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Video Published: 21 Dec 2022

An Oral History with Linda Jackson

On December 8th, 2022, general director Linda Jackson sat down with OPERA America's President/CEO Marc A. Scorca for a conversation about opera and her life.

This interview was originally recorded on December 8th, 2022. 
The Oral History Project is supported by the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation. 

Linda Jackson, general director

In 1987, Linda Jackson became one of the first African American women to run a professional opera company in the U.S. when she was appointed general director of Chautauqua Opera. Since then, she has served as the general director of Berkshire Opera and managing director of both The Glimmerglass Festival and Connecticut Opera. Outside of the field of opera, she also held positions as the executive director of Robert Wilson’s Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation and general manager of 651 ARTS at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She has experience in both administration as well as production, having also worked as a stage manager and production manager for such companies as Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Texas Opera Theater, and New York City Opera National Company.

Oral History Project

Discover the full collection of oral histories at the link below.


Marc A. Scorca: Linda Jackson, thank you so much for joining me this morning for this conversation. It's great to see you, and thank you for being with us.

Linda Jackson: Oh, sure.

Marc A. Scorca: I've probably known you as long as I've known almost anybody in the field, so it's great to have the conversation. As you probably know from all of my previous interviews, I start with the question: who brought you to your first opera?

Linda Jackson: What brought me to my first opera was my sixth grade music teacher. Honestly, I don't know what the opera was. Based on my recollection of what went on on stage, I think it was Traviata. What happened was, she handed out the tickets and we were all looking at our tickets to see who we were sitting next to, and none of my friends were sitting next to me, and it turned out I was sitting next to the music teacher.

Marc A. Scorca: Probably because you were gonna misbehave, and the music teacher needed (to be close)...

Linda Jackson: Or whatever, I don't know. But as a result, I was stuck sitting next to her, and she was a lovely woman, don't get me wrong, but when you're in sixth grade, of course she's the teacher. And so I don't remember anything about it, except that at the end somebody was dying in a bed. So I'm assuming it was Traviata.

Marc A. Scorca: You know, in opera that is a wide swath of possibilities.

Linda Jackson: Exactly, exactly.

Marc A. Scorca: What company was it?

Linda Jackson: I don't know. I also feel like it might've been at City Center.

Marc A. Scorca: So New York? It was in New York.

Linda Jackson: It was in New York, and it would've been like '65 or '66, maybe.

Marc A. Scorca: That's right at that pivot point of City Opera moving from 55th Street up to Lincoln Center.

Linda Jackson: I feel like (it was), 'cause I remember being really high up in the balcony, and it was definitely not Lincoln Center. Definitely not.

Marc A. Scorca: And, despite sitting next to the teacher, did you enjoy your first encounter?

Linda Jackson: I honestly don't remember much about it.

Marc A. Scorca: What's the first opera encounter you remember as being 'this could be good stuff in my life'?

Linda Jackson: Probably not til I first went to Houston, but I was planning to be a theater stage manager; that was my goal. My dream was I wanna be a Broadway stage manager.

Marc A. Scorca: So hold there. Why did you wanna be a stage manager?

Linda Jackson: Oh, I started stage managing in college. In high school I worked on the shows and when I got to college, I sort of fell into stage managing and we had a really good theater program at Douglas, and so I started stage managing then, and really liked it. It was a fun position to be in. I don't know, it just sort of took. I loved it so much.

Marc A. Scorca: And in college some people try to be actors, some people want to be playwrights, some people want to be stage directors. How did stage management become your focus?

