The End of the Road, But Not the Journey
On February 24, 2019, I celebrated 16 years with Disney’s The Lion King. It is by far the longest I have worked with any company, and I never imagined what an incredible impact this show would have on me when I showed up for open-call auditions in Illinois on a whim.
I started my journey in 2003 with the Chicago-based tour as a dancer and singer in the show. Two years later, I became the Dance Captain and a swing. Having had a career with several concert dance companies, this position suited me as I was asked to learn all the female ensembles roles, as well as several men’s parts and not only perform but also teach these roles. Being a swing means you are not always on stage, but you may be asked to cover a role when a cast member is sick, on vacation, or can’t do the performance at the last minute. All of this was very exciting to me, and I prided myself in being a versatile dancer. I also enjoyed coaching and assisting new cast members onto the Lion King stage.
Fast forward to 2016. After 13 years on tour, I was ready to get off the road. I had traveled 111,855 miles, worked 5,844 performances, visited 113 cities, and was filled with a lifetime of memories.
Shortly after I had put in my notice to leave, I was approached by the Company Manager on tour and asked if I had any interest in Company Management. Over the years, I had often found myself in the CM office helping with minor tasks like sorting the mail, gathering information for the city sheets, and even organizing parties. But I didn’t really have a full understanding of the job description other than they had a huge task in managing and moving a mammoth-sized company of 125 people.
To my surprise, I was offered the Assistant Company Manager position on the tour. I couldn’t say no to such an incredible opportunity and fluid career transition. With the support of two intelligent, brilliant, and inspiring mentors, I was honored and grateful to start a new journey with The Lion King. As a professional dancer, we train intensely almost every day, and you must be focused and disciplined to pick up choreography quickly. All of the skills that I had honed as a dancer came into play as I transitioned into my new position. I enjoy learning new things and problem-solving and felt up to the challenge.
After a short break, I was back out on the road. A company manager’s to-do list is never-ending. I quickly learned that we are always working, our phones are constantly buzzing, and we have to be available to the company basically 24 hours. I gained a new respect for all the company managers that I know and have worked with. The responsibilities go beyond the job description. I have found myself at numerous emergency rooms, been a mediator, diplomat, therapist, confidante, and learned that sometimes people just need you to listen. This is in addition to running payroll weekly, auditing settlements, paying invoices, processing house seats, and other operational tasks.
While I enjoyed the fast-paced life of company management on the road, I jumped at the opportunity to transition to New York permanently in 2017 and to work out of the Disney Theatrical Group offices on 42nd Street as the ACM of The Lion King on Broadway. I am so happy to finally be able to go home to my own bed every night, and I’m enjoying all that living in New York offers. After two and a half years as an ACM, I am still learning and enjoying the daily challenges of the job. No day is ever the same, and we are constantly faced with new issues and demands.
The thing I value the most as a company manager is the opportunity to work with vastly different groups of people, from performers to musicians to theatre staff and crew. These talented people come together 8 times a week to put on a show that has been running for an incredible 21 years. Being part of the theater that continues to inspire and move people, whether as a member of the ensemble or a member of management, is truly to be living the dream.