Theatrical Producer: Richard Dines, Vandivort Theatre, Springfield, Missouri

Below is the results of an interview between Jeff LeClerc, an Entertainment Management student at Missouri State University and Richard Dines, a theatrical producer for Vandivort Theater. The interview was conducted in the spring of 2001.

Jeff LeClerc: What is your typical day like?

Richard Dines: My typical week? Well, I don’t necessarily work regular office hours, but when I am at the theatre, I’m there helping productions run smoothly, I generally deal with the public, media, and I troubleshoot production problems with directors, designers, things of that nature. That’s the regular part, but if I’m acting or directing, I’m at rehearsal four or five nights a week, and that’s in addition to producing shows. Typically, in a regular day, Lou (Lou Schaffer, Executive Producer) and I get business stuff out of the way in the morning. We talk every morning from an hour to an hour and a half, and we talk about marketing stuff, what we’re going to produce here.

JL: What kind of educational route should someone take for this field of work?

RD: For a theatre management position, probably business classes would be good, for marketing and accounting purposes. Most importantly, though, I think a theatre background is key. Sometimes there are managers who are business minded with a general interest in theatre, and that really doesn’t work.

JL: Is there on-the-job-training or field experience training?

RD: There is a little of both. A lot of theatre management is audience specific. It all depends on the audience, who are you producing for? It also really depends on how many theatres you’ve worked with, and what kind of audiences.

JL: What other qualifications or experiences do you recommend that you haven’t mentioned?

RD: One thing that is vital, and I think that a lot of people in an acting program realize this until they’re out of college, is reading. You need to be reading everything having to do with your career. I’m talking about the classics, new scripts, what?s going on, what’s new in theatre. For instance, I come to the theatre to open the box office in the morning, if I’m not doing anything, I’ll have two scripts read by noon. I’ve got stacks of stuff that needs to be read. There are plenty of things to read, like what shows are being done, how they’re being done. You can find scripts in magazines sometimes, and other times I’ve got people coming up here with original work that they want to circulate.

JL: Where are the open jobs?

RD: I wish I could tell you. If I knew, I probably wouldn’t be here. Obviously there are lots of jobs in New York, but there are also tons more people looking for work up there. The one thing about being a producer if there isn’t a lot of stuff to do, you can produce your own work.

JL: Where can you go from this position?

RD: Quite honestly, I don’t know if I’d want to go on somewhere else. I probably wouldn’t want to do a management position, because that’s not really my focus. But probably something with less management focus.

JL: How did you get where you are? How long did it take to get there?

RD: This job came from working in this theatre in different capacities. My first job here was stage-managing and assistant directing a show here, so I worked closely with Lou in that sense. Then I was acting in a musical revue here, and we had some problems with keeping a cast together. One guy in the show quit the show not too long before we opened it, then the director quit, so Lou needed to fill the weekend. He asked us if we could do a show with the same amount of people, and since I kind of took on the role of directing the show, we all decided that we wanted to do the musical revue anyway. After that, a friend of mine applied for a Baird grant, which they gave to him, then later took back. So I figured that I could help him produce it. Then I received my Baird project, directed that show, co-produced another show after that, and it got to a point that the theatre was growing so fast that Lou asked me to help out, because we had worked together on so many other projects previously. So, I’ve been here for about four years.

JL: Have any professional associations helped you in your career?

RD: Working with the theatre, I have a lot of people from all over that are great people, and some of those people could probably get me a job elsewhere if I wanted. With all of the different people working here, I work with everyone in one way or another. I read American Theatre, which gives me lots of new show ideas, and gives good tips for regional theatres. I also read a lot of online services, because there are so many, like Playbill online, which kind of keeps me up to date with everything going on in New York, and what kind of things they’re doing.

JL: What are the pros and cons of this job?

RD: I guess one of the bad things is that because there are so many different people working here at once, there are going to be different problems. I think it’s most difficult when you have a problem with a friend you’re working with. It all depends on the relationship you have with a person. Being able to stay flexible and not getting stressed out is a problem. You should not lock yourself down in one thing.

The pros would definitely be all of the people. You aren’t working with the same people all of the time, so that’s refreshing. Everyday is a new job. This is really an artistically fulfilling job, because if I get a burning to do a show, I have the opportunity.

JL: What is the salary like for this position?

RD: It really isn’t too bad. I work another full time job but I wouldn’t necessarily need it. But, working two jobs lets me live how I want.