Linda Jackson: I liked working backstage and I really hated being in front of people. So much so that I didn't wanna have to take an acting class. And I was told by my department chairman, "Either you take an acting class, or you fail". So I had to take the acting class in order to graduate, which was horrible. It was horrifying. And as part of the class, we had to audition and I just refused, and he said, "Well then, you'll never get an A in this course". And I said, "I don't care, but I'm not auditioning". So I just didn't wanna be out front. So that's how I ended up stage managing. But I was working. I wanted to do Broadway - that dream of being a Broadway stage manager and then someday growing up. And I really wanted to produce (at) the Vivian Beaumont Theater. But out of college, I started working with one of our professors who was doing an off-off Broadway showcase that was directed by Albert Takazauckas. And I did a lot of shows with Albert, one of which was a production of Cenerentola for these two lovely ladies who wanted to have this little opera company. We performed in a church, and we did this production of Cenerentola, and that was probably my first real experience where, you know, it was okay. It wasn't like I said, "Oh, I wanna have a career in opera, but I at least enjoyed the experience. It wasn't difficult. I did it, and then nothing again, fast forward until I went to Houston.

Marc A. Scorca: And what brought you to Houston?

Linda Jackson: So what brought me to Houston was that, Lee Schlosberg went to Houston as the production stage manager and called me one day, like literally I was in the middle of doing an off Broadway showcase. And he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Well, I'm doing the show". And he said, "Can you get out of it?" And I said, "Sure, I suppose. What is it?" He said, "I'm in Houston. I'm stage managing for Houston Grand Opera". And I said, "I don't know anything about opera, at all". And he said, "But you know how to stage manage and I really need somebody here. What are you doing?" I said, "Okay". He said, "It's just three months". I said, "Sure, why not?" Got on plane, went to Houston. First production was Peter Grimes. Jon Vickers.

Marc A. Scorca: Oh my God.

Linda Jackson: Andy Anderson, John Pritchard, and that was it. Everything that I thought about opera, the whole sort of horn-stand-and-sing, Jon Vickers, Peter Grimes, whole different ballgame, whole different ballgame. And Pritchard was brilliant, and Andy Anderson was such a great teacher, 'cause he knew I didn't know anything about it. And so really talked me through the whole process. I remember he would stand backstage with me and say, "Look at the monitor. Watch John conducting Jon. See how Jon follows John". See how they worked. It was an incredible experience. Incredible experience.

Marc A. Scorca: Did you know how to read music when you went down to Houston? Had you trained in just following a score?

Linda Jackson: Oh, sort of. I had studied piano and I studied guitar, so yeah, I could sort of follow along. But did I know any Italian or anything like that? And coming from theater, opera is like a different animal, 'cause you go into rehearsals for a play, and the actors all have their scripts, and they're making notes and you're three weeks in before anybody memorizes their lines. You go to an opera rehearsal and singers are singing you know, nothing in hand. What was really fascinating me was my first orchestra rehearsal because, you think rehearsal, you're gonna prep - and you go in and the conductor goes like this (gives downbeat), and everybody starts playing. And I'm like, "Wait, wait, wait. Isn't there something supposed to happen before that?" It was great.

Marc A. Scorca: Wow. I can't tell you how often in all of these interviews, Jon Vicker's name comes up as just one of those galvanizing moments for so many people in their operatic lives.

Linda Jackson: Yeah, he was great. The best.

Marc A. Scorca: And I guess David Gockley was general director. And are we talking about the 1970's here?

Linda Jackson: Right. My first production there was '77.

Marc A. Scorca: So David was not long into his career as General Director of Houston Grand Opera by the time you got there.

Linda Jackson: No, but they had just done the Porgy and Bess, which had sort of put the company on the map.

Marc A. Scorca: Right. What was it like working with David in the '70's?

Linda Jackson: I don't know how to explain it. David is brilliant. He's brilliant, and he's fun. David was fun. It was interesting being around him. It was interesting watching the way he worked. He was extremely personable; he was always around with the staff. I can remember David walking around the office late at night in his socks, 'cause we're all there working. Even though I know he was the boss, I never felt like I couldn't talk to him about anything. So it was really great. And honestly, I would say 90% of what I know about producing opera, I learned working with David.

Marc A. Scorca: That's a lot. Texas Opera Theater. So how long did it take from your first work with Peter Grimes to getting to Texas Opera Theater? Had you been working in Houston for several years before you jumped over to Texas Opera Theater?

