Whitman – Bachelor of Arts, Music
University of Portland – Master’s of Business Administration, Finance
Sometimes, to make a good story great, you need a plot twist.
For Brisa Trinchero, who was living her dream as singer, the twist was an MBA in finance. What might seem like a major departure was actually part of Brisa’s plan to land dream job No. 2 (yes, she’s really that lucky!) as the driving force behind the curtain in the world of theater. Having climbed the ladder post-graduation from office assistant to running the largest musical theater company in Portland, Brisa felt like she’d hit “a home run.” And then, like so many, dreams of Broadway’s “Great White Way” started song-and-dancing through her head.
So, Brisa jumped and moved from the flannel of Portland to the glitz of NYC. Within two years, she had her first Tony Award as a Broadway producer. And if you’re keeping track, Brisa’s current role as a producer for some of Broadway’s biggest shows marks dream job No. 3 in a career that shows no signs of slowing down.
More than a portion of Brisa’s success comes from a continual drive to work toward the next big thing. “I see each ‘I made it’ moment as the time to find the next big challenge, which allows me to always be discovering something new,” she says.
The key to success in big dreams is to stay the path and not get derailed by roadblocks, mistakes or naysayers.
What was your career path like after college?
I’m very lucky to have landed more than one of my dream jobs. After starting out as a singer with a degree in music, I realized that I wanted more control over my career than a performer could ever have, so I went out on a limb and got an MBA in finance. I was fortunate enough to achieve my next dream job of running the largest musical theater company in my hometown by the time I’d reached my mid-twenties – and I started as the office assistant! Honestly, I’d always thought that would be my major end-all-be-all career path. Going from onstage to the “corner office” felt like a home run.
When did you decide to take control of your career and create your own dream job?
After leading the company for a few years I realized that I was far from done with my career ambition and needed to dream bigger. I set my sights on Broadway, jumped into NYC and the New York theater community with both feet, and through a lot of hard work, lucky connections and smart partners, had my first Tony Award in two years. I’ve always loved big challenges, and I’ll admit, I enjoy the journey often more than the destination. Proving to myself that I could manifest my dreams with nothing but hard work and persistence has been liberating and gratifying. It has given me the confidence to believe that no dream is too big or far-fetched to achieve.
What does a day in your job entail? How do you manage all of the demands of being producer, publisher, consultant and business owner?
I love what I do and the wonderful, talented people I work with, so it’s easy to find myself working seven days a week. Diversifying my activities between producing, publishing and consulting allows me to maximize the synergies between all of my businesses and to learn something new every day.
The Broadway producing opens doors to some of the most brilliant creative storytellers in the world, whose talent I can then bring into the publishing company, where we focus on books by Broadway talent about Broadway. My passion for tech and finance gives me the incredible opportunity to consult for some very cool companies and bring a little “showbiz” into those worlds. There’s nothing I love more than spending every day helping brilliant entrepreneurs, whether in theater or tech, to manifest their big visions.
As far as a “day in the job” I aim to spend as little time as possible at my desk. Most of my works happens in meetings, over coffee, meals or at the theater. I also spend a lot of time in the air. It’s not unusual for any given week to include 48 hours in LA followed by another 48 hours in London with NYC thrown in the middle. It becomes addicting to pound the pavement when I know that any (and every!) meeting I take will reveal a new collaborator, new deal, new friend or all of the above.
We would love to hear more about your experience as a Broadway producer! What are some of your favorite experiences and productions?
Broadway producing is one of the riskiest businesses in the world. There’s no formula for what will be a hit on Broadway; and the millions of dollars it takes to open a show and keep it running week after week is staggering. Add to that, the stress of landing a coveted Broadway theater, coordinating star talents’ schedules and figuring out how to reach the right audience day in and day out, and it’s a wonder that shows make it at all. That being said, Broadway is thriving right now.
Getting to work at the top of my industry with some of the best, most talented and smartest people in the world is a joy and an honor. I have a million favorite experiences from the many productions I’ve had the pleasure to work on including The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, Pippin, Matilda and others. But one experience particularly stands out; our current production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has been incredible because it’s shaping up to be a huge hit. It follows a young Carole King through her early career and her journey from being a teen mom with dreams of being a female pop songwriter in a male-dominated industry, to becoming an international powerhouse and finding her strength as a woman. It’s an inspiring story and I love watching people stream out of the theater every night smiling, singing and feeling like anything is possible.
