PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Jennifer Ashley Tepper on 54 Below's Future, "The Untold Stories of Broadway" and More

By Michael Gioia
24 Aug 2013

When is the book coming out?
JAT: It is definitely in the fall of this year, so it's super soon. It will definitely be by December, but it's just the first one. As the process of putting it together went on, we realized that the amount of amazing people who said yes to doing interviews was overwhelming. Based on the number of people who wanted to be involved, it seemed like we could tell really detailed stories about the lives of the theatres, but only include eight theatres for length in the first volume.

What are the first eight?
JAT: The theatres that are in the first book are the Winter Garden, the Marquis, the Al Hirschfeld, the Richard Rodgers, the Lyceum, the August Wilson, the Neil Simon and the Mark Hellinger. There's eight, and there's also a bonus chapter.

Did you ever imagine you'd be releasing a book like this at 27 years old?
JAT: It's funny because one of my goals has always been to write a book, but I didn't have a date to do that by because I thought it would evolve into happening. I'm a big fan of the idea that you do what you feel passionate about, and you work as hard as you can, and the right opportunities — if you do those things — will find you. During [title of show], when I was the assistant [to the director, Michael Berresse], I took like four notebooks filled with notes, and the idea was that someday I would write the [title of show] book, like the coffee table book or the book about the experience — something like that — but I didn't feel like doing it right away was necessarily what I wanted to do. Those notebooks are in a very safe place. I thought that maybe that would be the first thing I did, but as I met people and the world kind of evolved, it became very clear that this was the perfect first book that I wanted to write.

What would 27-year-old Jen Tepper say to 13-year-old Jen Tepper or any of the 13-year-old Jen Teppers across the United States, who have these big Broadway dreams?
JAT: My book is a good example… When you read the book, you get a snippet of what it's like to be a Broadway stage manager, and you get a snippet of what it's like to be a Broadway writer, and you get all these snippets…. That's what I want the book to be because I want the 13-year-old Jen Tepper to read the book and go, "I'm interested in stage management" or "I'm interested in concept musicals," and then go read more about that — do more of that in your hometown, get really involved and teach yourself.

I think teaching yourself is the most valuable thing to be able to work on Broadway — educate yourself, buy cast recordings, go see shows, read what's happening in the current Broadway scene. If you arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can, then you will be in a good place here. So much of my early jobs in theatre and early internships were literally because I wrote a letter to someone who I really admired and told them how much I admired them and got a job or an internship out of that — so I think to not be afraid to write a letter, make a call and really educate yourself.

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of as well as the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)