Arielle Tepper Madover, Producer Extraordinaire, Entrepreneur
Someone I know asked me if I would sit down with Arielle and talk to her about the new business she is working on, What Should We Do. What Should We Do is a concierge service that helps people plan activities from theater to the arts and of course a restaurant can be added in there too. Based on Arielle’s career and passion for the arts it makes total sense. She wants to share all the opportunities available to us to enjoy and explore NYC.
Arielle and I got together and after she left I didn’t write any of this down. I could not get her out of my mind and asked her if we could speak again. The programs she has created and the impact she has made in the world of the arts and theater is tremendous.
Arielle grew up in NYC. She attended Dalton from the time she was 3 until graduation. Her father was originally a commodities trader for himself after having gone to business and law school. At one point he bought a printing press and began a magazine that competed with the Village Voice. Then he got into real estate. Her Mom was a painter. She would go to her studio every day from 10am-8pm. She would then come home to write, read and study between 10pm-1am. She was always scared to sell her work but the walls of their homes were adorned with her paintings including their home in East Hampton. Her mother opened an art gallery called East Hampton Center for Contemporary Art, a non-profit for emerging artists on New Town Lane in 1985 and closed it in 1990. She had a good eye as many of the artists she chose have big careers now.
Arielle spent her summers in East Hampton. At 12 years old after getting a subscription to National Geographic. The world was her oyster. She became obsessed with going on a cruise to Israel, Egypt and Jordan Her Dad gave her the go-ahead and went with her for Xmas break in 1983. Then went to to the Galapagos for Spring break in 1974.
At 8 years old she saw her first Broadway production, Annie, and was hooked. She started dancing, acting and singing but she wasn’t that great at it so when she was at Dalton she got into lighting design and direction. She did not have the time to prepare for an acting degree because her Mother was diagnosed with colon cancer when Arielle was in 9th grade. She graduated high school and went to Syracuse University to major in Design and Technical Theater because there was a 45 minute flight from Syracuse to NYC and a great program.
Her freshman summer she worked for a theater producer, her sophomore summer she worked for a Broadway general manager and then one summer she worked at the Royal Opera House and spent her second semester of her junior year abroad there. She learned the importance of bringing young blood into the opera just by being there every day. She took that knowledge with her back to Syracuse. Arielle became very close with the Chancellors wife who loved theater and Arielle pushed her to think about changing the curriculum.
After graduation Syracuse asked Arielle to sit on the board. What Arielle did is so impressive. She created a program called the Tepper Semester for Careers and Theater. It is to help students make the transition from school to life. The program is now in its 15th year. If you want to be in the theater world not everyone will make it as an actor but there are so many options now so where you can stay in the arts in another role and that is what this program is all about. So smart!
Arielle had worked for Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller, top producers of musicals such as Rent and Hamilton after college. She wanted to do what they did. After 5 months she left. It was Alan Wasser who told her to go produce something. She memorized her contacts and took a bunch of odd jobs over the next two years. One night she went to a reading of a show that she thought was super cute. She decides to take this show to Chicago for a 5 week run. It was insanely hard but now she can call herself a producer.
After returning to NYC she decides to meet one new person every day. I love this. It didn’t make a difference who they were but she figured it would help her figure out her career. Through this someone introduced her to Gregory Mosher, a long time producer. He asks her about a show he had seen. He had coincidentally seen her show in Chicago. He asks Arielle if she wants to get involved in taking the show he had seen to off-Broadway. She did the numbers and decided if she could capitalize it for $50K it could make money. She went for it. The show was a huge hit and they brought it to Broadway for 6 months. The show was called Freak.
After that she decided to step back for a bit and do a film. She did an independent film went nowhere but then got offered a deal with October Films. She returned to theater with the Sandra Bernhardt show but didn’t feel like she had the right team and wanted to figure out how to curate the right team to do other peoples shows. Then she was introduced to DonMar warehouse in London where she signed a deal with them to bring their shows to the West End. Somewhere in here she went to work for Alan Wasser, who told her to go produce, and worked on Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera.
Back in NYC she began an emerging playwrights summer program on 42nd Street called the Living Room for Artists. She did this for 5 years. 22 plays in 28 days every summer. It was a teaching event. They would choose the play, connect you with the director, and assign you a producer. Every show got $10k and then they’d teach you how to put on a show. $10 tickets that sold out nightly and employed 300 people a summer. It was amazing. Then everyone started to get into these summer teaching programs from MTC to Roundabout. It was time for something new.
At this point Arielle became involved with the Public through her production company. She had gotten married, had two kids, was producing plays for the Public and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She took a big step back from commercial producing. Once she was healthy again she came back and produced a play with Danielle Radcliffe and started to focus on the DonMar warehouse again bringing those productions to the Public. Fast forward she is now the Chair of the Public Theater.
I know that I have left out many of the other things that Arielle has accomplished including many of her philanthropic activities and countless awards. She is quite an impressive human. Her mother never showed her work but Arielle made it a mission of hers to have the world see her paintings. Her mom died at an early age of 47 almost 25 years ago but this weekend her art will be shown at the Tripoli Gallery in Southhampton. Of all the things that Arielle can hang her hat on, I am pretty sure this is her number one.
Her new venture, What Should We Do, really gets her excited. After all, she is quite the entrepreneur. Arielle told me she is loving the start-up world. Not surprising as start-up is her middle name.