An Emmy and Tony-nominated and Drama Desk winning producer, Jennifer Kranz (ΦΒΚ, State University of New York at Stony Brook), is a former television executive who spent over two decades in the industry in production and marketing as a senior executive at major media companies. Currently, she is the Director of Creative Development at Rosalind Productions, a live theatrical production company focused on changing the narrative and eliminating gender and racial bias.
As a child, what profession did you envision for yourself when you grew up?
I had always pictured doing something in the entertainment genre. I loved theater, tv, movies, and books as a kid – so I had always imagined myself (as much as you can picture your future career as a little kid) working in one of those areas in some behind-the-scenes capacity. While an avid theater kid, I was never interested in performing professionally.
For the Society, love of learning is the guide of life. What would you like to learn next?
Aha! Great question! I am an intensely curious person and to me there is never enough time to learn about all the things that pique my interest. There are so many great subject matters to explore in the world – different cultures, lands, people! I’m also interested in improving on certain skills. For example, I speak decent Spanish, and a bit of German – I’d like to become fluent in those languages. I also started studying French in the pandemic, so I’d love to be more proficient at that. I play piano at about the 8th grade level, sadly, and would love to find enough time to practice regularly; as part of my job as a musical producer, I work with music artists just about every day, so I am so inspired by music and wanting to engage with it further in a different capacity than as a producer. (I’d also like to get back to sewing. I was pretty good at it in high school!) In summary – there’s so much to learn and never enough time! I also regularly make time for volunteering for voter registration organizations. It’s so important and I’ve met a lot of interesting people doing it.
What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?
I really enjoyed any course related to theater, literature, and history. “Sin and Sexuality” was a favorite course because it really exposed a lot for me about the existence of misogyny in literature, the male gaze and how harmful that has been in society on many levels. I also loved any course that allowed me to dissect plays in greatest detail whether it was Shakespeare, Lillian Hellman, Ibsen, or Lorraine Hansberry.
Why did you decide to transition from the television to theater industry? What advice do you have for members making industry transitions in their own careers?
I had a lovely 20+ year in the television industry in production and marketing and there was not another job that I wanted in that regard. My work, while fun (and I had wonderful colleagues), was beginning to feel repetitious. The stresses were the same; there was not the thrill of new challenges. I was in a senior role in marketing at a television network in New York, where I live, and decided I wanted to get back to producing, but most of the jobs for it are in LA, and I had been out of that side of the business for a while. Moving was not an option. And I had always wanted to work in theater as a producer. I gave myself a year to create a network in theater, find some paying work, and dove headfirst into it. To be clear, I had skillsets from the TV industry that serve me well as a theater producer. I would say that if anyone tells you “You’re crazy to leave a job you don’t have to leave” or “you’re too old” or “you don’t have enough experience” or anything discouraging, tune them out. Focus on YOUR path and what drives you. Try to think differently about how to make it work if the typical methods are not working off-the-bat. (Initially, I had three part-time jobs in theater and was still consulting in the TV world). Also, I highly recommend talking with folks that have made a big transition like that. While my friends and family were supportive, I found it to be quite a lonely process – mainly because I was going against the norm.
What does your role at Rosalind Productions entail, or what is your favorite part about what you do?
My role at Rosalind Productions is running Creative Development for the company. That means scouting and evaluating projects critically for the company to get involved in or not and working with the head of the company to develop new projects in theater and now, film. My boss – Abigail Rose Solomon - has created a fantastic mission for the company – everything we do is by and about women – but for everyone. So, while every project is very entertaining, there is a social justice message cleverly embedded somewhere. It’s quite satisfying and exciting. We’re working on tons of great stuff! The company is a co-producer on the revival of Funny Girl which starts in March, and we are developing several original ideas, too. Another one of our projects, a new musical called The King’s Wife by Mêlisa Annis and Grammy-nominated composer Jamie Floyd is being workshopped in January at the famed Playwrights Horizons. (You can check out some of the music on Instagram and Spotify). And it was our pleasure to have The King’s Wife featured in the American Scholar recently!
You received your undergraduate degree in Multidisciplinary Studies and Theatre. What can students gain from taking courses in a diverse range of disciplines?
I’m someone who thrives on being exposed to multiple things, so I think that a diverse array of courses and learning opportunities expands your thinking in wonderful ways. It can be very influential in terms of choosing a career path. Plus, college is the time to immerse your mind in different things – you never know what might spark some real love for a subject matter or pastime that can last a lifetime.
Rosalind Productions’ upcoming musical The King’s Wife retells the historical narrative of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Which historical figure would you most like to be reimagined on stage?
Well, one of the reasons for the “birth” of The King’s Wife
is that women generally have not had control of their own narratives throughout history. So, I am interested in re-listening to any woman figure from history’s narrative from their perspective. I’m very interested in the great women activists, leaders, and thinkers who were ever-present in the 1970’s: Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Dorothy Pittman Hughes, Wilma Mankiller, etc.
What book(s) are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts or watching any shows? Anything you'd recommend?
I read several books at a time depending on what I am in the mood for. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) I recently read David Chang’s memoir, which was quite interesting. I live near the original Momofuku, which is what caused me to pick it up. He spoke openly about his struggles with bipolar disorder, which is important, I think. That said, I typically read works by women writers. Speaking of which, I recently read a wonderful book called Wintering by Katherine May, which talks about the necessity of pulling back from the world when you need to. (And how it is okay). I watch a lot of women-authored television shows as that is where my entertainment interests lie. I highly recommend the TV shows I May Destroy You, I Hate Suzie, and the movies Promising Young Woman and Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I’m not a huge podcast listener, but my husband, Andrew, is always listening to something interesting – he’s gotten me into ‘Opening Arguments’. I’ve been listening to podcasts more recently because The King’s Wife has been featured on several podcasts - “On The Tudor Trail”, “The Exploress”, “Musical Theater Radio”, and “Wining About Herstory”! (All fun podcasts! So, giving them a shoutout!)
What is your favorite cultural excursion or experience in your city?
I am the only person I know that still (proudly) checks out books from the library. (Join me, people! Libraries are a good thing!) That is always a delicious experience, in my opinion. The libraries in New York City are often buildings that were originally built for other uses, so that in itself is an experience and if I go in looking for something to read, I usually leave with three or four goodies. And it’s free! Going to see any theater is, of course, always a treat or a movie at the Angelika Film Center. My husband and I are always looking for an off-the beaten path experience, too. The Merchant House Museum in downtown NYC is a favorite place. (It’s an old merchants' family home that has been preserved exactly as it was in the nineteenth-century - both inside and out). Highly recommend.
Find The King's Wife on Spotify and Instagram.