The arts and culture industries remain largely at a standstill in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, affecting millions of workers in an already delicate ecosystem. The Broadway Community Project, from industry veterans Greg Schaffert, Tiffani Gavin, Situation Interactive, and Playbill, was developed to shed light on the myriad fields and roles that go into making the curtain rise.
In the Broadway Community Project series, we shine a spotlight on the faces you may not see on stage, but are nevertheless critical in creating and maintaining a theatre production. These are just some of the arts workers who have put their stamp on an industry that contributed over $14.7 billion to the New York economy in 2019 and $877 billion in value added nationally; these are just some of the arts workers in need of relief through Save Our Stages and beyond.
Today, meet Suzanne Tobak, who has spearheaded countless events for Broadway folk, including opening night parties, Tony Award soirees, and fundraising galas. Through her work at Serino Coyne, Tobak has welcomed newly named Tony nominees into the awards season frenzy with the annual luncheon, transformed the New York Public Library into a lavish masquerade to toast The Phantom of the Opera's 25th anniversary, and much more.
Name: Suzanne Tobak
Title: Senior Director of Events, Serino Coyne
How did you get your start in event producing?
I saw a need: Movies were hiring event producers for their premieres but theatre was not, so I started offering events along with traditional marketing when I was employed at Grey Entertainment. My first opening night party was for Angels in America, and it took off from there.
What are three skills someone in your position must possess?
You must be extremely detailed oriented, flexible, and always discreet.
What's your professional life like during the coronavirus pandemic?
I’m in awe of the empathy, kindness, and generosity of the theatre community. I’m always in touch with clients, venues, and vendors on projects old and new, awaiting the time we can once again gather. And thanks to Serino Coyne, I can donate time and expertise to several industry initiatives to help our community.
What are some of your favorite events you’ve worked on?
It’s like picking a favorite child, just not possible or wise. So I won’t name a show or shows. Instead, The Tony Awards events—such as the gala, the nominee luncheon, the Tony honors—they are for the community, so helping produce those annual events is the highlight of each season for me.
What do you wish more people knew about your line of work?
You are not a guest! So many think of events as glamorous—and they can be—but not for those of us executing them.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the theatre community?
Like theatre itself, the community is a collaborative and creative environment where many must work together in order to produce results. It’s extraordinary to work among so many talented individuals, each contributing their individual gift to create the best effort. It’s thrilling, ever changing, and always inspiring.