous, wonderful moment, we're still in that moment, working in that moment and peace with every step.
That's our goal, peace with every step and do our level best, like you said, the fourth agreement, the best at every step. And that's hard to do. That is hard to do. It’s not an easy thing. You know, we're speaking of it as it's easy. And sometimes when we speak about it, I've noticed I end up speaking myself into doing it more [laugh].
AK : Right, right. It's a good reminder. It's like, oh, practice what you preach.
LC : [laugh] really good reminder. So, absolutely. Well, you're creators of your own work at the Maltz.
AK : We are.
LC : And tell me more what that means and what some of the creations are that you've had and how that culture has manifested.
Sure. Well, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, it's a producing organization. We're the largest regional theater in the lower half of the United States. And we have a production center where we build our sets and costumes. And, the actors are cast out of New York and locally, and we house them in two, three bedroom condos, rental cars. We're a huge economic driver for our community and bring, you know, a lot of money to the area.
But in terms of the creation of the work, our actors are, when you see a show at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, someone may say, you know, you're doing Sound of Music. And they may say, oh, well, I've seen the sound of music before. And the response back is, have you had steak before? And they think about it and it's like, oh, I get it. Yeah, you do it with different seasoning and it's, yes, you can have, you could see a show again and have a different interpretation or a different feeling about it, or just the same feeling.
And it, you know, seeing a show twice is not necessarily a horrible thing, but one thing you can be sure of when you see it at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, it's not going to be done the same way you saw it before. So we put new seasoning on our shows, and we rehearse here for three weeks. We go through a five day tech process, which is where the show comes together, and then we run our shows for two or three weeks.
It's typically 16-24 performances. And on a really big show like Mama Mia or a commercial show like Le Mis sometimes we've gone to a fourth week as well. So, it's a lot of work for a short amount of time, but the production values are very high. It's like seeing a Broadway show in your backyard in a very intimate Theatre. It's only 659 seats, and the distance from the back wall to the stage is 70 feet.
So you feel like you're right there. And people love that experience and they love that it's fresh too, because the actors have just rehearsed it. They've not been on tour for a year or two where it's like, oh, I'm, you know, Groundhog Day, I'm doing the show all over again. They've just learned it and they're excited about it. So I think that translates as well.
So exciting. And I love what somebody said, that you make art, you make art, right? And that's exactly what you're doing.
AK : Yeah, on a grand scale, I would add, because if you think about even musical Theatre, it is incorporating every art form, architecture, drawing, eating, dance, voice, acting, you can go on and on, and in musical Theatre, you have to put it in a proper order to tell a story and have an emotional response. So to get all of that right, you know, it's a monumental feat in three weeks to accomplish that.
And we do it regularly enough. And I think the goal is always to make it look easy, that it's been done without effort. The last thing you want to do is tell everyone it, which I'm doing right now anyway, telling everyone how hard you worked, you know, the thing they're going to see, like when you go have a dinner, you don't want to, well maybe you do a little bit want to, you know, know how hard the chef worked on your dinner. You just want to eat, right?But in our case...
LC : I won't tell anyone, Andrew [laugh]
AK : Donors, especially, have really responded well to the idea of being a ‘creators of art’. It matters to them. They want to know that the show that they're seeing has been created specifically for them. And when the question gets asked, where does the show go next, the answer is your memory. That's it, is done.
LC : And, how meaningful that is to be in our memory and in our minds, that actually has effects on our T-cells, on our, how we feel, our oxytocin levels and our brains, our health, art and art invigorates us. It makes us even better human beings. It plants seeds in my mind as well about ways I can be a better person.
It's so incredibly powerful and it creates community, as I say, around us that can act different ways by virtue of what is considered good and what is considered bad. Right? So it's like, I don't want to be that bad person that way. I want to be that good hero or heroin model. And, I've always found art to be like that. And the incredible connections you can make in music and art and life. It's just mind-boggling.
AK : Sure. It's also interesting to see how, approaching art has changed and people's views or their, or how they speak about art. And I think that culturally, especially in the last 10 to 20 years, there's been a change in, we're no longer art appreciators. We're all critics. And I don't think that that's by accident. I think that when we tune into shows where we're matching wits with a panel of judges on so many shows where people are like, thumbs up or thumbs down, it puts you in the mindset of being, you know, I either love it or I hate it. Instead of really a possible intent of creating art is to maybe shape the way you see the world.
