Works by Women

Supporting creative work by women

Interview: Barbara Kielhofer

Earlier this month, Barbara Kielhofer, Producing Director at T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre, accepted the 2011 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Production of a Play for her work on T. Schreiber’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead.  It was quite a milestone for an emerging producer, one who is fearless in her choices, innovative in marketing strategies and dedicated to creating lively, heart-palpitating theater.

Barbara, pictured left with playwright John Patrick Shanley at the NYIT Awards ceremony, is a member of the Theater Resources Unlimited’s Producer Development Mentorship Program and the League of Professional Theatre Women.  She spoke to Works by Women about winning the NY IT Award, her love of theater and her best piece of advice for other producers.

1) What is your first theater memory?
[Barbara Kielhofer]: My first theatre memory is going to Cats with my parents when I was four. And I have to say, as four-year old, I was blown away by it. It blew my mind all these actors crawling through the aisles dressed like house cats. I sort of have an earlier memory of my parents going to see Pump Boys and Dinettes. I was two or three-years-old and was too young to go to the theatre with them. It really made me mad that I wasn’t included so I was extra excited when I was finally old enough to go to the theatre. Theatre has been a huge part of my life for me entire life. I was really lucky to grow up in the theatre going household.

2)  Your began your career in theater as a stage manager.  Tell me a little bit about your experience.
[BK]: I started stage managing in college. I knew I wanted to do theatre but wasn’t sure where I fit in. My mentor Michael Nehring really helped me find my niche. I owe my entire career to him and the time he took to really help me find my passion. He also gave me my first professional SM gig at his theatre company in Los Angeles, Son of Semele. From there I moved to New Work, received my masters in Stage Management from Columbia and have worked with Choice Theatricals, LAByrinth, The Public Theater, PS122, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Splinter Group, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Theatre Festival, The Princeton Festival and New York City Opera…just to name a few.

3) How was the transition from SM to Producer?
[BK]: The transition from Stage Manager to Producer was a complete surprise. I took a few producing classes for my masters, but hadn’t really considered it as a career path. I was in between stage management gigs when a position opened up at T. Schreiber as the assistant to the Producing Director. I’m close with our Board President so she recommended me for the job. It was just supposed to be a temp thing while I was in between gigs, but I loved it so much I stayed on. Less than a year later our Producing Director left to pursue her directing career, and I got bumped up to Producing Director. I never planned it, but producing has ended up being my true passion. I can’t even imagine not having it in my life.

4) You just won the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Production for T. Schreiber’s production of Balm in Gilead.  What was that like?
[BK]: Balm in Gilead was a magical experience for everyone involved so winning the Outstanding Production Innovative Theatre Award really put the cherry on top of our sundae. It was a fitting way to honor our collective experience and to honor Lanford Wilson’s memory. In my acceptance speech I said that “his words and his presence touched us all deeply” and I really mean that. He changed our lives with this show and by being there to experience it with us. He was an amazing man.

5) What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a producer?
[BK]: Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting for, but the few things that are worth it are usually the things that make or break a show.

6) What do you think are the greatest challenges women face in American theater?
[BK]: There is definitely a glass ceiling for women. There are very few female Artistic Directors, and it seems like there are only a few female playwrights getting their work produced. I know so many women working in theatre, but so few up them have reached the highest levels of their profession.

7) What gives you hope for women in American theater?
[BK]: The women I know working in theatre give me hope. They are smart, professional, driven women. If anyone is going to breakdown the boundaries we currently have in American Theatre it is one of the women working in theatre today.

T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre’s next production is Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, running October 13 through November 20, 2011 at the Gloria Maddox Theatre (151 West 26th St., 7th Floor, between 6th and 7th Ave., New York City).


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