Linda Jackson: No, actually I worked in Houston for three years. So I did three years at Houston Grand Opera and then left. It was fine. And then I thought, "Well, maybe I'll go back to theater". And actually Pat Collins was working there at the time, lighting, and she said, "If you move back up to New York, I got some theater companies, I can introduce you to". And what happened was, I got back to the city and again, Lee offered me a contract to work at Washington Opera, and then I got another offer to go to Miami. Dean Gordon, who I knew from Houston was going to Miami, and he asked me if I'd come an assist him. So I said, "Sure". So I ended up that fall, right after I left Houston, doing a show in Washington, doing a show in Miami. And then both companies offered me a contract. And the difference was Miami didn't work over the Christmas holiday, so I decided to take that. So then I spent three years in Miami. And then when I left Miami, Jane (Weaver) hired me to come back to work for Texas Opera Theater.

Marc A. Scorca: So you worked at Washington then under Martin Feinstein.

Linda Jackson: Is Martin there at that point? I guess maybe Martin had just come. The staff was Lee and Chari Shanker was there then, and Ramon Trilecki - all of us were stage managing together. And it was a really quick production of Ballo. It was great.

Marc A. Scorca: And then Miami was with Bob (Robert) Herman?

Linda Jackson: Yes. Right. And the other 10% of what I know about producing opera, I learned from Bob Herman

Marc A. Scorca: And Bob Herman, of course, who had been an assistant to Rudolf Bing, and part of that team that built and opened the new Metropolitan Opera House. Bing retired in 1972, and Bob Herman went down to what was Greater Miami Opera. What was Bob Herman like?

Linda Jackson: Bob was very formal and Houston was, at the time, a very American house. We hired mostly American artists and also a lot of Brits. We had a relationship with Glyndebourne, so I worked with a lot of British directors and a lot of young singers. So, you know, the early days of Alan Titus and Brent Ellis and Noëlle Rogers and Clarice Carson. And we did a Salome with Grace Bumbry. In Miami, it was very formal. That's where I got to work with (Luciano) Pavarotti, and that's where I got to work with (Plácido) Domingo. And Emerson Buckley was the music director/artistic director, and so we did very traditional grand opera. But what I learned from Bob was... He always sat down with the team - director, conductor beforehand to talk about what the shows were gonna be about, so that he would know what he was getting. And that's the one thing that I learned from him - when I later became a general director, it was always making sure that I talked through that. I didn't wanna be surprised when I went into rehearsals to see what I was gonna get. So I learned that from Bob.

Marc A. Scorca: Yeah, because if you are surprised at rehearsal, there's nothing you can do about it.

Linda Jackson: So, that was really good. But there, I learned really about tradition: opera tradition. Emerson Buckley - Buck - was a real traditionalist. And what singers were going to expect; how the bows were going to go; what the pecking order on bowing was - things like that.

Marc A. Scorca: So, Jane Weaver and Texas Opera Theater...

Linda Jackson: Jane invited me back to Texas Opera Theater. Jane had really taken TOT from being just sort of an appendage of Houston Grand Opera and separately incorporated it, and made it into its own company. We sort of were the opera company for the state of Texas, and so we toured a lot of small towns in Texas where we were the opera company of El Paso. We were the opera company of all of these little towns. There were guilds in those places that would always host us after the performances. We went a little bit into Louisiana and Oklahoma and, again, it was a lot of young singers. And it was interesting because I was at HGO when the Studio was formed. So at the time we had the Studio and we had TOT, and so there were a lot of young singers getting all different kinds of experiences. The difference with Texas Opera Theater was that you got to sing a role multiple times. You really got to learn how to do a role. I learned a lot because the first couple years I didn't go out - my last year I did go out on tour, and you watch from performance to performance; you watch different cast changes. You watch how an artist has grown into a role over the time. That is the one thing that is unfortunate about losing all those touring companies.

