Managing a performing arts company, at the best of times, is a juggling act: running productions smoothly, keeping budgets on target, and making sure artists and crews are happy. But when the pandemic struck in 2020, says Theresa Von Klug (MS ’02), “It came down to survival and keeping our people safe.” As then–general manager of Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, Von Klug explored government programs, health insurance options, and more with her team: “We did everything we could to try to make people whole.”
Nearly two years later, Von Klug is bringing her vast experience in arts administration—and deep respect for her employees’ humanity—to the San Francisco Opera (SFO), where she was named chief operating officer in February.
Founded only a few years before the Great Depression, the SFO has endured World War II, recessions, new forms of media, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2022–23 seasons are particularly pivotal for the SFO as it celebrates its centennial, offering newly commissioned work such as composer John Adams’s Antony and Cleopatra, as well as classics like Verdi’s La Traviata. “We have to find ways to build for the next 100 years,” Von Klug says. “That means taking risks.”
Von Klug feels well equipped for her new position. She received her Master of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations from Baruch while simultaneously working as a production manager for New York’s City Center theater. She went on to plan and execute dance, theater, music, television, and film events for organizations throughout New York and New Jersey. “Actors get a high from performing,” she says. “I get a high from being backstage, making the magic work.”
As a manager, Von Klug adds, the job is about examining and analyzing risks, exploring options, and being decisive. “One thing I love—which can also be tremendously difficult—is ‘the show must go on’ mentality,” she says. “But if you want to do something new and different and hard, you can’t give up. You have to keep trying.”