Long Career Of Westchester Broadway Theatre Producer Lisa Tiso.Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 By: Jenny Higgons
- Tiso is the producer of the Westchester Broadway Theatre's current musical, "South Pacific"
- The Ardsley resident has produced more than 30 main stage musicals at the Westchester Broadway Theatre
- Lisa has many friends who work on Broadway but has no desire to work there herself
Lisa went from feeding the audiences at the Westchester Broadway Theatre to entertaining them.
She began as a buffet girl at the community dinner theater in Elmsford in 1979 when she was 15, and since then has produced more than 30 of its main stage musicals. Her current production is "South Pacific," which runs through Sunday, breaks for the holidays, and returns from Dec. 31 through Jan. 25.
"One of my sisters got a job as a buffet girl in 1976," says Tiso, 49, "and then my other sister the year after." Cleaning up the buffet tables after 400 diners had passed through wasn't exactly glamorous, but she did get to hang out with a pre-"Quantum Leap" Scott Bakula when he played the teen angel in the Theatre's 1980 "Grease."
"And John Lloyd Young was in our 'Camelot' in 1999," she remembers. "He went on to win a Tony for playing Frankie Valli in 'Jersey Boys' and then starred in Clint Eastwood's film version."
As with the many other high schoolers from Valhalla, Hawthorne and Ardsley (where she grew up and still lives) who had after-school jobs there, her main goal was to have a part-time job anywhere, not necessarily in the theater world.
After high school, Tiso took some business classes at Westchester Community College and stayed on at the Theatre. When it started offering table-side service, the need for buffet girls decreased, so Tiso grabbed an opportunity to work at the box office instead of waitressing in the dining room. "I loved the box office because there was more interaction with the customers," she says.
Jump to three years later, when Tiso was elevated to a full-time position at the box office. Then, in 1983, she was promoted to assistant box office manager. "Nothing was computerized," she remembers with a laugh. "Everything was done on paper, but I loved it."
Her Theatre career continued on the upswing when she was moved into group sales. She made another leap in 1989, when she became the executive assistant to the Theatre's longtime executive producers, Bob Funking and Bill Stutler.
In 1991, Funking and Stutler bumped her up to being one of the Theatre's three associate producers and then, in 1994, a producer. That promotion got Tiso involved in managing budgets, casting actors and hiring the stage crew.
Tiso partly attributes her longevity at the Theatre to having worked in and worked with its many departments. "Two very different types of businesses operate in our one building," she says, "There are the actors and then there's everyone else, and one couldn't survive without the other."
Tiso's favorite Theatre show has so far been "The Phantom of the Opera" in 1992 because, she says, "after having debuted on Broadway only six years before, it was all so new"; and then "Gigi" in 1994, because it was the first show she fully produced.
Though Elmsford is just a 30-minute drive from The Great White Way, Tiso isn't lured by its bright lights. "Those shows aren't much different from our shows," she says. "Basically, they just have bigger budgets. And because we're so close to Manhattan, the talent we can attract is like no other dinner theater. I fell into a job at the Westchester Broadway Theatre and it turned into a career I love."
Here are 10 things you might not know about Lisa Tiso:
1. Her dog, Maximus, is a cairn terrier.
2. Bruce Springsteen, The Partridge Family, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Roselli, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line and a few show tunes are on her iPad.
3. She regularly attends the homes games of West Point's women's volleyball team.
4. Ocean City, Maryland, is her favorite vacation destination.
5. She's a huge fan of Silvio's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Yonkers.
6. She'd rather be at a Yankee game than a Broadway show.
7. Derek Jeter was her favorite Bronx Bomber.
8. She loves TV's "NCIS" and "Criminal Minds." "Ally McBeal" was her most recent "must-see" TV series.
9. Her parents didn't pick out her first and middle names until a few days after she was born.
10. She has no DVR.