BWW Blog: Ryan Bauer-Walsh of LMNOP - Interview with Goodspeed's CM, Kristan McLaughlin
Hey Broadway World Readers!
I would like to take some time to introduce you to someone very special- someone many of you, if you are in the theatre profession, may already know....
Kristan McLaughlin has been Goodspeed's company manager for 20 years. She lives on the campus in a house next to the rehearsal hall over a waterfall. She has met hundreds and hundreds of actors in the business, and is known throughout the performing community as an integral part of the Goodspeed experience. I first met Kristan in 2006 when I was doing Nell Benjamin's PIRATES! We became friends, and it is so good to be back up here hanging out with her!
RBW: So Kristan, how did you come to work at Goodspeed?
KM: I actually have been company manager since 2005, but started as an apprentice in '98, and was then an assistant, and then became Company Manager. I answered an ad in Art Search-- which is like backstage for technicians. At school we learned that was the place where to look for gigs and three years out of school I came to Goodspeed.
Ryan Bauer-Walsh: When did you move into the waterfall house?
Kristan McLaughlin: In 2005, when I became Company Manager. It has always been the Company Manager's house. The woman who was Company Manager before me, was the longest running Company Manager at Goodspeed, but I have actually been at Goodspeed longer now than that, but just not Company Manager for the entire time.
RBW: Where did you go to school?
KM: I went to, at the time a small liberal arts college, called Longwood College in Farmville, which is now Longwood University. At the time I thought it was the smallest town I was ever going to live in! Ha!
RBW: You have met so many actors over time-- have you ever been stars struck?
KM: Ya know, it's interesting, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't... a little star struck by.... Julie Andrews or Paul Williams. But most of the people who are here, because it is work, it is just a job, and I'm doing a job. It takes a minute for me to process that "Oh my gosh - I am having a conversation with Julie Andrews!" or "Oh my goodness I am friends with Paul Williams." But I don't think I can do what I do and be star struck.
KRISTAN, MICHAEL MCGURICK, MARK during 'No, No, Nanette 1999')
RBW: With the advent of social media, it has become much easier to stay in touch with the friends we make on regional gigs and tours, do you stay in touch with a lot of the performers here?
KM: I stay in touch with a fair amount of people that I have met, all the way back to 1998. There are people from back then that I am still close with and talk to. There are people from that same time that I couldn't say where they are now. It is a big business. I am Facebook friends with a lot of people that I do stay in touch with. Some people are up every couple of years, or 5-7 years, but if there is a connection there is a connection. Sometimes certain companies, like the cast of 2006's Pippin lend themselves to be more of a "keeping in touch" kind of group. It'd difficult to stay in touch, unless you are seeing people every week.
RBW: Just last week Broadway's Molly Tynes of Pippin was up here for a dance intensive- she did Pippin here in 2006, what is the longest stretch you have gone between seeing people?
KM: For instance, LMNOP's Donna Lynne Champlin has done a lot of contracts here, but the last time I saw her was when she was in John Doe and you were in Pirates! Sometimes people come up for the Festival here, like Sally Wilfert (also from LMNOP ) so sometimes you get to connect with people again, even if only for a short while.
RBW: Do you have any stories you would like to share about your experiences here at Goodspeed- you have dealt with so many things. I hear a lot of people meet their significant others here!
KM: I was actually there to see one couples' first date who met here- we all went out one night- they had both been here before but never at the same time, but that night was the beginning of a beautiful thing, and now they have three children! I may have meddled a bit to help them get along.
RBW: A little match maker?
KM: Oh yes. But it was their first date, and they left here, started dating, and now married. The third child is actually due on Saturday!
RBW: How is life in East Haddam? It is very beautiful here, do you find time to get away or is life a 'staycation'?
KM: There is not a lot to do here, but the job keeps me busy. I don't have a lot of opportunity for vacations, we do a lot of education projects in the off season, but I go home for Christmas most years. When the education projects are over, there is usually a little time, however getting the housing ready for the next season takes up a lot of time, but I love it.
I used to tend bar across the bridge and go out a lot! I loved tending bar, I did that when I was the assistant here, but the bar closed, which was sad. It was the hang out for all of us up here, and it was a great way to be social. There was karaoke and pool, and it was a really great place to go- you didn't have to drink, but you could see people. It was a lot of fun, it was sad when that bar closed. Everything like that is pretty far away from here now, and now that I am full time it is harder to be as social.
RBW: If you could see one show come to Goodspeed, what would you want to see?
KM: Well, I didn't go to school for theatre, and I was never a huge theatre person ironically, so I never spent a ton of time getting to know about shows, or learning about them, so I don't have a huge catalogue of shows outside of what I have seen here! I don't know if I could answer that question fairly cause I don't really know!
RBW: What was the first show you were here for?
KM: The first show I ever worked here for was Pajama Game as an assistant- but when I became the company manager, we had the largest show on stage we had ever done, Seven Brides and then our first tour- the Boyfriend and our first co-production with North Shore. So my first year was a big year! That was also the summer I think that a blackout took out the entire east coast!
RBW: How do you deal with the blackout?
KM: We always hope it won't be as bad as it is going to be, and now we have a generator at the opera house. We tell everyone to keep their fridges closed, and Company Management basically stays at the opera house to let people in, and you just hope it won't last too long - generally it is longer! But in '06 the power was out, and in the middle of a show the generator died! So the audience had to go downstairs and we kept them entertained. But we had to shuttle actors to a hotel that night, and as we were shuttling them out the power came back on... naturally. It was literally, the second they got in the van, and then all the lights came back on. Typical.
RBW: I heard the opera house flooded once?
KM: Since I've been here, the river level of the opera house has flooded 2 1/2 times, the first time was during Singing in the Rain. The week before rehearsal, the water table was so saturated, and the river and melt off was coming from the north, and Sucker Brook just couldn't handle it. So it flooded the rehearsal studio- which sits over the brook, and the water was rushing so hard, that it lifted parts of the asphalt up and moved the large stone pillars outside the studio. So we had 10 days to get it back up and running for rehearsal-- then-- three and half weeks later when we started tech, the melting from the north was coming down the Connecticut River, and it flooded, in and in and in, and you could see it coming, so we put the copier up on cinder blocks, and got as much out of the river level offices. And then a few years ago, during Irene, the river level flooded again, but at that point we had changed the rugs down there so they could be lifted up and removed, and because we saw it coming we were able to get ready for it. So there was little damage that occurred other than just letting things dry out and cleaning up. It is hard to be a Company Manager with no office! And coordinating the movement of all the actors during that time was crazy. What a crazy week - - ha!
RBW: And the half?
KM: Well, the two times it was ankle deep, and the half time was just when it came up to the door, but it didn't really make it in. But there is something a little scary about standing at a door and knowing there should be three car lengths in front of you of parking lot, and there is the river right at your feet! Venice overnight!
RBW: And finally, would you like to give any shout outs?
KM: I send Christmas cards to people who I haven't heard from in a while- and we are all on facebook now- so I'll just say 'hi, everyone'!
RBW: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Kristan!
KM: Thanks so much!
Well Broadway World Readers! We are down to our FINAL WEEK of LMNOP. I will be back to update you with some backstage photos, and letting you know where we are at as things come to a close...
The sunflowers are starting to get pretty tall, and we have BEANS now!
Looks like even a short contract can be fruitful... or veggie-ful.
Till next time!