And so, I'm always disappointed if someone does a thumbs up or thumbs down because I think the conversation really needs to be had. Well, what was it about the production that you enjoyed? there's gotta be aspects of it that you enjoyed. Maybe the themes weren't something that you enjoyed or didn't relate to, or didn't want to feel.
But really what's, what's at play when you're seeing a show? Obviously the better choice or hope that we have is that people walk away feeling either inspired or entertained or invigorated, or many plays that I've seen through my career literally have rattled me to deep thought for days, where I think about the themes, and that's always kind of the hope that it's not something that's kind of just dismissed out of hand.
And I typically, when I'm in London or New York, I'll see a block of shows, and inevitably it always works out this way. Let's say I see, go to the Shaw Festival and I see 10 shows, there'll be a third of the shows that you know, I liked the third of the shows that I was interested in and a third of the shows that I absolutely loved.
And it is that kind of third, third, third. But it doesn't mean though, that my time on that, on the shows that maybe weren't my favorite, weren't well spent. It actually was very well spent because I have an opinion, or I have, I've had an internal conversation about what it was about that play that I liked or didn't like. you know what I'm saying?
LC : I do.
AK : Criticism doesn't have to be a negative thing.
LC : And what it is doing too, we're creating a culture of critical thinking. Yeah. We're thinking about what we're thinking about. We're thinking about what we're feeling about, right. Meta-thinking, meta-feeling. So this opportunity, when people give, like you said third, that you maybe don't like as much, third neutral both, third you really like, and I bet what you, when you're saying you still spent good time in that third, as you now know things that maybe could be better about it, you thought of ways that it could improve or ways that perhaps I'm going to ask you like, what do you see perhaps in a, great performance for you? What does it look like for you?
AK : Well, what's interesting is I'm a populist producer, because we have a lot of people to, you know, to take care of. That being said, my personal taste, I worked on Angels in America on Broadway, both pieces and a musical called Jelly's Last Jam that Gregory Hines was in. George Wolfe, directed brilliantly. And I tend to be drawn. Musicals are my background, but I tend, when I go to the Theatre, I like a little more of a challenge for myself. I like to be intellectually stimulated, and, or asked to consider seeing things differently.
And a very good example of that is ‘wit’, where it was, you know, possibly a difficult subject matter about a woman who was dying of cancer. But, really the themes of the play were about the woman who was passing of cancer, was a college professor, and she did not give her students grace. And how, now she's going through a very painful part of her passing and asking for proper bedside manner from the doctors.
And she's like, why am I asking that of the doctors when I didn't grant that to my students? And it stayed with me for a very long time. Obviously I'm talking about it now. So it had a very huge emotional impact on how I viewed the world, and that's what great art does, I think.
LC : Absolutely to think about end of life like that and how we are getting back, what we have put into the world, and how we feel about that, those moments in their very last breaths. And, Jelly's Last Jam too, Jelly Roll Martin.
AK : Yeah well, he denied his African American heritage. You know, these are complex subject, you know, things to go through. And again, you know, it's such a privilege to be part of a groundbreaking show like that. I learned from the vast, Margo Lion was the lead producer of both of them. She's recently passed herself, but I, you know, people think that being on, working on Broadway is a very glamorous thing. It's not necessarily, you know for us, it was me and Margo in one office together.
And, I learned though, I consider it my graduate degree because, you know, I was going to Serino Coyne and the best advertising agencies and working under the Dodgers who were the general managers. And my job was to oversee the investment documents for the investors on Broadway.
So I was working with Scott Lazarus, who was an attorney, and if there were any questions, I was reading a book called ‘I'm Producing’ by Donald Farber. And it was like reading the phone book, it was so boring, right? Because it was a legal and business guide. And I would call up Scott and I would say, can you explain this to me? So I really got my education just by showing up again. You know, that's a huge theme for my life. You know, just show up if you want something. If someone just came up to me today and said, I need a job, I'm willing to work for it. You know, I, that would pique my interests.
LC : Well, we should talk about it. So somebody who is about jobs, tell us about that at the Maltz Theatre, right?
AK : Yeah.
LC : Tell me more about that. So what, because I'd love to hear more for about your staff too, with the hard work they do. I know they're on this line right now, so I'm sure, you know, it'd be good to, you know, let's talk about what, you know, what they do and their experiences and what it would look like to work at the Maltz Theatre. What is it really like, you know, what would they be doing
AK : Sure.
LC : How would they be interacting? Yeah, tell us.
