Even though she had her sights set on a career in history, Erin Meiman’s path veered toward the arts while in school. She began working with the Columbus Symphony, then switched to the Cincinnati Ballet, then headed off to the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center in Covington, Kentucky, and then made a stop with the Boston College Bands. With such an impressive résumé, you’d believe that Erin is a triple threat — a woman who can sing, dance and act. But her on-stage experience has primarily revolved around playing the saxophone since elementary school. She found her niche ‘performing’ behind the scenes — in administration, production, planning, finance, budgeting, and logistics — all very crucial to the success of any production.
In 2014, Erin’s husband Chris landed his dream job at the Louisville Slugger Museum, so the couple pulled up their roots and headed to the Derby City. Erin started her next adventure, working at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she holds the position of Festival and Events Manager. Erin is also a brave warrior, having battled breast cancer three times since the age of 27. Let’s meet our leading lady in this week’s production of FACES of Louisville, Erin Meiman.
What inspired you to study history in college?
I wanted to work in a museum. There was a time when it was difficult for me to think of people in history as real people. But I began to realize that these people were real; they had lives. People like Abraham Lincoln did get up and eat breakfast every morning. I also liked the idea of breaking through what we’re taught in history classes. We’re given sound-bite history, but there’s more to it. History comes from a variety of perceptions, and being able to round that out was interesting.
What made you switch from pursuing a career in history to working in the performing arts?
I’d always played music, but knew I’d never be good enough — nor did I have the interest in being a professional. So, I thought that was the end of it. While I was in college, I had an internship with the Columbus Symphony in their production department. It was like a magical, eye-opening moment when I realized that other people, besides the performers, can work in that field. I’d also studied business while in college and received my MBA from Northern Kentucky University. I found out that the skills I was learning in school — organization, planning, math and critical thinking — were also necessary.
What are some of the professional positions you’ve held over the years?
I worked for the Cincinnati Ballet as the assistant to the artistic director. At the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, I was the operations manager. After that, my husband and I moved to Boston, where I worked a start-up called “Be the Change, Inc.” I was the director of finance and administration, working with human resources, logistics planning and event planning. While at Boston College, I was the assistant director for their band program.
What was it like working with the band?
One of the most exciting experiences was when the band performed in the second inaugural parade for President Obama, but that almost didn’t happen. We had applied, but when they initially announced the groups who were participating, we were not one of them. About a week later, we got a call saying we were selected. So, everyone had gone home for winter break, including me, and we had to figure out how we were going to get 150 kids to D.C. All of the hotels were booked. Plus, we had to submit information to the secret service for clearance. Thankfully, we were able to get it done. I got to walk with the band in the parade. The students in the group say it’s one of their best memories.
Tell us about your position at Actors Theatre.
On the events side — if you’re coming to the theater for something other than (or in addition to) seeing a play, I’m involved in that. That can range from a celebration like an opening party to a behind-the-scenes program. I also work on off-site special events at places like the Muhammad Ali Center. On the festival side, we have the Humana Festival of New American Plays, which is in its 44th year. With that, I handle the administrative side, working with our marketing and box office and development teams. I’m curating the guest experience for participants coming from out of town.
What has been one of your most exciting or unusual experiences while working at the theater?
We hold our Lobster Feast, which is our big fundraiser. It’s a fascinating event that we hold off-site at the Marriott. I’m project manager, which involves planning the programming, but I’m also in charge of many things like table decorations or transforming the lobby and the ballroom into whatever our theme will be that year. Last year, I was in charge of ordering the lobsters. It’s always a variety of balls in the air. One day I’m talking to our props team about the backdrop and then the next day, I’m discussing poundage of lobster.
What are some of the challenges involved with your position?
There are a lot of different puzzle pieces that you have to work with. In my job, I work with every department — depending upon what the event is and what it needs. I’m working with the front of the house, our operations team, the box office. There isn’t a department I don’t talk to or work with regularly. My job is making sure that everyone is up to speed.
Have you ever been in one of the plays?
Yes. Acting is not one of my things at all, but a couple of years ago, we did a show called For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday. And in the play, there is a small marching band that is part of a scene transition. We were short on band members for a matinee performance, so since I play an instrument, I was able to step in and be a part of one of those scenes.
Are there places in Louisville where you like to hang out?
My husband and I are sports fans, so we like to go to Slugger Field and see the Bats games and the Louisville City soccer games. I’m also a big nature person so the Parklands are awesome. We love to go walking on those trails.
Do you have any favorite restaurants in town?
What books would we find on your nightstand?
Is there any advice you’ve been given that you treasure?
My favorite is “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good,” meaning that wanting everything to always be perfect can sometimes be paralyzing. It’s a reminder to me to try something and not be afraid that it won’t come out exactly right.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Animals, music and stories — being able to learn about other people and cultures in order to expand my horizons.
Thank you for the interview, Erin! And thank you to Gretchen Bell for the photos of Erin at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
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