Liz Frankel '01


Curtain Call

Liz Frankel ’01 lives two blocks from the theater where she works. On average she reads one play per day and sees productions or attends readings or workshops five nights each week. She is a nominator for the annual Lucille Lortel Awards, for off-Broadway productions. It all adds up to more than 100 shows a year.
liz frankel
Liz Frankel '01 at The Public Theater in New York City's East Village.

Too much theater? Not a chance.

Frankel works as the literary associate at The Public Theater in New York City’s East Village. Her job description includes reading scripts, recommending plays to be produced, scouting writers, and attending readings and performances. But what she loves most, she said, is that it requires full immersion in the theater world. “The only way to really succeed in doing what I do is to be out there seeing theater and meeting people. I like that it’s part of my job to be part of the whole theater community at large, rather than just focus on what we’re doing in our office.”

Frankel recently returned to Colby to tell students about her work and career possibilities in professional theater. “There are so many ways to keep working in theater and have a steady job and to contribute to the field in that way, rather than feeling that if they want to have health insurance they have to abandon something that they love doing. … I think a lot of college students just aren’t aware of the full spectrum of options out there.”

Nor was she.

At Colby Frankel tried her hand at acting, directing, producing, and playwriting, involving herself in theater whenever she had the chance. During summers she interned in theater journalism but realized it wasn’t for her. She wanted to be part of the theater community, she concluded, not just observe it.

But she didn’t know what her options were, she said, until Professor of Theater and Dance Joylynn Wing suggested she look into literary management. When Frankel graduated, she followed Wing’s advice. Moving to New York, she quickly climbed the literary-office ladder, working at the Manhattan Theater Club, Miramax Films, and Waxman Williams Entertainment before moving to her current position.

Frankel said she also likes her work at The Public Theater because of the theater’s politically minded mission. While the theater stages non-political plays, “We’re always excited to find really well-written plays that are engaging with issues in society today … rather than doing plays that would’ve been just as interesting thirty years ago,” she said. From its founding by Joseph Papp in 1954, The Public Theater has maintained a progressive, political message, and in recent years the theater has produced plays dealing with issues ranging from the Iraq war to American-British relations to the crisis in Darfur.

Ashlee Holm ’09, a double major in theater and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies who plans to pursue acting after she graduates, marveled at Frankel’s career path after Frankel’s talk at Colby in March. “It’s this roundabout way of being involved that is inspiring and so incredible,” Holm said. Frankel inspired students by teaching them what she has learned since college—that, “If you want to be involved in theater, truly, you can find your niche,” Holm said.

And Frankel has certainly found hers. Asked why she loves theater so much, she thought for a moment. “For me it’s like asking. ‘Why do you love the person you’re in love with?’ Sometimes you just can’t articulate it. You just do.”

—Emily Judem ’06