AK : Well, we have many ways to interact here. So we have a full marketing department, super creative. One of our staff members does all the original artwork. So they're creators of their own work. All the videos that come out are done by one gentleman, Jeff Berry, who's been with our company for 14 years. And, we have sales. I mean, all of our departments, we take a creative approach to everything.
And, we're also super strategic, which you wouldn't think the Theatres are, but you have to be, you know, planning a season, I have to be, and when I say I mean the entire staff. We have to be 15 months to two years ahead of, cause we have to license the product, then we have to create the artwork and the photo shoots that need to take place.
And then development, the fundraising aspect of our business. We have one of the most creative people on our staff just for special events. And it's finding ways to make the gala interactive. So it feels like you're walking into a play and, you know, every department is doing, you know, taking a creative approach to their job.
LC : What does that look like? You were mentioning about the creative play and about how people kind of walk into a play and get part of the community. What invigorates somebody to say, I really want to get involved in this, this is the place that I want to place my energies right, and place my funding as well too. Like, what gets it, what's the kind of tipping point?
Yeah, I think the job for all of us is to inspire people as they come in. And so we do a lot of things here. We do backstage tours. We do probably 40 events within the year that all bring to life our mission statement. And, again, I think that people enjoy, well, first of all, children and education is a huge part that people want to fund that, scholarships and other things that we have to offer.
But also they're very, they get, it's kind of like lifelong learning, higher education with regard to how we create our shows, that we focus a lot on that. And, I did a Maltz masterclass for two of our shows where we talked about different aspects of how we produced the shows. And people couldn't get enough of it. They really said it deepened their appreciation for what we do on our stages.
And, you know, you give insight. You Hear from our Oliver, who was just opposite Hugh Jackman on Broadway and his mother and how they travel across the country and the housing and how their day is spent. People love that kind of insight into the process. So we do as much of that as possible and, and it just draws people in closer. They want to buy more tickets, then they want to be involved more. They want to lean into what we're doing.
LC : Okay. I'll give you the last question, but this is going to be a tough one. Your favorite performance at the Maltz Theatre. Your, the one that maybe was the last one, or one that's coming up too. We're going to do both. One that's coming up, but favorite one, tell me about it.
AK : There've been a lot of shows that, you know, the kind of litmus test for me is when I want to watch it over and over again. And I would say probably the show that I wanted to see over and over again, I would've been happy to watch it every night, was, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
LC : It's a great one.
AK : But I've loved our Man of La Mancha, our so many, a lot of the plays, Disgraced, where we had to continue the conversation. We had discussion afterwards, words with the audience, and, after Disgraced, one of the audience members said, I kept asking the question, where is God? That was her response to the play. And I found that to be fascinating. So, yeah, and there've been a few that I wish we could have done better, you know, we're our own worst critics. But we've had a good run. And I'd like to say that majority of the time we get it right.
LC : That's just incredible that even after a performance, you're having a dialogue that does not happen often. I know Ben Folds does that, where he actually has, and you probably know Ben Folds.
AK : I got to meet him at the Kennedy Center. Yeah.
LC : Really? Yeah, he's outstanding. He's such a fan of the arts. And so,
AK : Great storyteller too in his lyrics.
LC : Phenomenal storyteller, you know, capable of anything. Capable of the good and the bad, and, right. We all are. It's just, it's like a musical [laugh] his musical. Right, exactly. He's just incredible. And I think of Ben, and I thought of Ben when you said that, I was thinking that's how Ben thinks. You know, he wants to talk, he wants to bring the audience into it. He does calls and responses. You know, one of the songs, ‘Steven's Last Night in Town’, he'll have them do three different layers of melody. And you did that at your pledges now at your performance. Now you asked people what their thoughts were.
AK : Yeah. But how did the, it's one question, one question that night was, how did this play make you feel?
LC : That's it.
AK : It was all over, you know.
LC : How did this play make you feel?
AK : Yeah.
LC : And they said, "It made me think of God".
AK : Yeah. Or the absence of God or something like that. It was something really pithy and profound. But you're like, yeah, let's talk about this. That's great.
LC : So I don't think, you'll find any Theatre that I know that does this kind of thing. It's really incredible. It is great that you have that kind of dialogue, truly a community Theatre. you've done so much, you have so much, that you do now to promote arts, and to promote an awesome culture. I love this. Take responsibility for your energy and bring the good energy in, right? And, a great culture, built on great work and talent and just, it is such a pleasure to meet you. You are indeed talented and kind.
AK : Thank you.
LC : And also have great energy. So I can see why that would manifest in the Maltz Theatre that you lead.
AK : Thank you so much.