- Middlesex County Magnet Schools
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Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Lane leads production team at State Theatre in New Brunswick
17 January 2024 · Joseph Bakes
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ – Michelle Lane loves to return to East Brunswick Magnet School to talk to current students about her experiences as a theatrical production manager. She says she remembers appreciating visiting professionals when she was a student.
A 2013 graduate of the School of the Arts with a career major in theater, she says she is jealous of current students who are able to major in arts technology. The teacher is Lea Anello, one of the visiting professionals from her student days.
“She was an incredible resource,” Lane says, recalling the difficulty of balancing the performance and technical aspects of the theater major in her day.
“As a high-schooler having to balance all that was a chore,” she said. “Guest artists made the program so much more valuable, getting varied perspectives is so important.”
When she comes back to East Brunswick Magnet School, she hopes to convey to current students “here’s what I learned and here’s what to expect out there.”
“It’s heartwarming and fantastic to see how much the program has grown,” Lane said.
“Everyone has a strong passion for the school,” she said of her fellow theater alums, 15 or 20 of whom return to speak to current students. “We want the students out there – it’s very touching.”
She says the necessity to move beyond the school auditorium during the pandemic and while it was being renovated may actually help the students.
“In some ways it’s really beneficial not to be stuck in the same space,” Lane said. “Sometimes you just have to make theater work in places it’s not supposed to work. You have to be able to roll with the punches.”
Lane also gives back to the Magnet Schools by serving on an advisory committee.
Lane graduated from the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University and then worked on an off-Broadway production of “Jersey Boys” for four years before it closed during COVID.
“I was the only standing original crew person,” she said.
Her current job is as production manager of the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, making sure all performers, from comedians to Broadway touring companies, have whatever they need. The job can involve arranging lighting, sound, scenery, catering, even parking.
“I make sure we either have everything they need or can get it,” she said. “Kind of like a party planner but for performances.”
Her full-time staff of six may be supplemented by as many 65 additional workers depending on the production, all working behind the scenes.
“We do our absolute best to make sure the audience never sees us,” she said, adding that the job requires a “trouble-shooter, a problem-solver.”
She said the State Theatre takes a lot of pride in its productions.
“I’m really proud to work here,” she said.
“It has been wonderful to watch Michelle progress from a young person just starting in the field of entertainment design and production to becoming the production manager at the State Theatre,” Anello said. “It's the best feeling when someone you mentor becomes your colleague.”