Stars Behind The Stars: Rachel A. Zucker ’17
BY Robbie Armstrong, April 20, 2020
Stars Behind The Stars is a bi-weekly series featuring theatre makers behind the scenes.
This week we sat down with Stage Management alumna Rachel A. Zucker ’17 and discussed her work on Six the Broadway musical. Zucker is a Cancer who has worked on Broadway shows such as Indecent, Farinelli and The King, Pretty Woman, True West, The Prom, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
Tell me about your first time being involved in Theatre.
Rachel A. Zucker: I grew up in the theatre. My mom is a community theatre actress and my dad is an international trade lawyer. My parents couldn't always afford a babysitter so I got to go to work with my mom and watch her rehearsals. When I was old enough, I transitioned into run crew and later became a stage manager in high school, when one of my mom’s shows needed one.
You’re a cancer, how does it appear in your work?
RZ: Cancer describes me to a tee, it’s eerie. I’m always willing to listen. I’m a nurturer/healer by nature, extremely empathetic, intuitive, and in touch with my and others’ emotions. I am strong and vulnerable at the same time—characteristics that most people think are mutually exclusive. Bonnie Panson [the Production Stage Manager for Six] is a Scorpio (another water sign) and those two signs are known to be good friends and compatible colleagues who push each-other to be the best versions of ourselves. I’m finding it’s extremely true.
How did you get the job on Six and what do you find unique about working on it?
RZ: When I was working on Tina, I ran into Bonnie on the A train and she inquired as to whether or not I would want a sub job on Six when it opened—the show was so small they were not going to have a 2nd. Long story short, the 2nd position was deemed necessary, Bonnie asked if I would like to interview, interviewed, and was invited to join the team. The most unique thing about working on Six is that there are so many ladies involved in the production—dressers, technicians, stage managers, company managers, creatives, musicians, and actors on this show. It’s all about female empowerment. I feel like we’re breaking the mold because it’s ten ladies onstage, 4 musicians and 6 actors who are all queens in their own right. We also have the youngest female director in Broadway history, which is a fact we are pretty proud of.
Left to right: Christine M. Daly, Rachel A. Zucker, Bonnie Panson
How has your Columbia education prepared you for a career in theatre?
RZ: In so many ways, but the main thing was that finding your people is so important. My graduating stage management class is known as “The Wolfpack” and this group taught me to celebrate community without ego. We’re always there for each other and raise each other up. It’s so important in our jobs to find those friends who you also enjoy and covet working with. Finding mentors is also critical. I know that if I ever reach out to Michael Passaro with a question or concern, he’s always willing to listen and help out.
What type of theatre inspires you most?
RZ: It depends on my mood. Sometimes big, flashy, escapist theatre is what I need. Other days, I like the nitty gritty new plays. I was working on Coal Country at The Public Theater which gave breath to forgotten voices and that was really inspiring. I did that show with fellow Columbia Stage Management alumni: Janelle Caso ’17, Joan Wyatt ’17, and Daniel Vaughn ’17.
I'd love to know more about what kind of theatre you think will be most important once this pandemic is over. What type of art do you think the world needs right now?
RZ: Right now, everybody needs every type of art there is. People need art as a whole. If there were no music, television, movies, books, video games, etc., this isolation period would be much harder for people. I hope this time reminds the world—especially those who see the arts as “less than”—how vital creativity and the arts actually are in our lives. Every type of theatre, whether a Broadway show, Off-Broadway show, Regional show, Community Theater or Academic show will be so important because it is the artform that brings us together as a community. Theatre is unique because it is a shared experience, just like what we are going through as a country right now. We all experience something together. The first performances back will be transcendent, emotional, and so alive. It is an extraordinary thing to think about and something I am privileged to be a part of.
If you could be any famous child, who would you be and why?
RZ: Hmmm great question. I think I’d want to be an Obama daughter during President Obama’s presidential years. I’d love to watch that kind of leadership up close and see what it took for him—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to bear that much responsibility and pressure each and every day. How he remained such a boss, while still being a human.
What’s your favorite play/musical?
RZ: 5 years ago, I moved to New York on a whim for a stage management internship at The Public and while working there, Hamilton was in the Newman. I knew nothing about it except that it was about Alexander Hamilton and when I saw it, it took my breath away. Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop was also pretty extraordinary. I also have a soft spot for Phantom Of The Opera because it was the first show I ever saw. Honorable mention: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for THAT moment at the end of Act 1 of Part 2. I gasped. I love when theater can surprise me since we know how most everything works. If you know, you know.