Jessie Cadle | Staff Writer
Sarah Clare Corporandy, new managing director of Chautauqua Theater Company, sits poised in a desk chair, sandwiched between a bright, pink wall and a desk laden with lollipops for guests. During her small lunch break on a day packed with meetings, she always seems to find time to talk with people who need her.
Having been CTC company manager for the past three years, she knows the company well. Now, as she leads CTC with Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch, Corporandy said she hopes to expand Chautauqua’s theater audience and to build a future full of new work.
“I was really looking forward to partnering with Vivienne and taking this company from the great place that it has gotten to, to the next level,” she said. “And I love Chautauqua — it’s infectious.”
Corporandy replaces Robert Chelimsky, CTC’s managing director of the past five years. The position oversees all the company’s administrative departments and its production manager. To do the job well takes an eye for the bigger picture.
“She is just the most organized, level-headed, genuinely sweet person who has her stuff together,” said Jonathan Zencheck, CTC technical director. “Between her company management skills and her stage management skills, I think she is bred for a job like this.”
Corporandy and Zencheck came to Chautauqua at the same time, and the two had worked together previously at a theater in Buffalo, N.Y. Corporandy teaches arts administration at Savannah College of Art and Design during the off-season, and she first discovered the field after suffering a herniated disc during a performance in Chicago.
Corporandy studied voice and acting as an undergraduate, but after her back injury, she returned to school and earned a Master of Fine Arts in arts administration. She found her calling in facilitating.
“What I liked most about it was that it wasn’t just about me anymore,” Corporandy said. “I was able to bring artists together and help communities create art.”
The large role community plays on the grounds also drew her to work at Chautauqua. She remembers a half-hour conversation she had with a community member last year about CTC’s performance of Three Sisters. The lively back-and-forth satisfied them both.
“That’s exactly what arts should be doing: creating the dialogue, asking the questions, answering the questions, instigating the frustrations, the anger, the happiness,” Corporandy said. “I don’t want people leaving just saying, ‘That was a good show.’ I want them talking about it … and thinking about it the next day.”
It was this pull to engage that first led Corporandy to theater. She recalls attending Les Misérables at age 8 — she could barely stop herself from jumping on stage and joining the cast.
“I don’t really tell that story very much, because it sounds cheesy,” she said. “But … I feel very lucky to have had that sort of clarity at such a young age even though it’s a difficult business. These are my people.”
Now, as managing director, she works to serve those people directly. She continues to work at Chautauqua because she respects the way CTC hears and respects each of its voices and departments. She said she hopes to cultivate that communication, which Benesch also supports.
“I feel incredibly privileged to be working with a woman who shares not only my passion for sustaining and growing the standard of excellence here at CTC,” Benesch said, “but also my deep belief that at the heart of making that possible is empowering the people we work with.”
Much of what makes Corporandy’s new job different from her last is that she solves larger-scale issues from behind the scenes instead of dealing with minor emergencies.
“I do a little bit more watching and a lot more listening,” she said. “It’s a quieter position.”
Now, she must consider what’s best for the entire company and its future direction. Her short-term goal is for CTC to expand its reach to more of the Chautauqua community.
“I think this is the year for people to be introduced to the theater if they haven’t already,” she said. “I really like to … watch the growth and bring the ideas together. And that is something that has been happening here for a while.”