Behind the Scenes at A.C.T.: An Interview with Theater Manager Kevin Nelson

Theater Manager Kevin Nelson in the Sky Bar at The Geary Theater.
Photo by Elspeth Sweatman.
By Taylor Steinbeck

Fresh on the scene and eager to meet you: introducing Kevin Nelson, A.C.T.’s new theater manager! Kevin began working for A.C.T. this summer during A Night with Janis Joplin. We ventured into the unusually quiet Geary Theater on a Tuesday afternoon to get to know Kevin and chat about his experiences with odd lost and found items and rowdy audience members.

For somebody not in theater, what does a theater manager do?

My job is mostly spearheading the Front of House operations. I organize the bartenders, ushers, and house managers, and oversee whatever is happening in The Geary, The Strand, and The Costume Shop in addition to our rental spaces. Basically, I’m the connection between the spaces and the staffing needs for those spaces. Theater management is all about listening to your audience and making sure they feel like they’re being taken care of and understood.

Is there a typical day in theater management?
No! No typical days in theater management [laughs]. A lot of the days I’m completing administrative duties, like scheduling, reconciling money and all the cash that we make during the shows, and dealing with our lost and found. We’ve collected all sorts of weird things people have left behind. Once we found a horse-riding helmet in one of our bathrooms.

Do crowds vary from show to show or is it mostly the same hodgepodge of people?
It really depends on the show. Usually a crowd is made up of subscribers interspersed with single-ticket buyers who are interested in certain content or shows. For Janis’s extension weeks, we only had single-ticket buyers and a lot of these people were interested in experiencing a Janis Joplin concert or tourists in San Francisco for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. It was a very different crowd than you might get for something like Hamlet, which will also be popular, but for other reasons.

Has anything memorable happened since you’ve started here?
In the closing weekend of Janis, there were two very inebriated patrons who were dancing near the front of the orchestra section and being very distracting. So, Oliver, our wonderful security guy, went up to them and asked them to leave. After a while of them giving him a hard time, they finally were like, “Fine! But aren’t you at least gonna dance with us?” And so, Oliver started dancing with these drunk patrons to get them to follow him out into the lobby.

What are you looking forward to this coming season?

Definitely Hamlet. It’s the first show of the 2017–18 season and it’s the one I’ve been thinking about the most. And it’s John Douglas Thompson.

Single tickets for A.C.T.'s 2017–2018 season go on sale August 7. Click here to check out the exciting shows coming soon.

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