Wanna be a producer?
Then you can learn a thing or two from Columbia’s award-winning SOA alum and frequent lecturer—theatrical producer, Barbara Whitman. Whitman’s current Broadway productions include The Glass Menagerie starring Sally Fields and War Paint starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole. In the past three years, three of Whitman’s shows received Tony Awards: The Humans (Best Play), Fun Home (Best Musical) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Best Musical Revival). How does she do it?!
In Whitman’s words, “It’s the natural evolution of my career.” Whitman worked as an actress and singer in the 1980s. She later became managing director of a family-owned brokerage firm and ultimately married both experiences by pursuing her Masters in Theatre Management and Producing at Columbia. She explains, “I chose Columbia for many reasons—I loved that the program had a strong emphasis in commercial theater, but also included many courses in the non-profit sector. Ultimately, my decision was largely based on the faculty. Almost all of my professors were working professionals and many were leaders in the industry. I felt that making those connections would be a great way to launch my career, and I was right.”
While at Columbia, Whitman connected with an incredible mentor—legendary producer David Stone. She says, “Studying with David Stone was invaluable. At the time, David had just opened Wicked on Broadway. Not only did I learn how to be a producer from one of the masters, I also began a partnership with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which continues to this day.”
The diversity and breadth of shows that she has produced both inspires and astonishes. Having studied everything from company management to accounting during her time at Columbia, Whitman continues to benefit immensely from her classroom knowledge, and her career displays an extreme flexibility and adaptability—from productions on Broadway to Off Broadway, National Tours, and on the West End.
Columbia continues to play a role in Whitman’s career today. After over a decade since her graduation, Whitman marvels “at the number of people I met at Columbia who continue to be a huge part of my life. I believe in treating every person that crosses your path as someone who may (and probably will) cross it again in the future. It certainly is true with my fellow alums. It often seems like the entire industry is swarming with Columbia folk!”