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Bonnie Comley,
MA '94

Broadway producer, actor, writer, and Tony Award–winner

Bonnie Comley

Q.  What are you currently working on?

On Broadway, I’m co-producing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; War Horse at Lincoln Center; an extension of Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino; and trying to pull together a new musical called A Moment in Time with John Denver’s music.

In TV and film, I am finishing a documentary on horses narrated by Glenn Close, and a TV movie called The Dog Who Saved Halloween. And I am writing a book on fame!

Q.  Could you describe an experience at Emerson that shifted the course of your career?

I had a TV production class that forced the students to rotate jobs for a live TV studio show. There were about 15 jobs: directing, lighting, writing, camera, etc. I knew I never wanted to be a director or a lighting designer, but I had to learn it. I never mastered all of the jobs in this class, but we learned enough to put on our little live show every week. Understanding the responsibilities and language of each crew member who is on a set or stage has helped me to communicate effectively with them during my career—which is so important on a set or stage because there is always a clock ticking.

Q.  Is there an example of how a classmate aided you with your career?

My classmate Victor Nawrocki ’82 (writer, product trainer) told me to do an internship in New York, and that changed my life. Victor had done an internship at CBS for As the World Turns and thought I should apply for it. So I did. That is how I ended up in Manhattan. I’m still in Manhattan and still friends with Victor!

Q.  Are you professionally connected to other Emersonians?

I was on the Emerson College Board of Overseers for six years and mentored two students. I am now on the Dean’s Advisory Council to the School of the Arts, so I am connected to the students, faculty, and administration on a regular basis.

In the workplace, I run into Emersonians all the time. And I frequently see bios that mention Emerson in playbills.

Q.  What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to Emerson students?

Learn every aspect of making a TV show or movie. You don’t have to master them all, but understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Show business is a collaborative effort. With each Broadway show and every movie comes a team of people. The better and faster you can communicate what you need to another team member, the better the outcome for everyone. Emerson is a great place to experiment and make mistakes. In fact, sometimes the mistake is better than the original plan!

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