“I still have these pinch-me moments often, where I’m like, ‘How is this my life?’” Shoshana Feinstein says. Her path from fangirl to producer extraordinaire is incredibly unique. She is an Original Programming Producer at New York’s cabaret club, Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. However, only a few years ago, she says she was strictly a fangirl. She credits her New York City roots as the reason she fell in love with Broadway.
Photo courtesy of Shoshana Feinstein.
“I grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan,” she says, “and I would say that influenced me in that I grew up going to see Broadway shows. From a young age, I really knew and loved theatre. When I was a kid, my grandmother would take all of us here and there or my mother would get tickets through work and we would go. [Broadway] was something that I went to and knew existed. And then, as soon as I was old enough to start going on my own, which was high school age, I did. And that’s when it became more of a hobby. I’m not a performer at all, never wanted to be. So I didn’t do anything theatre-related in high school, except see shows.” she explains, her charming NYC accent apparent as she speaks.
“So what is your music background. Obviously, being at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, you’re surrounded by music, so I was wondering how that interested you when you were younger,” I say.
“I’m a music fan, always have been. I love music, but I have no musical ability or talent at all. I took piano lessons for about three weeks when I was around twelve years old and ended up dropping it because it conflicted with an arts thing I did. I was always more into the art side of things, [such as] painting and sculpture. Honestly, growing up I never really thought I’d work at all in anything having to do with music. I loved it as an art form, but it was never something to aspire to. It was always just like, ‘Wow! These people are so cool because they can do something that I can’t do,’” she says.
“Where did you go to college and how did that influence your career?” I ask.
“I went to college here in the city. It’s a private school called Touro College. I went to school for Graphic Design. That was my interest at the time. I don’t really do that anymore, but I think it’s a similar creative eye to what I do now. The only way it influenced me to where I am now is that I was in New York so I was seeing Broadway shows. I was seeing them multiple times, so I got to know who people were and started following them from show to show and getting introduced to the whole musical theatre side that’s not Broadway,” she says, explaining how her passion for Broadway began to open her eyes to the New York theatre community beyond Broadway.
“So, what lead you to producing?” I ask, curious how a graphic design student ended up working as a producer.
“As you can probably tell from me talking, my path was a little bit weird and unique. I was just a fan of theatre, it started with Broadway, and then I started going to Joe’s Pub to see people do solo shows and then I actually had a friend move to New York and she did video work as a hobby. She had a video camera and she started working with people [who were] performing things. And she kind of dragged me into that,” she says, laughing. “One night there was a Ryan Scott Oliver concert and she had to work and couldn’t make it, so she asked me if I could film it. I said, ‘Sure. I don’t know what I’m doing, but if you show me what to do, I’ll do it.’ And from there, I started doing a lot of filming and it grew over the next several years. It started as a hobby where I was working a regular nine to five job in graphic design [during the day], and then at night I was just filming. As it started to become more popular, I started putting more time into it, like upgrading things, until filming became a full-time job. And because I was filming all the time, I was constantly behind the scenes of all of these concerts. I was backstage and I was seeing everything about it. I started thinking, ‘Well, it doesn’t seem too complicated. If I have an idea, why can’t I just do it?’ So I did. I kind of wanted to do an understudy concert and I decided to just go ahead and do it and see what happens. It was a concert featuring a bunch of understudies on Broadway. I didn’t know what I was doing yet. I asked a lot of people for advice. I asked Jen Tepper, [Director of Programming at 54 Below], she had already started her Runs a Minute series, so I had asked her a bunch of questions I had and there were a lot of things that I probably ended up doing in a stupid, roundabout way. But then we got there and we did the concert and it went really well. So we did another one a few months later and from there I just started being like, ‘Oh! I have an idea. Let’s do it and see what happens.’ And then when 54 Below opened, I did a couple of concerts there and two years ago they said that they wanted to add a few producers on staff and [asked if] I would be interested. And I said, ‘Sure. Why not? I’m doing it anyway. I love doing it, so why not do it a little more officially?’ So that’s how that happened,” she says, a certain disbelief about her own journey.
