Emily Malmborg is the Production Manager at Gulfshore Playhouse.
Q: What age did you discover you were interested in theatre? Was there a particular event or experience that revealed your interest?
I was in a week long camp of Cinderella in middle school, but I really learned to love theatre in high school. My choir teacher was putting together a musical and recruited choir members to join. I ended up in the ensemble of Godspell (performed in the middle of our cafeteria) and learned theatre people are my kind of people! I was in a few more productions throughout high school, but I never considered it something that I would study in college. I went to Mizzou for a Broadcast Journalism degree, and after a couple years of reporting, I realized I wanted an escape from the tension-filled stories I was telling on the news. I started taking a few theatre classes on the side, and next thing I knew I was a double major in Journalism and Theatre. I was anchoring the morning news, working in the scene shop between my classes, and attending rehearsals in the evenings! Through my work in the scene shop, I ended up being the scenic artist for several shows, and through a random production assignment, I ended up learning I loved (and wasn’t half bad at) stage managing. At the end of my senior year, I applied for internships in both stage management and scenic artistry. I decided I would pursue whichever I got an internship in as I enjoyed them both equally. I ended up with a stage management internship right here at Gulfshore Playhouse, and the rest is history!
Q: You are called the “Production Manager” at Gulfshore Playhouse. Can you talk a little about what that position entails?
My main objective is to get everything onstage, on time, and under budget. I do this through A LOT of planning. I plan via calendars (yes plural), spreadsheets, emails, meetings, you name it! And after I’ve made all those plans, I continually revise them based on the progress of the process because plans change. All. The. Time. The one guarantee of my job is that we’ll always be finding creative ways to solve things that come up throughout the many months we spend working on a show. I oversee the entire production process from start to finish as well as all the people working in the production department. From the putting together of the creative team to the striking of the set and every step in between, I help facilitate conversations between everyone involved, find ways to best utilize our resources and staff, creatively problem solve, and continue to find ways to make our processes more efficient and enjoyable.
Q: What does a typical day in your role look like?
There is rarely a typical day anywhere in theatre, but especially as a production manager! Some days I’m in meetings planning for shows or events months down the road, some days I’m helping build the set, some days I’m a listening ear when people are struggling, some days I’m watching everything come together in tech, and some days I’m doing all of the above!
Q: What might people be surprised to learn about your job?
My job involves a lot of people skills. When people are approaching situations with differing opinions, I often am the person who helps them figure out how to move forward. I supervise people who are in their early 20s and just entering into the professional world for the first time to people who have been in the business for many years so the kind of leadership people need can vary quite a bit. I also conduct what we call “Live and Learns” after we open each production. This involves me talking with each member of the creative team as well as the entire production staff to determine what parts of the process went well and where we can look to improve in the future. Through a lot of conversation and collaboration, I strive to make our team as strong as it can possibly be while also working as efficiently as possible.
Q: What is your proudest achievement at Gulfshore Playhouse so far?
My proudest achievement at Gulfshore Playhouse is the growth through positions that I’ve experienced over the last six years. I began here as the Stage Management Intern back in September 2014. At that time, Gulfshore Playhouse was much smaller than it is now, and I worked on the rehearsals and performances for all six shows in the season. I also helped build the sets in the scene shop. The following year, I was asked back to be the staff Assistant Stage Manager, a role that was developed specifically for that season. At the end of that year, Gulfshore Playhouse granted me my Equity card, which meant I became a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional stage managers and actors. I was able to be the Production Stage Manager of our final show that season, and I was asked back to be the PSM for two shows the following season at Gulfshore Playhouse.
After being a freelance Equity SM for a year, I nearly left theatre entirely to pursue a career as a store manager in retail as I was looking for some more stability than the freelance life could provide. Instead, I was offered the wonderful opportunity to return to Gulfshore Playhouse as both an Equity SM and the full time Company Manager. I did that for a year and half, and in February of 2019, I was offered the opportunity to become the Production Manager. I have always loved being part of the entire process and learning all the ins and outs of how the show will work as a SM, so becoming PM was a great next step for me. As someone brand new to Production Management, I was and still am so grateful for the incredible trust and faith Kristen and the team put in me to grow into a leader at this company. I have learned so much over the years, and I continue to learn something new every day. Now as the PM and heading into my seventh season at Gulfshore Playhouse, I supervise the Stage Management Interns (yes, there’s multiple now!), and I feel very lucky to get to impart the many skills I learned these past several years to them. Gulfshore Playhouse helped me grow and achieve my career goals, and I now have the incredible opportunity and privilege to help others achieve theirs.