A Career Built on a Whiz Bang Foundation

Josh Kohler ’07
Major: Theater Arts
Arts Production, New York

Josh Kohler ’07 thanks pirates, puppets and rock and roll for his career break.

After working two jobs temping in an office by day and stage managing a downtown NYC production of “Man of La Mancha” by night, Kohler landed a job as production coordinator for the puppet and pirates rock opera “Jollyship the Whiz-Bang” at the New York City theater company Ars Nova. That turned into a full-time position as manager of the theater’s production department.

“The greatest thing about my tenure at Ars has been the volume and variety of programming we have done,” says Kohler. “We’ll do a reading of a musical one night, followed by a clown show the next, followed by burlesque. Ars Nova has defined itself as a special place in New York that opens its doors to all disciplines of theater. I’ve loved that, and I’ve loved being able to help realize so many different works by so many different artists.”

Kohler’s daily load as production manager includes loading shows into the theater space, hiring lighting and sound designers, and doing maintenance to the equipment and the building/theater space as needed while also keeping an eye on the season’s calendar of programming. He also does pre-production for upcoming main-stage shows and festivals.

After four years at Ars, Kohler has decided to strike out on his own. He already has several productions lined up, including working with director David Cromer — who staged a successful production of “Our Town” in 2008 — for the U.S. premiere of “Tribes” at the Barrow St. Theater in New York. Going freelance also gives Kohler a chance to get back to some of his more traditional roots. “I’ve always been a fan of Shakespeare and classical work, so I have a few projects lined up this spring that bring me back closer to that field,” he says.

“CUPS [Clark University Players Society] was really influential in developing my professional career,” says Kohler. “CUPS would bring in professional directors to work with students and allowed students to put up their own work. Being able to take lessons and learn from professionals and then apply that to student work gave me the confidence to move to New York after I graduated and see if I could translate it into a career.”

Kohler says Clark taught him how to have patience and stay level-headed in what he considers to be “very stressful business.” Would he trade it though? Not for all the pirate booty on the Jollyship Whiz-Bang.