Broadway and the New York hotel industry have long had a symbiotic relationship. So perhaps it's appropriate that the League of American Theatres and Producers—the trade organization which represents almost all of Broadway's theatre owners and producers—should find its new executive director in someone who has spent most of her career in the world of deluxe temporary lodging.
Charlotte St. Martin, a Texas native, joined Loews Hotels in 1977 and by the time she left nearly three decades later she was executive vice president of operations. Now, as the first female executive director in the 76-year history of the League, she'll get to see first-hand what all those people staying in her hotels did with their evenings. St. Martin took some time to meet with Playbill.com in her still quite bare offices at the League.
Playbill.com: I imagine you've been meeting with a lot of people lately.
Charlotte St. Martin: I hope by the end of the year to have met with all of the board of governors as well as the executive committee. What I'm trying to do is get the viewpoints of the various members. "If I was doing everything right, what would I be doing now?" is one of my questions.
Playbill.com: And do you get the same answers?
CSM: Well, one of the exciting things about this role is we have very diverse member groups. They are competitors, and yet they are all part of an industry that, if the industry doesn't do well, they don't do well. You have theatre owners who are also producers, who are competing with themselves, because they have four shows on Broadway. It's a fascinating industry. Playbill.com: I imagine it's unlike any other you've worked in so far.
CSM: I haven't ever seen such a vertical organization, where all of the members are so interdependent on one another. The theatre owners have got to have the producers; the producers have got to have the road shows; the general managers are sort of the thread between all of them. You don't have all these outside forces you're dependent on. You're all in the same industry. The League has such a passionate group of members. I see senior CEO-types here almost every day at one meeting or another. They're running these companies but they're at the League. It's been my biggest surprise.
Playbill.com: After all these meetings, what have you concluded your role is?
CSM: The League has three or four very strong missions. One of the things they've charged me to do is find the common denominators, the areas that benefit everyone, that we can build some consensus on.
Playbill.com: What do you think you’re greatest challenge will be in this job?
CSM: Keeping the balance, so that I serve all the members and keep them happy. Certainly, the producers have a lot of money on the line. The rate of success is not like the rate of success in a lot of other businesses. They're gambling every day and throwing it out there. You've got to keep these guys and ladies healthy. On the other hand, you've got the theatres owners and they can't move their buildings and their buildings are aging. It doesn't feel overwhelming to me yet, because I think I've got a lot of people who really want me to succeed.
Playbill.com: You've been in New York for a little more than a decade.
CSM: Yes, I've been here full time since September 1995. I commuted for six years before that from Texas. That was a hard commute, but the last two years it got harder. I was running our biggest hotel in Dallas, which was a 1,600-room hotel. I was also head of operations in New York. I loved the combination of Texas and New York, but I was just getting tired. The day I decided to move to New York I went to a movie theatre and I was feeling around the seat. My friend said, "What are you doing?" I said, "I'm trying to find my seat belt."
Playbill.com: How did you find out about the opening at the League?
CSM: I was not looking for a job. I had just started my own business in marketing operations. A headhunter who knew me said, "Charlotte, this job description sounds like you." "But I just started my own business." "I know, but what would it hurt you to talk to them? You love theatre." "But, Anne, I just started my own business." "But, Charlotte, you love the theatre. You go to the theatre more than anyone I've ever known who wasn't in the business." OK, OK. I met with the search committee the first time and like them a lot, and things just moved along.
Playbill.com: You go to the theatre a lot?
CSM: I am not only their demographic, but I probably go to the theatre more than anyone I know. I averaged 20 to 25 shows a year. I was also on the board of the Vineyard Theatre.
Playbill.com: Did theatre have any role in your life growing up?
CSM: No. And everyone's shocked when I say this—I never had the acting bug or the dancing bug or the singing bug. I just loved the theatre.
Playbill.com: The Tonys are a big part of your job, since the League presents them along with the American Theatre Wing. Have you had any thoughts about the Tonys?
CSM: I haven't allowed myself to have ideas about that yet. It's early. I'm sure I'll have some thoughts. They tell me I'll work 24-7 on that one.
Playbill.com: Do you have any new initiatives in mind?
CSM: I'm still in the exploration phase. There's a part of me that would like to recognize people who go to theatre a lot, whether they're in New York or Chicago or Dallas. That’s one of the things I'm exploring.
Playbill.com: You're the first female executive director of the League.
CSM: It's not the first time I've been the first woman. That happened several times in the hotel industry. I didn't think about until I started getting the question. It never was an issue in the search process. They were just looking for someone with the energy and ideas to embrace this organization with passion.
Playbill.com: Are you going to go to every Broadway show this season?
CSM: I think I'm supposed to. [Laughs]