Jane Dubin Wasn’t Ready To Die At 40 On Wall Street – So She Went To Broadway

How does one go from the corporate, tight lipped world of investment management to the big, shining lights of Broadway? It seems like an unlikely and tough journey but if you ask Tony Award Winning producer Jane Dubin, it sounds like it was pretty easy. The admitted “math nerd” says she decided around the age of 40 that she could stay in the investment management field and literally burn out or she could do something completely different. And that she certainly did. She went into theater. She started by helping out on the business end of a few productions but it wasn’t really long at all before she found herself winning a Tony for producing the Best Broadway Play Revival of 2009, The Norman Conquests.

Her journey as a producer literally sounds magical, which makes one of the next shows she went on to produce very fitting. In 2011, Jane became involved with an Off Broadway production called Peter and the Starcatcher. The story is based on the best-selling children’s book by Dave Barry and is a prequel to the beloved tale of Peter Pan.  With her help and a team of others, she brought the play to Broadway and it went on to win five Tony’s. I saw the play last week and though I am a lifelong Peter Pan devotee, I can honestly say it was one of the most innovative and charming plays I have ever seen and I urge everyone to see it (even if you don’t believe in fairies.)

We were lucky enough to talk with Jane Dubin about her career switch, her love of live theater and what a successful show means to her.

How did you get started in producing?

Jane Dubin: I had been in the financial services industry and came into producing by accident. A friend was doing a show and needed help doing the business side of things. I was a partner in an investment management firm so I said, “Oh, I can do that.” And then they needed someone to handle the box office, and then they needed a poster, etc., Next thing I knew, I was producing a show. And then one show just led to another.

Wow. Did you go back to school or do any kind of formal training?

Jane Dubin: A friend in theater recommended the Commercial Theater Institute. It was a sort of grad school seminar. I met some people there and ended up producing a show with one of them and the next thing I know I’m part of a Broadway show and it’s winning the Tony [for best revival of a play in 2009.]

How did Peter and the Starcatcher come about?

Jane Dubin: A good friend of mine wanted me to see the show – it was playing Off Broadway at New York Theater Workshop.  I went into it not really knowing what to expect and I was blown away. I had done a couple of off Broadway shows after The Norman Conquests but I was inspired to return to Broadway for Peter and the Starcatcher. I told my friend I wanted to be part of this team.

And then it went to Broadway and became the play to win the most Tony’s ever?

Jane Dubin: Well, it was the most nominated American play in Tony history. It won five Tony’s, most of any play last season – Best Featured Actor [for Christian Borle] and all the design awards which is a very rare sweep [best scenic design, best lighting design, best costume design and best sound design.]

Visually this is a really cool production because the set is made up of all recycled materials – it is a very green production. The initial workshop budget for the show was very small and you can see they just came up with very imaginative ideas for sets and props to create the world of the show.

Why did you leave the investment world?

Jane Dubin: I left the investment world in 2000 because I had just had it. The 90′s were a different era and while it’s an interesting and challenging business, it is 24/7 and it is brutal. It was a life choice – you can continue to work like that and find yourself dropping dead of a heart attack at 40 or you can choose to do something else – I chose something else that is much more fulfilling and, also way more fun.

As a child or teenager did you have envision yourself having a career in theater?

Jane Dubin: No.  But I love theater. I always have. I was exposed as a child and I loved it. I think live activities are very special. They are different for each person. If you see the same show three different times you can have three different experiences.  And what happens on stage can be influenced by who is there sharing the experience.

And I think it is really cool to be behind the scenes and see how the strings are pulled. You get to see the process of creation which is amazing. The audience only gets to see the final product but we, the producers get to facilitate that happening. And theater can really create conversation.

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    • Lastango

      What a wonderful, horizon-expanding life experience! She really got in there and made things happen for herself! I know almost nothing about the entertainment business, and can only guess at the excitement of opening night, and the thrill of public success… from a distance, it seems like a high-wire act without a net. It either works, or it doesn’t. It must be fascinating to be on a treasure hunt for new material, never knowing where the material for the next production is going to come from, and meeting new creative people for the first time.
      …and I’ll bet the parties are way more fun than they were on Wall Street!
      As an aside, I’m always disappointed in interviewers who ask some form of the women-as-perpetual-victims question about “male-dominated” environments, so it’s great how non-victim Durbin kicked it to the curb and moved on. That’s happened a lot lately, with the women replying that, in fact, the men have helped them. It that keeps happening, the interviewers who feel it’s their job to fabricate controversy and drive identity-group wedges between men and women may finally give up because it just isn’t working.