Press Agent Provides Theatre Students a Glimpse Inside Broadway

As a press agent for Broad­way shows, Juliana Hannett ’95 has seen her share of euphoric successes as well as devastating failures.

Her Broadway productions have included Take Me Out, The History Boys, Beauty and the Beast and Into the Woods. In 2008, she headed up the Broadway and National Tour campaigns for Billy Elliot and Memphis, along with the 2010 and 2012 productions of the hit musical Elf. She was senior press agent for the hit Broadway revival of David Hare’s Skylight and Larry David’s Broadway debut as playwright and star of Fish in the Dark.

But she said she learned as much or more from the failures as the successes.

“I’ve worked on many shows that have died pretty spectacular deaths,” Hannett told students in Associate Professor Jessica Hester’s Introduction to Theatre class during a Sept. 9 campus visit. “You can work for a year on a show, and it just doesn’t make it. You can learn a lot from that.”

Hannett returned to campus to speak to more than 10 classes, and was the special guest for an Artswego Theatre Talk public forum as part of the Oswego Alumni Association’s Alumni-In-Residence (AIR) program, with support from The Fund for Oswego. Hannett, who earned a B.A. in theatre from Oswego and an M.A. in theatre from Hunter College, encouraged students to be well-rounded.

“Oswego taught me the importance of diverse skills,” said Hannett. She didn’t really have aspirations to act, took physics classes for “her own amusement” and accepted her parents’ insistence that she minor in business at Oswego if she intended to pursue a major in theatre— a decision that has served her well as a press agent.

She has always felt the pull of the theatre, both for a career and as an avid consumer of shows.

“The theatre is such a perfect place for me,” she said. “Theatre days are long days, but I love the sense of community.”

Hannett’s role as a press agent encompasses the development of publicity plans, she told students, and includes keeping abreast of trends in the business. One trend she discussed is the movement in the Off-Broadway community to offer fewer experimental, edgy shows. So much is driven by ticket sales that more avant garde productions often take the hit, she said.

“So now I get excited when I hear of something edgy happening,” she said. In fact, there are new playwrights who are experimenting with new styles, a thrilling development in the business, she said.

Hannett’s upcoming projects include A View from the Bridge, Shuffle Along and Groundhog Day.

—Eileen Crandall

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