Sam Rudy sat in the second row of New York’s Public Theater, waiting for the show to begin. The head of Sam Rudy Media Relations, a company that has overseen productions such as “Avenue Q,” “The Last Ship” and “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” had been invited there by producer Jeffrey Seller to review a production that needed publicity help. The production, in its second week of previews, was a musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
Rudy said he knew he wanted to be involved as soon as he heard one of the musical’s opening lines, “He got a lot farther / by being a lot smarter / by being a self-starter.”
“I started thinking, ‘They didn’t say that in the 1700’s?’” Rudy said. “I thought, ‘Something that was that clever and catchy and in the 21st century vernacular is going to be terrific.’ I still have that [thought], a year and a half later.”
Since moving to New York City after college — a goal he’d had since age 11 — Rudy has used his passion for theater to build a press company with a stellar list of Broadway credits. He developed his passion for theater in college, where he worked in stage management and was elected president of a collegiate theater group for students outside of the theater department.
“I got turned on by the camaraderie,” Rudy said. “Working with people interested in theater and performing arts is exciting. Creating something over and over again and being in the room when people experience it is a beautiful, wonderful thing.”
After several summers working on press campaigns for the professional theater program, Rudy made the move to New York City where he worked with his mentor, press agent Shirley Herz, for 20 years before founding his own firm 15 years ago. Today, Rudy said, Broadway’s brand is stronger than ever.
“Broadway is what everyone wants,” Rudy said. “It’s an ultimate achievement.”
Working with “Hamilton,” Rudy has had a front-row seat to the production’s unprecedented success with both fans and the press.
“You always hope that your show has an appeal that reaches past the arts and culture pages, so you’re trying to get people from other sections to cover it,” Rudy said. “With ‘Hamilton,’ it’s all there: the page, the stage, the ideas, the presentation.”
As the show passes the one-year mark on Broadway, Rudy said that its initial interest has done anything but die down as it prepares to launch a production in Chicago in September, with a national tour scheduled to begin in 2017.
“Lots of our day is telling people we don’t have tickets for them,” Rudy said. “We’re doing lots of scheduling to make a new push for Chicago and make sure that [the Chicago cast] names are being promoted.”
Outside the theater community, Rudy said the show’s broad wingspan has allowed it to form unique partnerships, such as a “Hamilton” day with the U.S. Coast Guard to celebrate Coast Guard Day on Aug. 4 and a 100-page special edition of Newsweek about Alexander Hamilton titled “The Man and the Musical” launching Sept. 24.
For students and practitioners, Rudy said that in this “complex, multi-faceted job” it’s crucial to build trusting relationships with the members of the press and be able to work with deadlines.
“You need them to work with you,” Rudy said. “Don’t lead them down a dead end. Writers are always on deadline, which means sometimes we have to rush.”
Rudy also noted the importance of creating an open dialogue between producers and management to make a production commercially appealing while remaining true to the artist’s intentions. These dialogues provide a great opportunity to form relationships with playwrights over the course of one’s career, he said.
“Public relations will sit down with the artist and say, ‘Tell us the story you want us to tell,’” Rudy said. “It’s helpful for us and them to have this dialogue. It’s a set of conversations and exchange of ideas about what the play is and how to get people to see it. Reviews don’t sell tickets anymore.”
For public relations students across all disciplines, Rudy said that opportunities for writing and internships are important. However, he noted that for anyone interested in theater or performing arts, Broadway provides a prime opportunity.
Drew Pendleton is a senior at The University of Alabama (UA) majoring in public relations and Spanish. He is currently the editorial director for Platform Online Magazine, the freelance editor for Mosaic Magazine and the director of media relations content creation for Capstone Agency, the university’s Student-run Firm. He serves as the publications committee leader for UA’s PRSSA Chapter. Connect with him on Twitter @drew_pendleton, LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.