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ASU Gammage director makes Broadway a Tony affair

ASU Gammage Colleen Jennings-Roggensack

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage, has been a Tony Awards voter for almost two decades. She is the only member of the Broadway League from Arizona.
Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News

June 04, 2015

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2015, click here.

Rock-and-roll tours with the Stones, U2 and Van Halen.

Dancing under the direction of legendary choreographer Martha Graham.

White House dinners with the Clintons. And the time Isaac Hayes’ manager set a gun on the table, demanding a recount of tickets.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack has stories that could mesmerize you for hours, gathered during her years of working in the entertainment industry.

After this weekend, the longtime ASU Gammage executive director will have a new story to tell when she attends the 2015 Tony Awards in New York City.

But first, back to Isaac Hayes and the gun.

Jennings-Roggensack was in her early 20s when she was hired by Shelton Stanfill, the director of cultural programs at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Stanfill despised rock music and assigned the division to Jennings-Roggensack, who teetered around 90 pounds, often wore her hair in pigtails and looked about half her age.

“Back then we didn’t have computerized tickets like we do today, so we had to rack tickets and do a count with the band at intermission,” said Jennings-Roggensack. “Isaac Hayes’ manager thought we were palming tickets and didn’t feel as if he were getting his fair share, so he shut the door, put a gun on the table and said, ‘We’re not leaving this room until I get my cash.’ My rock-and-roll days weren’t always so pretty but they taught me a lot about negotiating, dealing and being under fire and how you react to those types of situations."

With her rock-and-roll days behind her, Jennings-Roggensack is running with a more sophisticated crowd. She is considered one the country’s most influential tastemakers where it concerns the arts, specifically Broadway plays and musicals.

Jennings-Roggensack is the only member of the Broadway League from Arizona and has been a Tony voter for almost two decades. This year, that required her to watch 68 plays and musicals with several flights each month back and forth from Phoenix to New York City. This weekend she’ll actually get to relax and rub shoulders with artists, producers, directors, choreographers and playwrights.

“The show is way more spirited than the Academy Awards, and the people are fun and charismatic,” she said. “Broadway is more alive than ever. It’s the reason why you’ll see Bradley Cooper in ‘The Elephant Man’ or Jake Gyllenhaal doing ‘Constellations.’ Every actor aspires to work on the stage."

They also aspire to come to the Valley, said Jennings-Roggensack, who brings about 20 weeks of touring Broadway shows each year to ASU Gammage.

“Phoenix has really grown up and is considered one of the top three touring stops on the road,” she said. “We have a very well informed public that spans several generations. This is a town where you do your best work or you don’t come.”

The 2015-2016 Broadway season at ASU Gammage kicks off with the Tony Award-winning “The Book of Mormon” on Oct. 20.