I’ve lived three lives: professional ballerina, entertainment lawyer, Broadway producer, and I wouldn’t change a thing, not even the challenges and struggles. How did I did I become a Broadway producer for hit shows like Mean Girls? It all started with a chance encounter on the subway.
After a ballet class, I asked a young man on the subway platform for directions downtown. The man happened to be a musical theatre composer, and we started talking about our mutual love for the performing arts. At the time I was an entertainment lawyer, and we exchanged contacts. He reached out and invited me for drinks with his agent and the CEO of The Araca Group, a company that was co-producing a new Broadway show called Wicked.
A few days later, I went to see Wicked’s first preview performance. The thrilling spectacle that ends Act 1—“Defying Gravity”—evoked such an emotional response from the audience that something shifted within me. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a Broadway producer.
I had left my career in ballet to go into law, and it was the second time in my life I was defying a bit of gravity myself. Leaving a secure law firm job for the risky business of Broadway was a bigger leap than any I had made on stage. But I was prepared for it.
I knew in my gut this was my dream job because it applied a mix of right and left-brained skills, and collaborating daily with Broadway artists. I left behind my position as a lawyer to offer my services as an unpaid intern at The Araca Group. I worked tirelessly to make myself an indispensable asset they would be compelled to hire full-time—and they eventually did. And I quickly rose through the ranks, but not without some trial and error.
Broadway is a tough industry. The first show I co-produced, The Wedding Singer, failed financially. When a co-producing partner dropped out at the last minute, I jumped in with both dancing feet, determined to help raise the capital to lift the show off the ground. Hustling harder than ever, I made up the shortfall in a matter of weeks, putting some of my own money on the line. That’s how strongly I believed in the show. I put in even more to keep it running while word of mouth was building. The Wedding Singer received a Tony nomination for Best Musical, but after a nine-month run it closed on Broadway without recouping its capitalization.
Even though 8 out of 10 Broadway shows fail to turn a profit, I still took the loss personally. Did I make a mistake jumping into producing? My confidence wavered, but giving up is not my nature. It was four years before I produced another Broadway show, the revival of Arthur Miller’s acclaimed play A View from the Bridge, starring Scarlett Johansson. The show was a hit. It received glowing reviews, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play, and even a Tony nomination. My confidence bolstered by this success, I launched my own company, Altair Entertainment.
In my current role as the live stage representative for Paramount Pictures, I co-produced the musical adapted from Tina Fey’s beloved 2004 movie, Mean Girls. It opened on Broadway in April 2018 and has played to sold-out houses since its first performance. I’ve come a long way from the girl on the subway. For those who aspire to take a leap in their careers, here’s my advice:
Trust your instincts
Trust yourself, and do not let fear hold you back.
With Mean Girls, my gut told me this film was ripe for a stage adaptation. I knew the ideas and emotions of high school students would triumph when expressed through song and dance, and it felt like the perfect time to feature a slew of female protagonists learning invaluable lessons about bullying and treating others with respect. My gut was right: the production received 12 Tony Award nominations.
We all have that negative voice, screaming out every potential flaw in our plan. When that voice threatens to derail me, I close my eyes and visualize a successful endgame. Moving meditation can be incredibly helpful, and I enjoy yoga or barre class as it re-centers my focus and helps silence self-doubt. When the voice quiets, a new path usually emerges — often in a novel direction.
Hold on to your passions
You must believe in your vision, even if no one else does. Family and closest friends excluded, many people in my life doubted I’d get into Harvard Law or that I’d make it as a Broadway producer. But many successful entrepreneurs pursued other careers before finding their true passion. Just one example: Vera Wang was a figure skater and a journalist before focusing on fashion at age 40. Explore what ignites your passion, put in the hard work—and don’t hesitate to ask for directions. You can create your own big break.