Preston Copley ’07 assumed the role of director of creative development for theater at Jean Doumanian Productions in December. In his role, Copley will scout in London and other international theaters for new projects that Doumanian will produce on and off-Broadway. An athlete and involved in theater at the College, he will build on established relationships between Doumanian and artists and coordinate with the company’s vice president, Patrick Daly.
Copley previously worked for three years as assistant to theater producer Thomas Schumacher, currently president and producer at Disney Theatrical Group.
CM: How does creative development in theater compare to similar roles in other industries?
PC: I have worked with a reality TV production group in their creative development department. Basically all creative development involves taking a mandate from a studio or a network or just the executive producer and trying to couple that vision with the best artists for the project and story. Working in reality TV, it was a much quicker process. Not that it was simpler, but it needed to happen quicker. For a producer like Doumanian, she has the ability to let things develop at a speed which the art dictates. We’re able to move at our own pace, making the storytelling as clear as possible to the vision.
CM: What are some of the projects that you will be working on in the near future?
PC: Most likely, there will be a musical in 2014 that we’ll be general producers on. We’re not truly allowed to talk about the creative behind it or the story in general, but it’s something that we’ll be working on in 2014, so that’s exciting. We also had a recent success with “Chimerica” in London that won the Evening Standard award for best play in November. I don’t know in what incarnation, but it’s a great play that I’d love to work more on. Other than that, we’re just trying to navigate for our next play. Doumanian has been remarkable in finding one-of-a-kind plays to produce off Broadway, and we’re hoping to keep up that legacy.
CM: What specific goals do you have for your new role?
PC: I don’t think [Doumanian] needs any help in finding direction. My hope is to learn from her how to work in her model. She’s a one-of-a-kind producer in that she’s able to produce in three media: TV, film and theater. I’m not sure a person can stay in one medium anymore and be really viable, so I want to use this opportunity to see how she runs that business.
She and Daly are making big moves in TV. They just sold two shows to two major networks and will be filming another movie in April by Nic Pizzolatto called “Galveston.” My biggest hope is that I can maintain that for them, not just in New York but internationally, reaching out to communities to see what their artists are working on and if we can get their work to New York in a commercial setting.
CM: How were you involved with theater at Dartmouth?
PC: I was probably involved in theater less there than at any time in my life. In college I was a recruited athlete for football, so I felt kind of obligated for the first couple years to maintain a focus on academics and athletics. Midway through my career there, I felt comfortable enough on the team to start reaching out to the theater community. [Theater professor] Jamie Horton was a primary reason why I continued with professional theater after college. We both went to Commonweal Theatre in Minnesota right after I graduated, and I stayed for that entire season before going back to New York and meeting up with a lot of the Dartmouth theater crew there.
CM: What are your plans for the future?
PC: It’s hard to look that far down the road, but I plan on staying in a commercial area of theater. That’s kind of the theater that I’ve gotten my education in early in my career, and that I feel most drawn to. I’d love to grow as a producer in different mediums, and working in a place like Doumanian, I’m sure I’ll get more of that kind of education.
This interview has been edited and condensed.