Interview with PR and Marketing Associate at Paper Mill Playhouse, John Zeitoun

John Zeitoun is a young, passionate, theater enthusiast and the PR and Marketing Associate at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.  We first “met” via social media and then actually met in person at the opening night party of HONEYMOON IN VEGAS.  We quickly found that we have similar taste in shows and our top three favorite Broadway productions currently playing are the same.

The Playbill Collector (TPC): How did you get started in theater?

John Zeitoun (JZ): Since I was four years old all I wanted to do was perform.  When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would say, “I want to go to Juilliard and be a Broadway star.” That’s honestly all I wanted until the summer going into my freshman year of college when I went to my first open call for SPRING AWAKENING on Broadway. That day, everything was put into perspective for me and I realized how competitive and harsh the theater industry could be. On the bus ride home, I had a mini existential crisis when I realized that my lifelong dream of performing was no longer something I wanted to pursue.

TPC: Did you do any internships during your time at Muhlenberg College?

JZ: Yes.  My first was interning at my college’s Public Relations office during my Junior year. The summer going into my Senior year, I interned at Disney Theatrical Group in New York, NY in the marketing department.  To this day, my Disney Theatrical Group internship was one of the most life changing experiences for me.  For years I suppressed the idea of working in the theater industry, but then all of a sudden I was working on 42nd Street at the New Amsterdam Theater doing what I loved the most. There were several moments during my ten-week internship that I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. One of the moments was when I was at the opening night party for NEWSIES, the other was shadowing the stage manager at THE LION KING on Broadway. It truly was a dream come true!

TPC: How did you get the job at Paper Mill Playhouse?

JZ: After graduating in May, I applied to a bunch of marketing and public relations roles online. I saw this post on Playbill.com and interviewed in August. After not hearing back for weeks, I thought for sure I didn’t get it but alas, I was offered the role in September. I believe my previous internship experience helped me get my foot in the door at Paper Mill Playhouse. It’s been an amazing experience working here because I’m learning a lot and given a lot of responsibility!

TPC: What are your day to day functions at Paper Mill?

JZ: I’m fortunate enough to work alongside the amazing Shayne Miller  who is Paper Mill Playhouse’s Director of Press and Public Relations.  I am responsible for many tasks, including updating the social media platforms, pitching story ideas to press when we are gearing up for a show, helping to run our in studio press events and opening night parties, writing press releases and media alerts, and compiling all of the press that Paper Mill Playhouse is mentioned in.

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TPC: Tell us about your interaction with the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir.

JZ: On Sunday nights I serve as the Company Manager for the Paper Mill Playhouse Broadway Show Choir. The choir consists of 50 kids ages 15-22 years old who are incredibly talented and dedicated.  The rehearsals are typically three hours long and their repertoire includes everything from pop classics like Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” to musical theater staples like “Another Opnin, Another Show.”  From now until March we will be in rehearsal mode.  From April to June we will be performing almost every weekend all over the state of New Jersey.  The choir members act as ambassadors to Paper Mill Playhouse and help us gain visibility across the state!

TPC: What sticks out to you about PR?

JZ: There’s a huge misconception surrounding PR.  Everyone thinks it’s a glamorous field where you are schmoozing with celebrities and going to extravagant parties.  While that might be true for a couple days a year, I’m usually working those events.  At the end of the day, working as a Publicist is a sales job. I pitch editors on a daily basis and try to persuade them as to why our stories are newsworthy and why it’s worth writing about. You have to be on top of the latest news and trends to find the right angle for pitching reporters and journalists.

TPC: What show are you most excited about that is coming up this season at Paper Mill?

JZ: It was awesome to start at Paper Mill Playhouse with HONEYMOON IN VEGAS.  At first, I was nervous and felt like I was thrown into the lions den, but I learned a lot from that show and am grateful for that amazing experience. HONEYMOON IN VEGAS from a PR standpoint kept me extremely busy.  OLIVER was great because I enjoyed working with the workhouse boys in the show and their families. All of the workhouse boys lived in New Jersey and I worked closely with their hometown press to get coverage for the show. I’m really excited for SOUTH PACIFIC because it’s one of the few Pulitzer Prize winning dramas and I absolutely loved the production at Lincoln Center a few years ago.

TPC: What are your future career goals?

JZ: To continue following my dream of working in the entertainment industry as a Publicist and Digital Marketer.  While I love theater I am also passionate about television and music and I could see myself potentially working in those areas as well.

 

TPC: What would you say to someone who wants to go into your industry?

JZ: I’m going to be honest- the entertainment industry is very competitive and cut throat. Since it’s such a niche industry, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door but don’t let that dissuade you from following your dream! It’s important to remember what you are passionate about and what inspires you. After all, if everything was easy it wouldn’t make accomplishing a goal nearly as exciting or fulfilling!

TPC: What are your top three favorite shows on Broadway right now?

JZ: PIPPIN, THE GLASS MENAGERIE and BEAUTIFUL.

For more information on John, e-mail him at jzeitoun91@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter (@LetsTalkTheater).

For more information on Paper Mill Playhouse, visit www.papermill.org

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