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Five Questions with Edward Coffield, our outgoing production manager

Friday | July 13, 2018

After 28 tireless years of serving as The Rep's production manager, Edward Coffield is moving on to his next professional challenge.

After his last day here at The Rep on July 20, the effervescent and stylishly bespectacled Coffield will take over as the next artistic director of St. Louis' renowned New Jewish Theatre, following the tenure of Kathleen Sitzer.

(So when we say he's "outgoing" in the headline, we mean that in both senses of the word).

Before he left, we wanted to be sure to sit down with him and chat about his career at The Rep and his plans for New Jewish. Our theatre won't be quite the same without him.

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1.) What was Edward like in July 1990, when you started? What brought you here to The Rep?

Well, I had more hair, and it wasn't gray.

I came to St. Louis to work for Theatre Project Company as their production stage manager in 1989. Then this job became available, and Steve (Woolf) and I knew each other. So he called me, and I was like, "Sure, I'd love that," thinking I'd be here for like two years. I was on my way to New York or Chicago. And yet I'm still here!

 

2.) What have you learned after 28 years in your position?

That no matter what the challenges are of getting a production on stage, on-time, on-budget – which is primarily what my job is – the greatest part of it is the people. That's the memory I have. There are shows I don't remember, but I absolutely remember every face I ever crossed. And there were thousands of them!

I've worked with thousands of actors, hundreds of designers and hundreds of directors. It's a little staggering.

 

3.) Do you remember any particular productions that were just an insane challenge but you and the team here overcame that challenge?

Metamorphoses, which is a play by Mary Zimmerman. We were the first production after Broadway.

That involved putting a pool onstage, with... I can't remember how many gallons, but it was a lot of water. That was daunting, and we were the first regional theatre to do it. But it was exciting.

It was all about the water temperature. By contract, it had to be like 102.5 (degrees) at the top of the show. It was that warm because we would then turn the pumps and heaters off – because they were too noisy – and by the end of the show, 90 minutes later, it would be like 60 degrees.

And then the room had to be a certain air temperature. So all I did was look at thermostats, and then drop things in water and measure that temperature. It was fun, but it was weird.

 

4.) What are you most excited about with the new opportunity at New Jewish?

I think that Kathleen Sitzer has done such a great job of growing that theatre from nothing. The thing I'm most excited about is seeing where we go next. We're 22 (years old), so it's time for another growth spurt.

 

5.) With this job at The Rep, do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?

(Laughs) Let's see...

You just have to take it one day at a time. And you've got the greatest production staff in the American theatre working for you, which makes your job a lot easier. It's a great staff, and they're amazingly talented.