Marc A. Scorca: I wanted to ask you about that because, of course, on your resume - as well as working with the New York City Opera National Company, which is where I started at New York City Opera in the lower concourse - at the time it was called the National Opera Touring Company, but then it changed its name. And there was Texas Opera Theater, there was New York City Opera National Company, there was Western Opera Theater out of San Francisco. And although they were expensive to run and grueling, they were really valuable too, weren't they?

Linda Jackson: It was an incredible experience for an artist to sing roles. Because the other thing is, what we did at TOT, more so than the other two companies was, people really were rotating out. You were singing a main role one night, but the next night you'd be chorus. We traveled in one bus - orchestra, singers, everything. And when Jane incorporated TOT though, it actually wasn't losing money. It was still expensive, but we were sort of breaking even and making a little bit of a profit, which was very different than with National Company. I went out first with National Company as a stage manager, and then I went back out again later, a couple years later, as the company manager under Sherwin (Goldman) and Paul (Kellogg), when they were there. That company actually started to be turning a little bit of a profit too. And in both cases, ultimately what happened (was that) the main companies decided to reabsorb the touring companies back in, and ultimately that's what ended all of those companies. It was just too much for them to bear. National Company never was a separate organization, but TOT had its board of directors and its own fundraising staff and everything. So we were actually doing pretty well on our own.

Marc A. Scorca: And bringing live opera to communities that would never otherwise have it.

Linda Jackson: But I mean, think about all other companies around nationally, the regional companies anyway, so many of them started because of the mentor. So a lot of those little towns sort of blossom into these companies.

Marc A. Scorca: Yeah, so true. And people have also spoken to me about touring with Boris Goldovsky. That there is this history of touring as a way that you really develop your performance chops, just pacing yourself night after night, learning a role.

Linda Jackson: Learning how to go on. I remember we did a production of Fledermaus, and at TOT, in the off season, we had a small ensemble of five singers that did student performances. Then they eventually went out on tour with us, and at one point, one of the sopranos... I had three Adeles on that tour, and two of them were sick, and the third one was getting sick. And I was like, running out, and one decided to go on. She said, "It's okay, I can get through it, but you know what, when we get to the third act, I may have to cut the aria in the last act". And I said, "Well, you can cut the 'Audition' aria too if you want". She said, "No, no, no. I've been singing that at school rooms every day for nine o'clock in the morning. I can sing that in my sleep, but I'm not sure I can get through the third act". 'Cause she wasn't feeling well. But that's the kind of stuff that they learned. It's like, get up and do it, and unfortunately you're lucky if you get four performances of a show when you go someplace.

Marc A. Scorca: You and I had lunch the other day, and we were talking about how much you like tech week. And tech weeks are notorious at opera companies for the long hours, the intensity of being in the theater for too short a period of time, getting everything ready to go, getting the orchestra in. And you said you love tech week, and actually you were talking about the possibility of just sitting in on tech rehearsals at another company for the fun of it. What about tech week has so captured you over the years?

Linda Jackson: Well, the first night on stage is great. It's like everything comes together and you've been sitting in a room, you've been working on tape, you've got the scenery in front of you, you're figuring out what's gonna work and what's not gonna work based on, "Oh wait, that wall really is there, and it's wider than I think", or whatever. So that part's exciting. And everybody's excited about being on stage, because suddenly it's real. You're not in rehearsal anymore. You get to work out all the problems. You also get to watch how people work. Like, in some ways, I find it better. It's a way to watch how directors work, particularly. Like for years when I was interested in wanting to hire somebody to direct something, and I would go to Virginia, but I would always go for rehearsals and not for performances. And Peter Mark finally asked the staff, "Why doesn't Linda ever come to performances?" And I said, "Because in a performance, I don't get to see how the director works. I get to see a finished product. If I wanna see how a director works, I wanna sit in the house and see how they're dealing with things. Because that's the stuff you're gonna have to deal with when you actually hire somebody". But I also just like...it somehow just comes together, and it's just more exciting because you don't get it all at once. It's not like you go from the rehearsal room and you've got a full stage full of scenery and costumes and everything. You layer it in. Some things work, some things don't work. You change a costume, it doesn't look right. So it's a lot. It's a lot of energy.

