Leisure Features

Front & Center: 6.1.22

Growing up on Long Island, Danny Williams fell into theater naturally. Rather than treading the boards, though, he found his place in the office crunching numbers so that everything could run smoothly on stage. Now, he’s come to St. Louis to serve as managing director of The Repertory Theater of St. Louis, following the retirement of Mark Bernstein.

How did you become involved in theater?
I stumbled into the arts mostly by accident. I grew up playing sports. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t find passion in it. I did have a knack for entertainment, so my parents encouraged me to get involved in choir at school, which led to the theater. Growing up in New York, you’re also so close to Broadway and off-Broadway. I fell in love with the collaborative nature of theater. You have all these artists working in their own crafts, but they come together to create something. It’s like teamwork on the field in sports.

Why did you decide to go into management?
I did start on the stage. I performed in college and even did some improv after I graduated, but the life of a working actor wasn’t for me. I wanted to find a way to combine my business degree with my passion. Art is the lifeblood of the theater, but it’s also a business—someone has to make sure you have the cash to pay the bills. I’ve found there isn’t that much separation between what happens on stage and what happens in the office. I might be figuring out the budget in my spreadsheet world, but I also work with all departments, go into the theater and meet with donors and board members.

What is a memorable production you’ve been involved with?
Before coming to The Rep, I was the senior director of finance and administration for The Public Theater. Its mission is to let people know that theater is for everyone and everyone’s stories will be told. The Public Theater organizes Shakespeare in the Park and also hosted the pre-Broadway debut of Fun Home, but its claim to fame recently has been as the home of Hamilton. Being a part of the process of such a landmark piece was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. It’s hard for me not to bring up Hamilton when I talk about theater. It energized new interest in the art and showed people what theater is capable of saying.

Why did you decide to come to The Rep?
There were three reasons. First, I knew of Hana Sharif and the respect she has across the field of theater nationally. I was very excited about the prospect of working with her as artistic director. Second, I knew
St. Louis is as vibrant an arts city as it is a sports town. Third, my husband already worked for Calares. He was remote, but his team was in Clayton. I knew he would be able to make a pretty seamless transition while I took on this new position, so I decided to take the leap.

What do you hope to accomplish in St. Louis?
My first goal is to be able to come back from the pandemic. Not being able to produce live theater hit us hard. I want to ensure the audience and my employees feel safe while making the experience feel like it did before, even if we can’t do everything the same. I also want to make The Rep even more of a presence in the St. Louis community. The focus on theater is innovating on stage, but that leaves the off-stage stuff behind the times. I’m looking forward to elevating the business operations.

Is there anything you’re still looking forward to exploring St. Louis?
I’ve been here a few months, and there is still a lot of exploring to do. I’m a huge foodie, so I’ve been leading with my stomach—I’ve had my fair share of Ted Drewes, gotten good barbecue and enjoyed restaurants like Louie, indo and Elia. As we head into summer, I’m looking forward to shows at The Muny, my first Cardinals game and exploring the botanical gardens. I have so much stuff to do!

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