LS I came to New York and got my first job at the Vivian Beaumont Theater as a production assistant, and for the next five years worked in the production end as everything from production assistant to dresser, and eventually as a stage manager. I had no clue as to if there even were women directors or producers, even though my interest and love was in the production side of theater. To that end, if you can do the job you can get it--I'm sure some of my bosses never even noticed my gender.
AK I grew up in New York and attended the theater from the time I was a small child. When I saw Cuba and the Teddy Bear, something inside me went off; I knew I just had to do this! In school, I was fortunate enough to have Devon Allen as a mentor, and she taught me to be twice as smart and strong as any man. As a young producer, you see gender bias all the time--but my mentor taught me to have a backbone and how to watch my back too, which is important for a woman to gain a presence in this business. Still, when I go to a meeting most men assume I am an actress and not a producer...so some things never change, even after all these years.
LVH I come from an odd place, being an outsider from London. Everything I say is how it was about 15 years ago, so bear with me. I came here after I had produced Long Day's Journey into Night in the West End and had the dream of coming to New York because I believed--and still do believe--that the Americans know best how to produce, and I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to produce and direct modern classics of Ibsen, Strindberg and O'Neill, but then I realized if we don't nurture new playwrights, there will be no new theater in the next 10 years. I had this vision of combining the brilliance of English technical skills with the excellence of raw emotional American acting, creating a new kind of theater that would ensure a consistent, high-quality theater, night after night. After my arrival, I was in for a rude awakening. First off, if anyone tells you we speak the same language they're kidding--we communicate on entirely different planes. Also, in London it takes you years, and I mean years, to get inside the group, but once you're in, you're in. Here in New York you can meet people and get in rather quickly, but that doesn't really mean anything. It took me over a year just to understand that. Then there was the harrowing drama of surviving in New York and still having time to pursue my theater dream.
MH I started out as a dancer, but in the late '50s there was no real interest in modern dance, so I switched over to acting. At that time there were so few opportunities for women other than acting--until a great number of the original regional theater companies were started by women directors who could not get a job. Women like Zelda Fichandler, who started Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Margo Jones in Texas, and Julia Miles, who started Theater Currents in Brooklyn Heights and then the Women's Project, all were the pioneers of regional theater and the first female voices to be heard.