Marc A. Scorca: When I first knew you professionally, it was when you were at Chautauqua.

Linda Jackson: Okay.

Marc A. Scorca: And I hear you talking about the Houston Opera Studio; of course, working with younger artists on Texas Opera Theater. Chautauqua - just a great program for young and rising artists. So did you feel a real affinity for nurturing the rising artists?

Linda Jackson: Yeah. I originally went with Cynthia Auerbach, okay? So originally I was Cynthia's stage manager, and then her production manager. And then the Institution said "Cynthia, you're wasting a lot of money. We want some (overview)". So I became the managing director to manage the business while she was directing. And when we inherited Chautauqua, there was an apprentice program. We initiated a studio, the second level program, the Studio Artists. And both of those programs grew into more than just performing mainstage comprimario roles. We did concerts, but we also ran a cabaret series, and the Studio Artists did their own sort of level of programs. So it was always about young artists. And after Cynthia died, and I was offered the company, my music director, Gary Magby and I, we spent a lot of time talking about what we were doing. And ultimately, we both agreed that Chautauqua, the program was about the young artists completely. We selected the repertoire based on young singers. I hired directors that I knew were going to be good teachers for the singers. I mean, every decision we made in the years that I was there was all about what was gonna be to the vantage of the young artists. And, I was telling you other day, one of the things that I totally miss now is young artist auditions. I love young artist auditions. Watching from year to year...auditioning...watching how singers have grown during the year, working with their voice teachers and things like that. When Peter Russell was running Wolf Trap and I was at Chautauqua, at the end of the audition period, he and I would have these phone conversations about, "Oh, did you hear so and so? They sound better this year. They're changing their voices. I like the way they're rep...". But we all knew all these young singers because we were watching them grow and nurture through all of that period. All of my summer jobs from when I started working at camp through working with Robert Wilson, had been about working with young people in some facet. That's what I like.

Marc A. Scorca: And, there you were being asked to lead the company at Chautauqua. Were there surprises that you just didn't expect being head of company? What were they?

Linda Jackson: Oh, yeah. Not realizing how much you had to worry about spending money.

Marc A. Scorca: Or not spending money...

Linda Jackson: We had a very tiny budget. My budget was artist fees to paperclips. That part was incredible. Dealing with all the different personalities, managing the company itself, dealing within the Chautauqua Institution, which was a whole other layer of complications to deal with. Having a very engaged Opera Guild who were very supportive, but were also very there, and they had to be managed as well. So it was just suddenly dealing with lots and lots of people and being the person in charge, that was like having to sort of deal with all of these decisions. And it was different. But having been a stage manager prepared me for a lot of that. When you stage manage, you're dealing with everybody. I mean, if I have a choice between hiring anybody anymore, I'll hire anybody with a stage management background anytime.

Marc A. Scorca: And it's also the case that production people manage the biggest slice of the budget of the company. So not only do stage managers, production managers have to deal with all kinds of personalities and pressure, but they also deal with the biggest part of the expense, so I think it does prepare them to be company leaders.

Linda Jackson: Honest to God, you truly do learn how to keep things going. Something goes wrong on stage - it's usually up to the stage manager to keep it going. So the stage manager has to come out and say "Something stuck. We're gonna have it fixed..." You learn about constantly communicating so that people know what's going on, keeping people calm backstage, all of that stuff. And it serves you later on, when you're having to deal with it.

Marc A. Scorca: You're right. I hadn't thought about that. If something goes wrong backstage, you don't say, "Stop, wait a second". You just fix it on the fly and you keep on going. You mentioned Cynthia Auerbach, and I just wanted to pause for a second, because certainly she was one of the early pioneers, in terms of being a woman stage director, working at New York City Opera, Chautauqua. What was Cynthia like?

