Inside the Broadway Community Project: Before a show hits the stage, script coordinators get it on the page
The arts and culture industries remain largely at a standstill following the coronavirus pandemic, affecting millions of workers in an already fragile ecosystem. The Broadway Community Project, from industry veterans Greg Schaffert, Tiffani Gavin, Situation Interactive and Playbill, was developed to shed light on the myriad areas and roles that help bring the curtain down.
In the Broadway Community Project series, we shine a light on the faces you may not see on stage, but are nonetheless essential to creating and sustaining a theatrical production. These are just a few of the arts workers who have left their mark on an industry that contributed more than $14.7 billion to New York’s economy in 2019 and $877 billion in value added to the world. national level; these are just some of the arts workers who need relief as theaters gradually begin to welcome back audiences.
Today, meet Armelle González Harper, who has molded her stage management expertise and love of the creative process into the relatively new role of Script Coordinator. In this position, González Harper documents and distributes all script changes throughout the show’s development, from early stages through rehearsals. As the right arm of the authors of a show, she communicates not only about the changes, but also about their practical and artistic reasons, and sometimes offers her own ideas. Having worked on Broadway with mean girls, On your feet!, and Prom (even getting married on the latter’s stage), González Harper is currently working on the musical adaptation of Night at the museum and the next film by Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe Party life.
Click here to explore the entire Broadway Community Project map (or submit to be added). Click here to browse Playbill’s bulletin board, with industry job listings.
Name: Armelle Gonzalez Harper
Title: Script Coordinator
What does a typical day look like for you at work?
At the end of the day, I spend quality time with my friend Xerox. I sort out who needs which script pages that were reviewed the day before and put them in everyone’s “mailbox”. I configured the script file for the new day so that the specialized program would follow the day’s changes. Cast and creatives are coming in, and I’m making sure everyone understands the new content. Throughout the day, I’ll be getting line changes from the writers and proofreading them, doing continuity checks, and inserting them into the script. At the end of the day, I huddle with the music department to make sure the lines and lyrics are the same in the script and the score. The tricky part is making sure the pagination is perfectly clean. I then create a change log to create a record of every change made to the script, right down to punctuation changes. This newspaper is distributed to everyone the next day with their new pages. I save the script file and wish everyone a nice evening.
What is your professional life like during the coronavirus pandemic?
I’ve been very lucky to be able to work with writers who are working hard to create the next wave of Broadway shows. The public has so much to look forward to, and they don’t even know it yet! I love the very early stages of the creation process and had a great time hearing the scripts and scores come to life with the first table reads. I desperately miss the buzz of the rehearsal rooms and I’m so ready for these shows to get their feet up.
What three skills should a script coordinator have?
Razor sharp focus, meticulous organization and honed comedic instincts. The last one seems silly, but you won’t understand where the commas go if you don’t understand the cadence of the joke!
How did you get your start in this relatively new space?
I started out as a stage manager and have always enjoyed helping the creative team. After working with the inimitable Bob Martin to manage his script changes, we thought together and found a new job for me. I was able to find all of the often overlooked ways to ease the logistical stress of the writing process so that creators could just focus on creating. I wouldn’t have had the instinct for that without the management.
Did you have a mentor at the start?
Bob and Rick Elice were so instrumental in teaching me the full lifespan of a Broadway show, from opening to closing night. I really can’t say enough about their genius, hilarity and generosity. They support me both as a script coordinator and as a promising playwright/librettist. Nell Benjamin was the first person to make me feel like I could be as tall and proud as any man in the room. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I attribute a lot of my confidence to seeing how she worked and how she treated me when I was very green.
What would you like more people to know about your job?
I wish more people knew there is a better way to support your writers. The script coordinators free up the creators to focus on the creation rather than the details, and I could see firsthand how much of a difference that makes. Time is the most precious commodity in theater, and having a script coordinator will ensure writers get the most out of it. It’s best to bring in a script coordinator as early in the writing process as possible before you need to bring one in to try and sort it all out.
What does it mean to you to be part of the theater community?
For me, theater is a beautiful crossroads of magic, meaning and community. We are all bound by this celebration of humanity and soul-nourishing expression. For me, being part of the theater community is like being at home!