O68: How long and in what capacities have both of you worked at the Ridgefield Playhouse?
AP: I started at the Playhouse in 2013 working in the box office and managing high-end concierge members. I was able to develop relationships with some of our longest-standing patrons and high-end donors. I then went on to become the Food and Beverage Manager. In 2020, everyone threw their hats in the ring to keep the Playhouse running and I was promoted to Managing Director, overseeing day-to-day operations and managing the team through our extensive programming.
JS: The Playhouse is like Hotel California, in that you can check out, but you can never really leave. It was my first job out of college. I was Allison Stockel’s executive assistant, and with only five full-time employees, there was no job I didn’t do. I stayed from 2006 – 2008, then I moved to NYC to be an agent. I came back in 2019 to work on the capital campaign but it quickly evolved into carving out a new role as Artistic Director.
O68: What artist/performer at the Playhouse was most memorable for you?
AP: In 2017, one of my favorite artists, Beth Hart, came to the Playhouse which happened to coincide with my 30th birthday. I bumped into her husband in the lobby and begged him to ask Beth to play LA Song. After the show, I saw him again and he apologized that my song wasn’t played. He then pulled me into the back where a sweat-drenched Beth ran down the hall screaming, “I forgot your song!!! Let’s sing it right now!” So, we slid into the very out of tune, signed piano backstage and sang our duet together. Thinking about that night still brings a huge smile to my face!
JS: I’m a deadhead, so having the chance to host Bob Weir and Ratdog in 2006 was surreal. Bobby’s Tour Manager at the time was Dennis McNally – a noted Dead author and publicist. I really looked up to Dennis and all he had done to lift the curtain up to outsiders like me. Most Tour Managers don’t watch the show, but I looked over and saw Dennis sitting cross-legged on top of a road case next to the sound board, his eyes closed, swaying along to the music. I loved that moment so much because after 20+ years of working with the Dead, he still loved the music and made time to listen.
O68: With Allison’s departure, you two are sharing the duties of running the Playhouse. What are your titles and what strengths do you bring to these positions?
AP: With my experience in box office, live shows, member and donor management, my title is Managing Director of Operations & Development. Jared and I talk about everything together and are united on all things, but our individual history with the playhouse and personalities work best delineated this way.
JS: In no way do we feel like we’re trying to fill Allison’s shoes (leather boots). As the venue has evolved, both the physical layout and the staff, so too has the actual organization of the business. We’re both Managing Directors – my purview is Talent and Marketing, so I’m focused on booking the venue, collaborating with the marketing team, and overseeing the production side of things. For me, it’s a full circle opportunity. To come back here after all these years and be afforded the chance to shape a place I know and love is a gift.
O68: What artist would be a dream booking for you?
AP: Jared booked Amy Schumer back in September, and that was a dream come true. I for sure love singer songwriter, Lauryn Hill, she is my go-to on all of my Spotify playlists and she just announced a 2023 tour for the 25th anniversary of Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, one of my favorite albums.
JS: I have a laundry list, but I’m trying to stay focused on what’s realistic since Billy Joel isn’t going to be dropping by any time soon. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that our fall 2023 gala is booked with an extraordinary musician and human being – their first ever appearance at The Playhouse. And in some ways, that’s a dream booking for me because I didn’t
think we’d ever be able to present this particular artist.
O68: What are you hopes or plans for the Playhouse for the future?
AP: We plan on directing a lot of attention to our Arts in Education shows and expanding that season to offer even more programming and outreach to Title 1 schools. And with our new expansion,
we’re creating rental packages to include partnered restaurants and offer up our
space for larger events.
JS: Ashley and I talk every day about the things we want to accomplish together. In the near term, we’re focused on maintaining, while taking calculated steps in the direction in which we’d like to take the Playhouse. We’ll continue to expand our programming: including original content, Playhouse produced events, curated sponsor events, diversity and inclusion programming, and up and coming artists. There’s plenty to do – we still haven’t hung art in the new lobby! •