Linda Jackson: Well, first of all, Cynthia had an unbelievably wicked sense of humor. We laughed so much together. Cynthia was very smart. Unfortunately, she died because she had lung cancer. But people remember Cynthia. I remember her with the cigarette in rehearsals. So no matter where you go, there was Cynthia smoking cigarettes. She was a workaholic. She worked nonstop. She was constantly multitasking, writing notes. I've been going through old papers now to sort of weed through files, and I find all these things with Cynthia notes written on the back of them. But she was really fun-loving. She enjoyed playing tricks on people, but she was also extremely compassionate and really took care of people.

Marc A. Scorca: Nice. She was a pioneer, and you were a pioneer. You were the general director of an opera company. You were young; you were a woman, and you're African American, and each one of those can be a barrier to moving forward. And you just took on all three. How hard was it to become a company leader as a first, first arrayer? How hard was it?

Linda Jackson: The truth is, it wasn't. I was hired in Houston as a stage manager. I went to Houston. I'm gonna go back a little bit. I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. And Teaneck was this community - there was actually a book written about Teaneck. It was called Triumph in a White Suburb, and it was about the fact that it was such an integrated community. When I went to school, it was a very integrated time, you know, in the early sixties, seventies. And, in fact, we just had my high school reunion and we were all talking about, and everybody, black, white, we were all together. Everybody did things together. People were interracially dating at that point. And it was sixties, seventies. It was after the war and all the protests, and things are starting to happen. And so, my father was a lawyer. My mother was a teacher. And all of their friends were professionals. And so I just grew up in this environment where everything was mixed. It never occurred to me that there were gonna be barriers. So I got hired in Houston, not a big deal. When I went to Miami, really wasn't a big deal. I just got these jobs because I was offered the jobs. I didn't not get jobs because I was black, or because I was a woman, and actually the reason I ended up deciding to stay working in opera was that the first Butterfly I did, one of them was Daisy Newman, and the second Butterfly I did in Houston was Leona Mitchell as Butterfly. And so I was so in love with this art form that had all of this interracial casting that was based on your vocal abilities. It had nothing to do with who you were, or what you looked like. So I guess I was kind of immune to all of that. And at Chautauqua, I had gone with Cynthia. There wasn't really an issue there. I had been around for seven years with her. And when she passed away, I was already the managing director. She passed away before the season. They just said, "Well, just finish the season out". And then they said, "Well, you did a great job; keep doing it". So it was never an issue. It never sort of came up. And actually, I know in some ways I was sensitive about it, but I never really felt like, "Oh my gosh, I'm not gonna have it, or I'm gonna feel uncomfortable about something like that". Actually, professionally I found that I had more issues being a woman, as I sort of got later in my career than because I was an African American. Dealing with boards where there were just a lot of businessmen who wanted to tell me how to do my job.

Marc A. Scorca: Yeah. They know it all.

Linda Jackson: Yeah. They know it. And, we were talking also about getting older and being able to say things, that at the point when I finally was able to say, "I don't come to your office to tell you how to do your job, so don't come to my office to tell me how to do mine". It took a long time for me to get there, but I got there.

Marc A. Scorca: Welcome, congratulations. Did you feel welcomed around the board table at OPERA America? Because when I first joined Opera America 33 years ago, you were a board member and there you were - young, woman, African American, and were sitting around the table with largely a bunch of older white men, who were not immune to telling you how to live your life. Did you feel welcomed around the table?

Linda Jackson: You know, it's funny, when Martin invited me to be on the board, I was like, "Okay, great".

Marc A. Scorca: Martin Kagan, my predecessor.