What led you to also founding Dress Circle Publishing? What are you most excited about in the next few years with this company?
I co-founded Dress Circle Publishing with a fellow young female producer, Roberta Pereira. Both of us grew up far from NYC and had little access to the real world of Broadway. Our mission with the publishing company is to pull back the curtain on Broadway and give people all over the world intimate access to how Broadway works, in a highly entertaining way. Our “Untold Stories of Broadway” series has been a big hit, as has Seth Rudetsky’s “Broadway Diary” and our fiction series by Ruby Preston, proving that there is a big appetite for Broadway content beyond just what happens in the few blocks around Times Square.
Do you find being one of the youngest people working as a producer on Broadway to be an advantage or a disadvantage?
At first it definitely felt like a disadvantage. On my very first Broadway show, I’d walk into meetings and people would assume I was an assistant or intern. More than once someone would say, “Is your boss coming?” or “Aren’t you too young to be a producer?” but I learned to not let it get to me. Now I feel like being young is an advantage.
Due to the risks and costs of producing, many leaders in the industry came to Broadway later in their careers. Starting young, I have the advantage of getting to work with and learn from the top Broadway producers in the world, while knowing that over the course of my Broadway career I’ll have ample opportunity to benefit from what works and change what doesn’t. It’s also exciting to see more young people joining the producing ranks. If that trend continues, there will be some very exciting new work showing up on Broadway in the years to come.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
One of the biggest challenges that I think any entrepreneur faces is how to manage and overcome the inevitable fear and doubt that goes with the territory when taking on a huge challenge. It’s easy for the constant obstacles that arise along the way to keep you up at night wondering, “Am I doing the right thing?” But the key to success in big dreams is to stay the path and not get derailed by roadblocks, mistakes or naysayers.
How do you unwind?
I don’t “unwind” very often, but I do love to have fun. Living in Manhattan and traveling the world provides endless opportunities to explore. I spend many evenings with my husband and friends discovering new restaurants and cocktail bars; and, while I can’t stand working out, I do love walking for miles all over every city I visit. I also love brainstorming business plans, giving advice, and providing connections and introductions (usually over wine!) to my many creative friends and colleagues who are starting or running businesses. I find it endlessly creative and inspiring.
What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?
Several years ago, I founded a musical theater writer’s retreat at my family’s country property on the West Coast. Every summer we fund and host several up-and-coming musical theater writing teams who are working on early development of new musicals. It’s always a magical time in the woods, and my whole family pitches in. Since the retreat’s inception, we’ve had shows that were mere kernels of an idea out in the woods go on to Broadway stages and to major theaters around the country. It’s very gratifying and so much fun to bond with my family and our musical guests each summer!
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I prefer the journey over the destination. I often pinch myself since I’ve been very fortunate to have had several traditional “I made it” moments over the years. But usually that’s my cue to move on to my next adventure. I see each “I made it” moment as the time to find the next big challenge, which allows me to always be discovering something new.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Surround yourself with smart, talented and kind people.
Respect: whether you agree or disagree with your colleagues, building relationships without burning bridges is key, not to mention a great way to stand out and make a difference.
Pay it forward: generosity with time and talent will always be rewarded.
Network, network, network.
What key advice would you offer future Leading Ladies looking to break into the entertainment industry?
My favorite quote is Leonard Da Vinci’s: “People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” I’m a firm believer in not waiting for someone to offer you a job or give you permission. Show up, insert yourself into the process and be so good at what you do that your colleagues and collaborators want to keep you around. In entertainment you are constantly starting over; projects end, shows close, etc., so you have zero job security. You have to be an entrepreneur and learn to embrace the “sales process,” whether that means fundraising, ticket selling or auditioning. Meet as many people as possible and put effort into maintaining relationships. You have to be willing to “pitch yourself,” whether you’ve just graduated from college or are celebrating your second Tony Award.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 20-something version of yourself?
I would tell my younger self to slow down and enjoy the successes. I’ve also been so focused on my next achievements that I know I often miss opportunities to stop and celebrate. It’s great and necessary to be ambitious; but I wasn’t (and truthfully am still not) as good as I should be at pausing and reflecting before tackling the next big adventure.