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February 4, 2009

The Art of Reinvention

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ann mundorff theater assistant

DRAMA MAMA Ann Mundorff a the Friedman Theater on Broadway.

Photo Credit: Anna Skladmann

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From IT manager to THEATER ASSISTANT
ANN MUNDORFF, 30, NEW YORK CITY

EXIT SIGNS: In my first job out of college, at Hewlett-Packard, the company moved me from Colorado to San Francisco and offered me a good salary with a signing bonus. Within five years, I was managing teams in Malaysia, Italy, India, and the U.S. But the stress level was high — I'd come in to 400 e-mails each day. It was on a 5 a.m. conference call with India that I thought, What am I doing this for? So I quit my job and moved across the country to live with my cousin and her husband in Queens, NY, while I figured out how to combine my business background with my love of theater. My parents freaked; even the movers were like, "You're moving from San Francisco to Queens?"

WORD TO THE WISE: You're never too old to start over. It was the joke at the theater that I was the 27-year-old intern. But you spend so much time working that you might as well do something that you're passionate about. Now I'm a general management assistant at the Manhattan Theatre Club, learning about the day-to-day operation of shows, artist contracts, music rights, how to option a book for a play, how to commission playwrights, and how the whole creative team comes together.

THE WHAT-HAVE-I-DONE MOMENT: I took a $70,000 salary cut to do this — no more $300 salon trips. My first two internships paid zero, and once, for an opening-night party, I had to cart cases of hamburgers in a trash bag on the subway. I was like, Wow, I used to manage people, and now I'm delivering White Castle.

THE PAYOFF: I feel more at home in the theater and with the people in it than I ever did in the corporate culture of H-P, which was like the movie Office Space. Even budgeting has been good for me. I'm a lot happier in my life, and I love that crazy butterfly feeling I get watching a great show that we produced. It's like I'm up there with them.

—as told to Jessica Henderson

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