A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Chris Boneau, Press Agent of Jersey Boys, Motown, Pippin, Bullets Over Broadway and Betrayal

By Mervyn Rothstein
02 Sep 2013

He was interviewed for a job at the Joshua Ellis Office, a Broadway publicity firm, which hired him. "That led to my first Broadway show, in 1988" – a comedy called Checkmates, with Denzel Washington and Ruby Dee. "We found out later it was co-produced by a man who was in jail," convicted of attempted murder and indicted as part of an international cocaine ring. "It was a wild experience."

While with Ellis, Boneau started a freelance business – "I wasn't making enough money as an assistant. Atlantic Theater Company was my first freelance client, and they're still a client." Ellis closed his office, and some of his press agents, including Adrian Bryan-Brown, moved into Boneau's freelance place. "Adrian and I found ourselves sharing space. And very organically we created a partnership. He had been my mentor in Josh's office."

In the early 1990s, Boneau was asked to represent Tony Kushner's Angels in America, which won both the Pulitzer and the Tony. "Some moments change your life. That was one."

In addition to his career as a press representative, Boneau also teaches in Columbia University School of the Arts's theatre management program. He tells his students, "I did something bold in my first or second day as an undergrad at L.S.U. You weren't allowed to enroll in an acting class until you'd been through at least the second year of prerequisites. I said, 'No, I want to be an actor. I'm going to take acting classes.' I went up to the second floor and signed up for an audition.

"Later, somebody said, 'You weren't supposed to do that.' I said, 'Yeah, I know. But I got in.' I call it my 'second-floor syndrome.' I still say, 'Find your second floor.' It's really okay to push the boundaries. I did, and I never looked back."

(This feature appears in the September 2013 issue of Playbill.)