‘Company’ man: Kyle Atkins is Riverside’s go-to guy

There are days when the name most often heard at Riverside Theatre isn’t the star of the show, or even the director. It’s Kyle Atkins, the man who for the past seven years has been that man behind the curtain, the unseen hand helping to resolve an endless run of confounding problems. The result – unfailingly, so far – is that the show has gone on.
This season, as Riverside stages from scratch a Broadway-worthy season that includes “Mama Mia” and “Gypsy,” Atkins will have new title in the playbill: He has been named company manager.
Putting out fires, keeping things organized and being familiar with every niche of the theater is what Atkins does every day.
“No two days are alike,” he says without so much as an eye-roll at the chaos he reins in daily.
“We have a lot to do over the summer. In the shops, they’ve already built sets for two of our shows,” says Atkins, his brain switching gears to the next item on his list.
The 32-year-old Atkins may have been destined to work in the theater: He’s a native of Jamestown, N.Y., the birthplace of Lucille Ball. It was in high school when he was struggling to find his place in the world that he discovered theater.
“I didn’t seem to fit into this group or that group,” he says of those awkward years. “When I did my first musical, I knew that was where I belonged. It just made sense to me, and I realized these were the people I wanted to be around. From that point on I was in love with theater.”
At first young Kyle was interested in performing “like everybody is when they get into the theater.”
“Once I was in college, I quickly realized it was not my thing – I really hated auditioning,” he recalls. “Then I started to stage-manage, and something just clicked. It just made sense to my Type A personality.”
Atkins graduated with a BFA in theater studies from Niagara University. It was 2007. For the next few years he learned the ropes as an intern in Arkansas, Maine, New York, Virginia and Connecticut. He even did a stint as the assistant stage manager at Riverside Theatre during the 2008-2009 season, which is when he earned his card from the Actors’ Equity Association.
A year later, he came back to Vero as production stage manager on Riverside’s ambitious, record-breaking production of “42nd Street,” a show that was a milestone in the trajectory of the theater. From then on, with the help of the newly inaugurated “patron producers,” the theater has staged much more massive productions.
Atkins has proved a critical part of that path.
Following “42nd Street,” he returned the next season for “The Producers,” then joined the staff full-time as production stage manager for such large-scale productions as “The Full Monty,” “Funny Girl” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
All the while, he has kept a low profile, and built a reputation as the go-to guy who never says no.
“This place is special for me. I’ve grown a lot here. I love our staff. And we’re only three blocks from the beach,” he adds with a chuckle.
Looking back on his days interning under the leaking roof of Arkansas Repertory Theatre, then finding himself at Riverside Theatre fresh from a $22 million renovation, it’s no surprise that this is where he put down roots.
“Not many places have that kind of donor base. This is a community that wants the arts and is willing to invest in them.”
For years, Atkins wore the hats of both the production manager and company manager. Then, last year, Richard Crowell came on board as production manager, freeing up Atkins to shift his focus.
As the company manager, his position is pivotal. He must be versatile and adept at many things, and for productions to flow smoothly the company manager must be familiar with every stage of the production process. Armed with an intimate knowledge of each department, he balances the theater’s needs with the artistic mindset of the performers.
“It is a big puzzle, and one piece affects all the others,” explains Atkins.
By dabbling in each of the departments over the years, Atkins knows where the pieces of the puzzle go, in order for all of the intricate details to fit together. As liaison between the cast, crew and director, Atkins’ goal is to make sure the production runs smoothly.
Once Atkins obtains the rights to a show, Allen Cornell, CEO and producing artistic director, puts together the creative team. Next, the set is designed and built, and then they head into auditions. Atkins coordinates both local and New York auditions. Then, as actors fly into town from New York, L.A. and elsewhere, it’s time for rehearsal.
“It’s all very fast. When we say we’re working on these shows for years, we might not be doing it every day, but the process began long ago. Sometimes you have three or four productions going on at once that you need to handle,” explains Atkins.
Another crucial aspect of Atkins’ job is to take care of the actors. This multi-faceted job encompasses everything from auditions to rehearsals and maintaining a green room. It is Atkins who must secure housing for visiting performers, a task that should be eased by Riverside’s newly announced actors’ housing expected to break ground this fall on Aviation Boulevard.
Atkins’ role is to create a welcoming environment for the performers so they can funnel their creative energy into the performance.
That isn’t a 40-hour a week job, according to Atkins. One day he might be helping out with the sets and another taking care of an injured cast member while keeping the rest of the crew calm and formulating plan B.
One thing Atkins found surprising was many performers want to clean their own rooms before settling in. Atkins started to protest until he realized the source of their urge. “I take pride in the housing we provide. I’d get offended when they wanted to clean their rooms. Then I realized that this was a way for them to make the place their own, even if it’s just for a few weeks.”
Over the years he’s had some interesting requests from performers. “They all have different personalities and quirks. You get a wide variety of requests, most in that first week. I try to do what I can. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t pack properly to come down here. It isn’t shorts and sandals weather in January.”
After years of practice, Atkins knows there is a psychology to assigning housing. Performers often share an apartment, a car and a dressing room along with being on stage together. Being in each other’s pockets 24/7 can be too much, so Atkins keeps their on-stage roles in mind when he parcels out off-stage housing – he sometimes checks social media for help formulating assignments.
Next year’s opening of the actors’ hotel, to be called Star Suites, will change things drastically, according to Atkins. “Right now we have about 25 apartments and they’re all over the place, which means I do a lot of running around.” Having the housing in one location with local developer Keith Kite’s property management team helping will make things much easier, he says.
“There aren’t many other regional theaters in the country that have a set-up like we will have. It will make us pretty unique in the fact that we will have our own housing complex for all of our guest artists,” says Atkins.
He expects that the hotel will have a positive effect on the already high caliber of the Riverside casts. Performers are drawn to Riverside not only for the beaches warm winters, but because of the “quality of the productions we work on and how we take care of the actors.”
All that hard work is rewarded on opening night for Atkins. “It’s the one time you can put everything aside and just watch the show. Then to hear our audience raving that this show is now their favorite, you know you did it.

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