Jennifer Tepper is a producer, theatre historian and recently took a new position at the fabulous, 54 Below. She has just finished writing her first book which will be released mid-November. No time to dawdle, let’s dig in and learn more about this lovely lady!
The Playbill Collector (TPC): What first got you interested in theatre history?
Jennifer Tepper (JT): I grew up in Florida, far away from the bright lights of Broadway, and I lived for cast recordings and the liner notes that came with them. Those were a gateway drug to books about theatre, and before I knew it, I was studying all-things theatre history and completely fascinated by it.
TPC: When did you move to New York City and what was your first job?
JT: I moved to New York City in 2004 to go to college at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. My very first job in the theatre was an internship at the York Theatre. The York is an amazing place that nurtures new musicals and underappreciated musicals of the past, and it was a perfect place for me to start learning about professional theatre.
TPC: You have a huge Twitter following. Do you have a strategy for your tweets or are they more what’s on your mind at that moment?
JT: I love Twitter because it’s such an incredible way for the theatre community to connect – and by the community, I mean everyone working on theatre, anywhere, from Broadway to a middle school in Iowa. My mind boggles at the idea of “What if Twitter had existed in 1976?” Would we have tweets from Gwen Verdon and Donna McKechnie, talking to kids about their high school productions of Chicago and A Chorus Line? Probably. Twitter is an incredible thing! Now that I’ve babbled on about that… My twitter has zero strategy, other than that I love to connect with people about things I’m excited about, whether that’s a Tony Awards video or a new flavor of vitamin water or the show I saw last night.
TPC: You recently moved from Davenport Theatrical to 54 Below. What is your new title and position?
JT: My title at 54 Below is Director of Programming. Basically, I’m in charge of the majority of what plays our stage, from Broadway headliners to emerging musical theatre writers to new concerts and pieces. It’s an absolutely wonderful place to work, and the team at 54 Below is just incredible. I’m so excited for many of the things we’re planning that are coming up. I’m just getting started!
TPC: On top of working at Broadway’s Supper Club, you recently finished writing your first book. Can you tell us a bit about that?
JT: Yes! “The Untold Stories of Broadway” is being released by Dress Circle Publishing on November 12! You can pre-order from their website now, or order a hard copy or Kindle version on Amazon.com in 2 weeks. It’s just wild. The book comprises over 200 interviews that I conducted with theatre professionals, and each chapter is an adventure through a different Broadway theater. You get to hear stories from actors, producers, directors, stagehands, musicians, theater owners, designers, ushers, and many more show folks, and in between, I share discoveries and fun facts about each Broadway house that I made myself. I’m so thrilled to finally be able to share the book with people- and also terrified and nervous, in the way you are when you open a show! I’ve wanted to be a musical theatre historian for my entire life, and this book is a dream come true.
TPC: Do you have any favorite interview stories from your book?
JT: There are so many favorites that I can never pick one! I will say that I was just re-reading an amazing story I was told by Casey Nicholaw, about working with Julie Andrews on Victor/Victoria. Julie turned down her Tony Award nomination for Victor/Victoria to stand in solidarity with her company since the show hadn’t been nominated, and Casey’s story is about how wonderful Julie was to the entire group, and how close the cast was. During my interview process, Marquis door man Rey Concepcion gave me an amazing tour of the theater, and around the corner from his office, he pointed out a huge Tony Award replica that the company had gotten for Julie when all of that happened. It still hangs proudly at the Marquis. I heard a lot of stories from people that were linked like that— different perspectives on the same night, or different versions of the same story. So cool.
TPC: Are there any people you are dying to interview that you didn’t get a chance to this round? In other words, should we be on the lookout for a second book?
JT: This is actually the first of several volumes. I will be writing about all of the Broadway theaters and also a small handful of theaters that are no longer. The first book contains the stories of the Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Lyceum, Mark Hellinger, Marquis, Neil Simon, Richard Rodgers and Winter Garden Theatres. There are definitely more people I want to interview for future volumes!
TPC: If you were able to sit with three composers (dead or alive) and chat about their work, who would you choose?
JT: Oooh, that’s a great question! I got to sit down with so many of the greats for this project, and I will be forever grateful for that. Three I didn’t get to sit down with that I would love to in my dream fantasyland? Perhaps I would choose Stephen Sondheim, Peter Allen, and Ed Kleban.
TPC: For those reading from out of town, do you have a favorite on or off Broadway shows that you would suggest they see?
JT: There are so many great shows on and off Broadway right now! I will say that the show I’m most excited for right now that I haven’t seen yet is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE! I have tickets in a couple weeks and I can’t wait. Go support new musicals!
If you are anything like me, this interview has left you itching to check out Jennifer’s book and see a performance at 54 Below. Don’t hesitate, both are bound to be magical. For more on the book click here: http://www.dresscirclepublishing.com/