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THEATRE CO-OP PROFILE: LIAM HOFMEISTER

Where is your co-op?

My co-op is at Huntington Theatre Company, a Tony Award-winning regional theatre company just a five-minute walk from Northeastern’s campus. The Huntington and Northeastern have a special partnership. The Huntington produces world premieres, champions modern interpretations of classics, and brings national artists to Boston. A dedication to community permeates all of the theatre’s work. In the microcosm of Boston, the Huntington acts as the center of the theatre community. Along with the large Huntington Avenue Theatre, it operates the Calderwood Pavilion, a performance space serving dozens of Boston-based theatre companies. In recent years, my favorite plays produced at the Huntington include Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Topdog/Underdog, and Mala.

What kind of work are you doing?

I’ve had a bit of a co-op sandwich. I began by working in the theatre company’s marketing department, then transitioned to the artistic team, and finally returned to marketing. In the marketing department, I write copy for press releases and social media to communicate what makes the play relevant to different communities. I also wrote a dramaturgical article that was featured in Spotlight Magazine, a publication for patrons. While working on the artistic staff, I was the assistant director on the world premiere of A Guide for the Homesick, directed by Tony-nominee Colman Domingo and written by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Ken Urban. I contributed to both the staging of the play and the evolution of the script.

What was the biggest surprise about your co-op?

I’ve often been told that good theatre is good questions, but I learned firsthand that notion extends beyond the Northeastern theatre community. When I first began my position in artistic, my title was “Assistant to the Director.” My job was to manage the organizational life of the director, field press inquiries, and make coffee runs. But I began emailing some open-ended questions about the play to the director. He took notice and found the questions useful. So when we began staging the play, the director told me to keep the questions coming. Soon, I was offering ideas about how to clarify characterization, actions, and staging. I was given this opportunity from asking some well-formed questions. So always ask questions! Even simple ones. You’ll be surprised by their power.

What has been your favorite part of the co-op?

The script for A Guide for the Homesick was in flux throughout the rehearsal process. The playwright would often come into rehearsal with dozens of new pages for us to hear. My favorite part was paying close attention to the slight changes in text and analyzing how it served the story. What are the key ideas in the scene, and how do we clarify them? How do these ideas need to be arranged to reveal our action? What is the best arc for a scene to communicate an idea? We spent a lot of time shaping the story, and it was always exciting to see how the evolution of the script affected the dynamics on stage.

What have you discovered about working in professional theatre?

Theatre, by necessity, requires fully dedicated, collective effort, no matter the department. In order to aptly market a production, an artistic team must be clear in telling the marketing department what makes the play meaningful to an audience. Marketing supports the artistic work, the theatre’s fundraising efforts, and the company’s educational programs. The best work can and will be created when people believe in this nexus of symbiotic support at all levels of the theatrical family.

What will you bring back to the classroom from your co-op experience?

I realized the value of fully immersing myself in a community. I found I could both serve and benefit the Huntington after forging relationships and becoming accepted into the company family. At Northeastern and in the future, I’ll try my best to contribute to the communities I belong to.