This past summer, SBMT announced we were looking to hire a new team to lead our company as we embark on our seventh decade of serving the South Bay Area community. After fielding a number of eager applicants, we have now hired the first two members of that team: Lori Wood, who will serve as Business Manager, and Walter M. Mayes, who takes over as Artistic Director. While Lori is brand new to our company, Walter Mayes has been involved in various capacities for a decade and a half. We welcome them both to their new roles and look forward to beginning a new era of Noteworthy Entertainment at South Bay Musical Theatre under their leadership.

Lori WoodMeet Lori Wood

SBMT’s Chief Financial Officer, Braden Taylor, offered some perspective on why Lori was hired: “Lori Wood is new to SBMT but not new to musical theatre.” he explained. “Her diverse background—including theater box office manager, choreographer, and bookkeeper—makes her the perfect person to take on SBMT’s new Business Manager role. As SBMT continues to grow, our financial and business operation needs have also increased in scope and scale. We are thrilled to have Lori join our team. She has really hit the ground running and has already helped with a number of projects and operations improvements.”

According to her bio: “Lori Wood has been working in Business Management throughout the Bay Area for the past 16 years. She has managed a variety of businesses including city planning, chiropractic, physical therapy, and theatre. She holds degrees in Theatre and Dance from the University of California, San Diego, making her especially suited to work with the amazing staff at SBMT. When she is not crunching numbers and ensuring the smooth flow of day to day business, she teaches and choreographs Musical Theatre Dance throughout the Bay Area.”

We interviewed Lori recently so you can learn a little more about her.

What in your background attracted you to this new role with SBMT?  

I’ve performed, taught, and created theatre since I was 11, so getting to manage the business processes at a theatre is a wonderful marriage of my passions. I love organizing and orchestrating the successful progress of small businesses. It is important to me that an organization like SBMT is supported from the most basic level of business functionality.

What does a Business Manager do?  

Business Managers are in charge of making sure the books are kept and all expenses and profits are documented correctly. They also make sure everyone is getting paid, and financial projections and actual profits and losses are available to the Board to ensure the company can continue to thrive. The Business Manager must be available to staff for questions, concerns, and reimbursements. Basically, a Business Manager needs to take care of the nitty gritty and the overall bigger picture so that the business staff, board, artistic staff, cast, and crew can focus on creating great musical theatre.

What excites you most about working with SBMT?  

As a musical theatre girl, I’m just happy to be involved at all levels. SBMT has a wonderful group of artists working hard to bring joy to a world currently fraught with conflict.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I’m currently choreographing Mame at 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco, which leaves me very little spare time. It’s going to be a wonderful production that everyone needs to see!

Meet Walter M. Mayes

SBMT’s Board Chair, Michael Paul Hirsch, explained why the Board hired Walter as AD. “South Bay Musical Theatre has a long history with our new Artistic Director, Walter M. Mayes,” he said. “Walter has served as actor, producer, director, and board member for many of our productions dating back 15 years. He not only brings a vast institutional knowledge—and existing relationships with local talent—to his new role, but he also possesses an encyclopedic familiarity with the type of Broadway musicals we produce.”

According to his bio: “Walter M. Mayes is a librarian, an actor and director, a professional storyteller, an auctioneer, a lecturer on literature for children and teens, an author, a narrator, a Jeopardy Champion (January 1992; five games; $56,003), and a Master of Ceremonies. He is also the father of a grown son who often says, ‘As long as you can talk, Dad, you’ll have work.’ He is the librarian at The Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto, CA, where he has spent the last two decades sharing his lifelong passions for books and theatre. A noted expert on literature for children and teens, Walter has presented, keynoted, organized workshops, led seminars, and been a panel participant numerous times at dozens of state, regional, and national conferences for educators. A past president of ALAN (the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE), he has served as a judge for numerous literary awards and prizes, among them the LA Times Book Prize, the Odyssey Award, and the Michael L. Printz Award.

“As Walter the Giant Storyteller (he really is six feet, seven-and-a-half inches tall!) he has traveled extensively throughout the English-speaking world these last 30 years, often dressed as Hagrid from Harry Potter. A regular feature at Potter publication parties and gatherings over the years, Walter has appeared as Hagrid on CNN, been written up in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, and published professionally on the topic of the Harry Potter books and their effect on children’s publishing.

“He is the author of WALTER THE GIANT STORYTELLER’S GIANT BOOK OF GIANT STORIES and co-author of VALERIE & WALTER’S BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDRENwith Valerie Lewis of Hicklebees in San Jose.

“Walter has acted and/or directed for numerous Bay Area theatre companies, including South Bay Musical Theatre; City Lights; Palo Alto Players; Cabrillo Stage; Broadway by the Bay; Silicon Valley Shakespeare; Lyric Theatre; Sunnyvale Community Players; Foothill Music Theatre; and the Redwood Symphony.

“He was Artist-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1997, has recorded books on tape, narrated films, performed on spoken word and musical recordings, and is the inaugural recipient of the Coleen Salley Storytelling Award from Southern Mississippi University.”

We interviewed Walter recently so you can learn a little more about him.

What in your background attracted you to this new role with SBMT?  

I’ve been doing theater with SBMT since 2008, both as actor and director, and I have also produced multiple shows. I have a strong sense of what it takes to make good theater and to create an environment where talented people can give their time to create it. I know the musical theatre canon and have a clear understanding of what our audiences want to see and need to see.

What do Artistic Directors do? 

Artistic Directors select each musical and hire the staff needed to put on the best show possible. They oversee all aspects of the production and serve as the decision maker when there are questions, concerns, or conflicts. Overall, it is the responsibility of the Artistic Director to make sure that what the theatre company presents to the ticket buying public is the best possible experience.

What excites you most about working with SBMT?  

My history with the company has prepared me for the challenges and the joys of making theatre with a like-minded group of people who, in some cases, I have done shows with for 15 years. While it is always fun to work with people you know, the other really exciting aspect is working with newcomers and giving talented people opportunities to show their skills to our audiences. I pride myself in my track record of bringing new talent in to SBMT.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

Well, I have a full-time job as a librarian at a middle school, so there isn’t a lot of spare time that isn’t devoted to making good theatre happen. I do like to cook, and I’m happy to cook for friends almost any time.