Inside the Broadway Community Project: Before a Show Hits the Stage, Script Coordinators Get It on the Page
“Script coordinators free up creators to focus on creation rather than the nitty-gritty, and I’ve gotten to see firsthand how much of a difference that makes.”
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 as theatres gradually begin to welcome back audiences.
Today, meet Armelle González Harper, who shaped 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-hand person to a show’s authors, she communicates not just what the changes are—but their practical and artistic reasons—and occasionally pitches ideas of her own. Having worked on Broadway with Mean Girls, On Your Feet!, and The Prom (even getting married on the stage of the latter), González Harper is now at work on the musical adaptation of Night at the Museum and Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe’s upcoming The Life of the Party.
Name: Armelle González Harper
Title: Script Coordinator
What is a typical day like for you on the job?
Top of day is when I spend quality time with my friend Xerox. I sort out who needs which script pages that were revised the day before and put them in everyone’s “mailbox.” I set up the script file for the new day so that the specialized program will track the day’s changes. The cast and creatives arrive, and I make sure everyone understands the new content. Throughout the day I’ll get line changes from the writers and proofread them, do continuity checks, and insert 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 sheet music. The tricky part is making sure the pagination is squeaky clean. I then create a change log to create a record of every change made in the script, down to punctuation changes. This log is distributed to everyone the next day along with their new pages. I save the script file and wish everyone a lovely evening.
What’s your professional life like during the coronavirus pandemic?
I’ve been very lucky to get to work with writers still chugging along creating the next wave of Broadway shows. Audiences have 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 have had a great time hearing scripts and scores come to life with first table reads. I desperately miss the buzz of rehearsal rooms and am so ready for these shows to get on their feet.
What are three skills a script coordinator must possess?
Razor focus, meticulous organization, and sharp comedic instincts. The last one sounds silly, but you won’t understand where the commas go if you don’t get the cadence of the joke!
How did you get your start in this fairly new space?
I started as a stage manager and was always most in love with helping the creative team. After working with the inimitable Bob Martin to manage his script changes, we put our heads together and came up with a new position for me. I’ve been able to find all the often overlooked ways that the logistical stress of the writing process can be eased so that creators can just focus on creating. I wouldn’t have had the instincts for that without stage management.
Did you have a mentor early on?
Bob and Rick Elice have been so instrumental in teaching me about the full lifespan of a Broadway show, from inception 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 an up-and-coming playwright/librettist. Nell Benjamin was the first person to make me feel like I could stand 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 works and how she treated me when I was very green.
What do you wish more people knew about your line of work?
I wish more people knew that there is a better way to support your writers. Script coordinators free up creators to focus on creation rather than the nitty-gritty, and I’ve gotten to see firsthand how much of a difference that makes. Time is the most valuable commodity in theatre, and having a script coordinator will make sure writers get the most out of theirs. It’s best to bring on a script coordinator as early in the writing process as you can before needing to bring one in to try to untangle everything.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the theatre community?
To me, theatre is a beautiful crossroads of magic, meaning, and community. We are all bonded by this celebration of humanity and expression that is so soul-nourishing. For me, being part of the theatre community means being home!