Karen Freidus had three passions during her time at Rutgers: journalism, math, and theatre. In 2004, she graduated with a combined degree in all of them to land her current dream job at one of the largest theatre companies in the world. Freidus has been the Director of Sales for Jujamcyn Theatres for almost six years and she couldn’t be happier with her current career, though her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
“I’d worked on Broadway for about eight years and was ready for a new challenge and my boss at that time wasn’t interested in helping me grow or have more opportunity,” said Freidus. “This role opened up and was just exactly the challenge I needed. I have just about complete freedom to run my division how I see fit, I am truly trusted which is so important to me. I also have an amazing team who works so hard and cares so much about what they do. It’s just a great place to come to work.”
Although Freidus graduated with a journalism degree, she never worked as a journalist. After her time at Rutgers, she realized that her passion was in theatre. However, she did gain a lot of valuable skills from that major that she’s been applying in her career ever since. She says that majoring in journalism made her a better writer and speaker, but the most valuable skill she learned in her journalism courses was how to be a better listener.
Another aspect she valued about being a journalism major was being taught by memorable professors. Freidus especially treasures her experiences with long-time Journalism and Media Studies professor Steven Miller as she was both a student and a teaching assistant in his classes.
“Steve was super knowledgeable and made everything so much fun. And he truly cared about all the students and fostered an amazing community,” Freidus said “It was always lively and informative and we were always laughing.”
Miller remembers Freidus well and they would often chat in his office between classes.
“She was a great student. More importantly, she was, and still is, wonderful to talk to. Some of my fondest memories of her are of when we just sat in my office, BS-ing,” said Miller. “We just talked about life and how she approached things and what she wanted to do in her future. Karen always had that special something and I’m not at all surprised by her success at Jujamcyn. She’s friendly, kind-hearted, talented, the whole package.”
She continues to have fun and lively experiences working at Jujamcyn as their office is located in one of their historic theatres, the St. James. She recalls one such experience that happened a couple of years ago.
“When ‘Something Rotten’ was playing there, Givenik was in a different office on the floor and on Wednesday matinees, a few of the actors would have to walk through the hallway of the office to get to their next cue. They’d walk through the halls at around 3:15 p.m. every Wednesday in full Shakespearean garb and chat with all of us without an accent. It was such a fun thing to look forward to and always reminded us about the shows and not to work in a vacuum.”
Givenik is Freidus’s primary responsibility at the company. It is the group sales department of Jujamcyn Theatres. They sell discount group tickets to all shows on Broadway (not just the ones playing in Jujamcyn’s six theatres) and give five percent of those sales to a participating charity of the customer’s choice.
Friedus also used her love of theatre to open a side business with her husband. Together they run Center Stage Optique, a Broadway-themed eyeglass boutique. She shared how they got the idea.
“My hubby is an optician and wanted to open his own business,” said Freidus. “I knew it had to stand out so we decided to make it a Broadway-themed store and offer great package pricing to make it a real neighborhood store. He’s worked in the industry a long time and was ready to be his own boss.”
Even with her busy schedule, Freidus still makes time to watch the Broadway shows that she helps market. Her favorites include Arther Miller’s classic “The Crucible,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” and recent blockbuster and multi-Tony winner “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Even though she found her calling outside of journalism, Freidus had a word of advice for current and future JMS majors.
“Be a good listener, take an acting class and be nice to everyone, you never know who anyone is or who they know.”
Much better than Aaron Burr’s “talk less, smile more” advice to Alexander Hamilton.