Linda Jackson: So, before my very first board meeting...I used to talk to Patrick Smith all the time, because after Patrick put me on the cover of Opera News, we had a relationship. So I called him up and I said, "What do I do? I'm gonna be at this meeting with all of these peers". And he said, "Just sit and listen. You'll figure out". And that was great advice. And I loved listening to everybody. In the early days I was very quiet. What was nice was, at the time, Ardis Krainik was on the board, and I remember her saying to me, "Welcome. It's so great to have another woman on the board". And she was there. Mary Robert was on the board, then Deane Allyn. So there weren't a lot of us there. I guess it was just the four of us. But the other thing about it though, was that on the board at the time were Lotfi Mansouri...So I had stage managed for Lotfi. I had worked for Martin Feinstein. I had worked for David Gockley, so they also knew me, so I sort of had a relationship with them. And you know, we didn't have a lot of heated discussions there. After a couple years though, they were a couple times when you just sort of felt like you wanted to tell people off. But for the most part, everybody was really kind and gracious. And it was good. I learned so much from all those guys.

Marc A. Scorca: And you mentioned some of the women on the board at the time, Mary Robert from Opera Omaha, and Deane Allyn, who was executive director of Sarasota Opera. Ardis, of course, from Lyric Opera of Chicago. And I love hearing people talk about Ardis, who was the board chair when I first took over in 1990. And what a Titanic presence, Titanic generous spirit. Really remarkable woman.

Linda Jackson: No, she was always terrific. I never felt unwelcome or uncomfortable, and like I said, I learned a lot from people and listening to people. But the other thing too, though, because of my production background, even though I was a general director, that was during the period when we were doing the production tech conferences separate from the general conference. So I would go to those conferences too. And so I also knew everybody's staff. So I also knew lots of things about these people that I was gonna sit around a table with, from their staff point of view. So that was kinda fun.

Marc A. Scorca: That was very funny. Role models through your career, Linda?

Linda Jackson: Well, definitely David, definitely Rob Herman, Cynthia, Jane Weaver. Those are really the people, in terms of opera that I learned a lot from. And Ardis too. It was interesting being around her, 'cause when we used to do our auditions in Chicago, they would usually be in rehearsal for something. So I'd end up going over to the theater and talking to her a little bit. And even at conferences being able to talk to her - she's a smart lady. She's a really smart lady.

Marc A. Scorca: You know, I didn't anticipate this, but of course, I want to ask you about working with Robert Wilson for all of these years. And Robert Wilson, just a landmark director, designer, artist in opera. And for many years you've worked with Robert. What have you done with Robert Wilson? What has your work been over the years with Robert Wilson?

Linda Jackson: I originally went to work for Bob...he runs a summer program with artists from around the world. And I originally went to be the program director for that. So it was basically being a camp counselor, at a facility that was under construction at the time. And Bob's philosophy about the center in the summer was, artists create the environment they work with. So every day people had chores, and we all cooked together and they worked in the gardens, and the first few years we were actually building the building, so the contractor would come in the morning and take these crews off, and I'd be sitting in the office and all of a sudden I'd hear this noise and find out that they'd knocked a hole in the wall, where they'd jack hammered the basement to put a bathroom in, or something. So it was kind of interesting. I did this summer with him, and then I was hired to go to Opera Pacific, and I was there for like nine months. And then the exec director at the foundation left, and the board called me and said, "Would you be willing to come back and work here, because Bob likes you and Bob doesn't like a lot of people". So I went back and at that point I was running this foundation. And that's basically what I did. The foundation supports this art center in The Hamptons. I wasn't working with Bob on his work, but I worked with Bob in terms of the foundation. So I did that for a few years and then left, and then after I left Glimmerglass, moved back to New York to deal with family issues, I ended up going back. They needed somebody to come in and be an interim for three months, and again, suddenly four years later down the road, I was still there. I was dealing with a lot of young artists and watching their work and the art center during the off-season is an artist residency program. So with our artists there all the time, working on projects, which range from writers to dance companies to...unbelievable. I've seen some amazing sort of theater pieces. One of the best things I saw was a theater piece from this group from Chile that it was like amazing. And it was very different because it wasn't straight theater and it wasn't opera, it was visual arts and areas that I didn't really know a whole lot about.

