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No Business Like Show Business for Lorton Dinner Theater Manager

From greeting patrons to set design to mending costumes, Karol Fritzinger Kaldenbach does it all

Ever wonder who has the most interesting jobs in the area? Starting today, Lorton Patch will bring readers a peek into the lives of Lorton residents whose jobs aren't exactly run-of-the-mill. This week’s Q&A profiles Karol Fritzinger Kaldenbach, manager of the .

It was 1980, and as the mother of a 2-year-old, Kaldenbach was tired of commuting from Prince William County to her job as business office manager at the Washington School for Secretaries in D.C.  So she took a part-time waitressing job close to home, at the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre in Lorton. A few months later, she answered the phone at work one day and impressed her boss with her business skills. She then started picking up office hours and in 1982, she became theater manager, a job she has held ever since. 

Kaldenbach’s ties to the Lorton area date to her and her twin brother’s baptism in 1953 at historic in Lorton. A graduate of and the Washington School for Secretaries, Kaldenbach and her husband of 38 years, who is retired, live in Woodbridge. Her daughter, now grown and married, also lives in Northern Virginia.  

Kaldenbach already had solid business skills and learned the theater business from the Lazy Susan’s owners. Over the years, she has learned what makes customers happy and what makes a show a good choice for the Lazy Susan, which prides itself on being a family-friendly venue.

Kaldenbach is a certified tour professional and does volunteer work promoting tourism in Fairfax and Prince William counties. Many school groups from across the country take in a show at the Lazy Susan thanks to Kaldenbach’s extensive national connections.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: "I love dealing with the public and I work for a wonderful family. In a small business, everyone is needed and I count. Every day is different; no day is the same. Some of my customers have been coming here since they were children. We have helped create memories that last a lifetime." (Kaldenbach said she also liked the flexibility of her schedule when her daughter was growing up. She worked while her daughter was at school, then came home for a few hours, returning to the theater when her husband got home from his job in D.C.)

Q: What’s so interesting about your job?

A: "The diversity. One minute, you’re worried about the chicken on the buffet and the next, you’re fixing the zipper on a costume that opens the show. In the center drawer of my desk, I have a bread knife on the right side, along with pins, a needle and thread and a hot glue gun."

Q: How do you keep it fresh?

A: "It’s not scripted. When the students come in, I greet them, tell them about the buffet, describe the show, discuss behavior. I tell them that they should remain seated and no talking. You find ways to connect. If a group is from Texas, I tell them my brother lives in Texas, for example. I tell a group from North Carolina that we own land there. I also have a Guernsey cow named after me. Karol lives in Ohio. So I tell them to buy Land O’Lakes because that’s where the milk goes."

Q: What’s your favorite place to go in the Lorton area (other than the theater)?

A: "Brunch at , then a round of golf at , followed by dinner at ."

Q: Do you have time for any hobbies?

A: "Golf. And I did take tap dancing lessons for 10 years, in my 30s. I have no drive to be a performer on stage, but it was the one thing at the theater I wanted to do instead of just enjoy." (You can also see some of Kaldenbach’s talents on the set. The daughter of an upholsterer and a seamstress, she said she comes by arts and crafts naturally).

Q: Do you have a favorite play?

A: "That is a complicated question. There is such a difference between small musicals, large musicals, musical comedies, comedies, dramatic plays and mysteries that it is very difficult to choose just one. I really enjoy 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and 'Steel Magnolias.'" 

Q: What’s playing on your iPod?

A: "I don’t own an iPod. I want to talk to people. But Celine Dion is in my CD player."

Q: What would surprise people about you?

A: I am an honorary mountaineer brigadier in the West Virginia National Guard. I am most proud of my work with at-risk kids through the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.

Q: If you weren’t in this business what would you be doing?

A: "Nothing. It’s not a job, it’s part of me."

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