My Career Choice: Stephanie Kingsbury – The Growing Stage

When we think of theatre, we think about all the creative people needed to put on a production. But business people are critical to keep the entire operation running. One such talent is Stephanie Kingsbury who has been the managing director at The Growing Stage: The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey since 2019. She is a graduate of Stockton University with a BA in Studies in the Arts and a concentration in Theatre Management. Prior to her current position, she spent five years at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno, Nevada, first as the Box Office Manager and then as Events Director. 

Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?

When I was 11, my mother brought me to The Growing Stage to audition for Pippi Longstocking and I was happily cast as “School Child.” From then until I graduated high school, I spent most of my free time at The Growing Stage performing onstage, helping backstage, volunteering to make popcorn, and working as a camp counselor. Founder and Executive Director Steve Fredericks served as a huge inspiration and I basically wanted to be him when I grew up. Many people would ask me if I wanted to be an actor, but I would tell them that no, I wanted to run a theatre.  

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?

I had a love of theatre instilled in me very early and being at The Growing Stage especially was a great demonstration of how much work it takes to put on a show not just onstage, but behind the scenes as well. I really enjoy the work of running a business, but to be able to do it in this industry that I care about so much really makes it fulfilling. 

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?

I purposefully chose a college that offered a theatre management concentration and as soon as my first semester began I secured an on campus job working at the Stockton Performing Arts Center at Stockton University in their administration office and box office where I worked for all four years of college. This job gave me such incredible experience in the business and I’ve been using skills I learned there throughout my career. 

Stephanie Kingsbury in front of the mural for Pippi Longstocking, her first show at The Growing Stage when she was a child. 

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?

It’s definitely a common stereotype for people to try to discourage you from pursuing a career in the arts and it’s always sad when this is looked down on as something that isn’t valued. I think I mostly avoided that by adding the word “business” in there, it was seen as something more legitimate. Most people don’t make the logical step that my job wouldn’t exist without the performing artists on stage!

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?

Certainly the pandemic shutdown had me questioning every life choice I ever made that lead me to this industry, especially in those panicked early days when we were wondering if theatre was even going to exist ever again. Those were definitely a couple of difficult years, but I’m so happy to say The Growing Stage is back in full swing and I didn’t have to change career paths after all! 

When did your career reach a tipping point?

The biggest boost to my career was being hired on at the Pioneer Center in Reno. I had previously worked as the box office supervisor at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City which was adjacent to what I wanted to be doing, but the Pioneer really gave me my “dream job.” As the box office manager and then as events director handling Broadway national tours, symphonies, ballets, and a huge variety of other shows, I gained invaluable experience and the confidence that I have the skills to excel in this field. 

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?

Something I look back on as very challenging was breaking into the “management” level. It was hard when I was a college graduate (and I imagine it’s way more difficult now) to prove that I absolutely had the skill and ability to move up out of entry level positions. It’s that loop of the people hiring wanting someone who already has management experience, but you can’t get management experience unless someone hires you to be a manager. You definitely have to push hard and hope to find that one person willing to take a chance on you.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?

Communication is such an important skill for this type of work and it’s one that I really learned and became confident in because I grew up doing theatre. You have to be able to clearly communicate to the staff and board so that everyone knows what’s going on with the finances and other things that might be considered “the boring parts” compared to the fun programming we do here. We do business with performing artists, teaching artists, vendors, volunteers, insurance agents, theatre licensors, etc. and I think it’s important to be able to maintain a good rapport and relationship with everyone.  

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am really just so proud that The Growing Stage is thriving here in 2023 and glad that I am a part of it. My job changed very dramatically in 2020 from running a theatre to spending the majority of my time researching and applying for COVID-19 emergency assistance. Looking back is a little surreal, but I’m just so happy to say we made it through. 

Any advice for others entering your profession?

The great thing about the administrative side of things is that the skills are so transferable. Any office administration, management, accounting, customer service type jobs will give fantastic experience and when you’re applying at a theatre the passion for the industry will really make a difference. Embrace being the “business person” among the artists!

For more information, go to the website for growing stage.

Photo Credit: Danny Campos

About Marina P. Kennedy (150 Articles)
Marina Kennedy began her writing career when her four children were grown and she returned to college to study in the humanities. She is delighted to be a contributor for Woman Around Town. The majority of her articles focus on the culinary scene, theatre, and travel. Marina and her husband Chuck enjoy the rich cultural experiences of the New York metro area and beyond. She hopes that readers like reading her articles as much as she enjoys writing them.