Marc A. Scorca: It always surprises me when I hear you refer to Robert Wilson as Bob, because there is something so formal and austere about his art and about his productions. I don't think of the creator of those as Bob, rather than Mr. Wilson. So clearly someone you enjoyed working with, and who had an informal side.

Linda Jackson: Oh yeah. The two things I did learn from working with Bob: one was that I have a much greater visual sense that I wasn't aware of. I knew that and I also discovered my inner OCD working with Bob. I mean, Bob takes OCD to a whole new level, but working with him, I discovered mine. But again, Bob and I laugh together. People don't understand this. Bob and I have had giggle fits. Because you're right, people have this very formal impression of him, and it always takes people aback, especially when the two of us are together that we laugh about stuff, or we have jokes. Bob is probably one of the best storytellers that I've ever worked with. And you see his work and until you work with him, you don't really even understand how well he's telling the story. And he loves to tell story, but he also loves to gossip. That's the other thing, he loves to gossip about people. He's very human and like, you said you don't expect that.

Marc A. Scorca: Right, exactly.

Linda Jackson: Very personable, very human.

Marc A. Scorca: That's wonderful. Linda, advice when young artists or rising administrators ask you for advice, what's at the center of Linda Jackson's advice?

Linda Jackson: I think I tell people that they really need to be sure that they love what they're doing; that they enjoy what they're doing; they feel comfortable with what they're doing. People will say, "Don't leave a job unless you have a job", which I think is ridiculous. I mean, I've left jobs where I've gotten to the point where I knew I was uncomfortable, and it wasn't right, and it was time to go. I think it's really important that when you take a job, that you find out the things that you enjoy about dealing with it. If there are things you don't like doing, you need to sort out what you don't like doing about them, and to figure out if it's you or if it's really the job. I think people need to understand that they have to find a way to make time for themselves. A lot of people don't know how to do that, but I've never thought of the places where I've worked as work. I've always thought of them as, I don't know, my life, my energy.

And when I see a lot of online things going on about people feeling that they're working too hard, or they're working too many hours, and just recently and talking to a couple of other older production-type colleagues, and we were talking about the fact that we'd be at rehearsal...in the theater all day. We never thought about it. It was work, but it was fun. We were having a good time. We enjoyed what we were doing. I don't know that people always know how to enjoy what they're doing, and I think that's the most important thing in any job you take. If you're not gonna enjoy it, you shouldn't be doing it. I mean, you just shouldn't be doing it, so you have to learn how to enjoy. You have to learn how to find time for yourself. It's very important, very important. Cynthia taught me this. You have to find somebody to talk to, especially as you move up the ladder in terms of management. You have to have - what do they call it? - a priest or something, somebody that you can talk to, whether it's a good friend, or maybe it's a therapist, and not even necessarily to talk through personal things, but just somebody that you can pick up the phone and just kinda go "Ughh", and someone who's not gonna give you advice. You need somebody who's not gonna offer advice. You want somebody who's just gonna listen to you and say, "Okay, fine". They might say a couple things, but we just need to be able to do that. You also have to learn how to learn from your failures. You have to learn how to not let it completely demolish you, or whatever.

And that's one of those things: not everything that you produce is gonna be great. In fact, the odds are against you. And you just have to learn how to keep going on. You have to look at some of these productions and you go, "Ugh, that could have been better". I did a show once where I was convinced...I hated intermission, 'cause I was afraid the audience was gonna come after me. So, that's what I would say. Like I said, you gotta have a good time. I don't think people know how to have a good time at work anymore. It concerns me, especially with younger people. I just feel that people feel that it's so intense. No, you have a good time. You've gotta learn how to laugh.

Marc A. Scorca: Linda, just great advice. I just wanted to let you keep talking, because it was such wisdom and I'm so glad we're recording it. I wanna say thank you for spending this time with me.