Marya Peters, Vice President of Touring Division at Allied Live.
Speaking with Marya Peters, Vice President of Touring Division at Allied Live, was a pleasure because she understands the innate pressure college students feel to jump into the real world immediately after graduation. She brings up a good point that we often overlook: it's okay to travel! In fact, she recommends it. Peters joined Allied Live in 2000 to open the Chicago office of the agency. She served as the National Marketing Director & Press Representative for many touring Broadway productions including, In The Heights, Avenue Q, Dirty Dancing--The Classic Story on Stage, Rent, The Producers, The Full Monty, and Hairspray. Currently, she represents Mamma Mia on tour. Peters received her BFA from the University of Michigan.
What advice do you give to graduating students? "My advice is to travel after college. I graduated on a Friday and started work on a Monday and have never looked back. And I sort of regretted not doing that whole, 'backpack across Europe thing.' I know it's tough because you feel like it's the end of school and you don't want to miss an opportunity, but it's so important to take that time for yourself before you commit to basically a lifetime of work. Take the advantage while you can, while you're young. Do that soul-searching-travel early."
If you could go back in time and speak to your college self, what would you say? "I think the biggest thing is to never stop learning. In this particular business, which is such a collaborative industry, it's so important to always keep yourself open to new opportunities and not to say, 'This is what I do and this is only what I do.' It's really important that when you get your degree you don't just say, 'Okay, I'm done learning now.' Always keep that part of your mind open, I think that's really important."
What was your biggest mistake in your career? "I think that the biggest mistake that anyone can make is making an assumption or thinking you know the answer or assuming you know the answer and not asking a question when you're unsure of something. It's better to ask the question than assume you know the answer and finding out after the fact. I still always ask for clarification if I have an issue. I never want to assume anything."
Where did you get your first job in the theater, and what was your big break? "My first job in the theater, I would have to say is the internship I had when I was in college. I was able to do an internship while I was in college at Richard Frankel Productions, which was great because it was a general management company, which helped introduce me to all sides of the business. Because the general managers have exposure to the creative team, the creative process of a show, the bookkeeping side of the show, actors, casting, and hiring, we spent a lot of time observing not only the pre-production process but also the day-to-day functioning of the show. That was my first job, but in a way, that was also my big break because it opened my eyes to the working side of theater I hadn't even been aware of necessarily. I didn't know so much about the business side of theater. Because I was able to learn about that at Richard Frankel Productions, I was able to pursue other avenues of theatre that I hadn't been exposed to yet, which is ultimately how I am where I am today."
What are three habits that contributed to your success? "1) I would say my dedication to theater. My whole life I have always felt that I would do anything for the theater, and I think that's really helped me get where I am today. Certainly it's helped to keep me interested. 2) My flexibility. In this business, there are so many different people and so many different personalities working in it. And everybody has a different agenda a lot of the time. You have to be able to be flexible in every situation and you have to be able to respond to those different personalities. 3) My ability to listen. You never know what's going to come up. Because of all the different personalities involved, you have to be a good listener and a good responder. People don't always say what they mean. I think you have to be able to read between the lines a little bit. You have to be able to put on many hats. I did some stage management in college, and I think that that really prepared me for working in this business. "
What are you working on now? "I've been representing Mamma Mia on tour in North America since 2000, so I'm still working on that. Recently, in the past two months I've been working on, Mamma Mia on Broadway to help celebrate its tenth anniversary. And we're putting together a series of events leading up to the tenth anniversary celebration, so I've been helping with those and executing those events in New York, which is really cool. And I'm working on a show called Traces and a show called Blind Date, which are very different from the big Broadway musicals. They're more intimate, smaller. One's a one-woman show, where she actually picks a man out of the audience every night to be on stage with her for the evening, which is pretty incredible. Traces is a show about seeing the acrobats doing what they do and appreciating how super-human they are and at the same time realizing how human they are, which is really cool. I'll be working on the national tour of Billy Elliot coming up, which I'm excited about as well."
1. Travel: If not now, when?
2. Be Open-Minded: The more you experience elsewhere, the more you can bring to what you do best.
3. Don't Assume Things: It's always better to ask questions. Even if you think you are doing something correctly, don't assume that you're right.
4. Wear Different Hats: Being flexible and open to wearing different hats is crucial. Being able to communicate with differing personalities is necessary in this industry.
5. Be In The Right place At The Right Time: If I knew how to predict this, then trust me, I would tell you.