Behind the Scenes
On Broadway and the road for more than 20 years as a company manager for major theatre productions, Frank Lott ’83 has seen it all, and probably arranged for it to be moved or maneuvered, too.
But before you can appreciate what he has seen, you have to understand what he does. He explains it like this: “A Broadway producer hires me to be the onsite production manager who oversees all aspects of operating and running these multimillion-dollar productions on a day-to-day basis from pre-production to the show’s closing.”
So how does one prepare to do this? He completed a three-year apprenticeship followed by a series of written and oral tests, “like a bar exam for professional commercial theatre — and very much like getting a degree from Whitman!”
In his words, here are some career highlights:
- “I managed the first Broadway show ever to go to Alaska. It was ‘Cats’ in 1989. The sets, costumes and physical production were offloaded in Anchorage from the 747 we rented and onto trucks used by a local fishing company, and for weeks we had the challenge of getting the fish smell out of ‘Cats!’
- “In 1994, I worked with the White House to arrange a secret ‘off the official agenda’ visit by the Clinton family to see ‘Crazy for You’ at the Shubert Theatre in New York. It was an amazing opportunity to meet the first family.
- “In the late ’90s, I managed two touring companies of the Hal Prince ‘Show Boat,’ which was the largest Broadway production to ever tour the U.S. and Canada. There were 29 semi-trucks, more than 5,000 costume pieces and a cast of 78.
- “My company of ‘The Lion King’ had to be moved from Cleveland to Honolulu and then to Mexico City, which involved 747s, container ships and trucks. In addition, special work visas, translators and a host of other logistics made the experience quite a challenge.”
- His current project is “Wicked,” his 21st assignment as a company manager for a Broadway show.
Lott believes that he “would not have been given the opportunities I have had in my career had it not been for what I learned and who I met at Whitman and HJT in particular, and for that I am grateful. Also, I maintain ongoing friendships with many of my fellow Whitties, and that level of closeness seems unique to the Whitman experience.”