Photo of a #tbtLIVE Throwback Thursday concert produced by Shoshana Feinstein at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below. Photo courtesy of Shoshana Feinstein.
“What’s your favorite part about Feinstein’s/ 54 Below?” I ask.
“I just, I love, love, love the people there. All the way from the owners to the waitstaff. Everybody does their job so well. They’re so equipped to support you with what you need on their end. It’s just, honestly, the most loving work environment. I feel so supported. I feel like they believe in me and they trust me and really want me to succeed, which is really amazing. I was worried when I took the job that producing would go from being something that I’d do for fun because I loved it to being just a job: something where I didn’t really want to do it, but that I had to. Luckily, that has not been the case at all. I still get to do things that I absolutely love doing and it still feels like a passion project,” a smile spreads across her face as she talks about where she works.
“That is just amazing,” I say. “Can you also talk about the New York theatre and cabaret community and what it’s like to work with people that are your friends in that environment?” I ask.
“It’s amazing,” she begins. “There are two sides to it. There’s getting to work with your friends and then there’s getting to become friends with these people who you admire and who do something so cool. And I love that. We’ll do an amazing concert and someone will come up and say, ‘Wow! That was an amazing cast. How did you get that?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I just kind of reached out to my friends.” And then I realize how incredible it is to be able to say that these people who are so insanely talented are my friends and I get the opportunity to work with them in a way that, I hope, is really exciting and fun and beneficial to both of us. I feel like they’re helping me out by performing in a concert and I’m helping them out by giving them the opportunity for exposure or whatever it is for each person. And then there’s also that thing where I get the chance to work with people who, eight years ago, I was literally standing at a stagedoor waiting to get autographs from. And I’ve been lucky enough to have that [moment with] a lot with a lot of reunion concerts I’ve done. I recently did a Footloose reunion concert and I was sitting in rehearsal with Jennifer Laura Thompson and Jeremy Kushnier and I was sitting in paradise and my mind was exploding, like, ‘This is happening,’ like ‘This is something that I’m a part of,’ you know? I’m still, at heart, a Broadway fangirl. Eight years ago, I considered myself just a Broadway fan. And now, to be a part of the community is really mind-blowing. I still have these pinch-me moments often, where I’m like, ‘How is this my life?’ You know? It’s really incredible.”
An elevator selfie from the Footloose reunion concert. Photo courtesy of Shoshana Feinstein.
“I love that,” I say. “What’s your favorite part of working on new and original work?” I ask.
“I think my favorite part is creating something out of nothing. And I don’t mean that I created the material, but usually when you have an idea, and then you put it out there, you’re creating something that likely wouldn’t exist if not for your hard work at it. That really satisfies the creative side of me. I love when there’s something that I’m passionate about, that I’m putting on and then people come see it and all of the sudden they’re talking about how awesome it is. It’s like when you convince your friends to watch a TV show you love, and then they love it and you feel good about getting other folks to watch it. I love that, I think it’s incredible, especially when it comes to new work and new writers. I love to discover new things and I love helping other people discover new things,” she says, a giddiness to her voice.
To close, she talks about following your passion no matter what. “I’m a big believer in that if there’s something that you’re passionate about, pursue it. It’s kind of cliche advice, but I feel like it’s literally my life. If you love something, find a way to put it out there, even if it’s not necessarily going to be your career,” she turns it back to me for a moment, saying, “Like what you’re doing with your blog, it’s something that you’re excited about. Create. Because it’s nice to feel passionate about something and you never know where life is going to take you. I mean, I never would have thought that I would end up doing this. It all just kind of happened, but it happened because I explored what I was interested in. I wasn’t looking out for a job, but I was like, ‘I love this. I want to make it a part of my life.’ Don’t not do something because you feel like it’s something that you can’t do or because you think that you’re never going to be successful at it, because you never know. Even if you don’t end up hitting your ultimate goal, the path getting there can be satisfying.”