Thomas Schumacher discovered his love for theatre as a child, while dancing around his living room to The Music Man and South Pacific. Now, as president of Disney Theatrical Productions, he’s focused on molding the next generation of theatrelovers with the third edition of How Does The Show Go On?: An Introduction to the Theatre, now available. “For me, it’s [finding] people who think they don’t have access… how do we tell them [they’re welcome]? How do we tell them that they can step up?”
Schumacher takes that responsibility seriously, and his enthusiasm permeates the pages of the book, taking readers on an exclusive journey through the theatre—specifically, Broadway’s St. James Theatre, currently home to Frozen—diligently explaining every detail of putting a show together and the culture that comes with it. There’s something to learn for even the most seasoned theatre vets. And while the explanations are thorough, don’t expect a dry textbook. Schumacher includes tips, try-it-yourself exercises, and behind-the-scenes stories, all delivered in a warm and witty voice—plus, new for this edition, an augmented reality element where photos trigger behind-the-scenes video content on your smart phone. But Schumacher believes in the power of theatre to teach not only artistic skills but life lessons, citing it as the perfect place to learn about empathy and grow as an artist and person.
“I don’t know a better way to develop a community of engaged activists,” he says. “Everything you need, from organizational skills to collaborative skills, everything you need to know to be a really well-rounded, full-thinking, deliberate person, you can learn in the theatre.”
One important pillar of Schumacher’s mission emphasized in the book is diversity and inclusion. He intentionally curated the book’s photos to highlight the representation you’d see at a Disney show, including some familiar faces like Aladdin’s original, Tony-winning Genie James Monroe Iglehart, but also behind-the-scenes artists like Frozen’s production supervisor Lisa Dawn Cave. Schumacher finds it imperative to spotlight the possibilities for anyone in any aspect of theatre. “I just love the idea of some young woman at eight years old seeing a future version of herself,” he says.
Ultimately, Schumacher wrote the book he wanted to read as a child, hoping it can become a guidebook for future theatremakers who may be dancing around their own living rooms. “Anybody can make theatre, your community can make theatre, you can do theatre for no money,” he says. “Anybody can do theatre.”
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