What does a Broadway Producer do? Over 100 Producers respond.

I got an email a few weeks ago from a high school student with the simplest question ever.

“Ken,” she typed, “Can you tell me . . . what does a Broadway Producer do?”

I try to answer all of my reader’s questions, but I have to say, I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of trying to answer this one.  First I thought about directing her to my Producer Mission Statement.  Then I thought about trying to come up with a list of my day-to-day duties on a show.

But then I remembered how different every single Broadway Producer I know is . . . and how each one of them focuses on different areas of the biz, depending on what they know, what they love, and what they do best.

So, rather than come up with a long-winded answer of my own, I decided to come up with a Wiki answer to my reader’s question.  I went to my Broadway League brothers and sisters and asked all the Broadway Producers I know to answer my reader’s question in one, short sentence.

And now, right here, I’m going to list all of them.  Put them all together, and that’s what we do!

I promised all the Producers on this list to keep it anonymous, but I will say this . . . there are some heavy hitter answers below.  There are more Tonys on this list than at a West Side Story reunion.

Enjoy the answers!

– – – –

Question:  What does a Producer do?

– Have fun while keeping all the balls in the air until we open.

– Producers do everything!  We are the bank, the therapist, the negotiator, the scapegoat, the creative, and we rarely get credit! I should add its awesome. Because I think it is.

– Getting everyone to do what I want done while making them all think it was their idea.

– We manage the business behind the show.

– Create solutions.

– Producing is the art of saying yes judiciously and no politely.

– Look at a blank slate each morning and figure out – “what has to happen next” – and then make it happen.

– What do I do?  Emails… decision maker and cheerleader.  (mostly emails)

– Producers inspire others to be as passionate about the project as they are.

– Encourage and foster excellence for the purpose of optimizing profit and art.

– We raise money for projects we have faith in and then try our hardest to repay all of those wonderful investors who have had faith in us (hopefully with a profit).

– Make ideas real.

– Create/ facilitate product, then get butts in seats.

– Find the right project.  Raise money.  Hire the creative team.  Raise money.

– It’s a lot of blocking and tackling, with the occasional touch down.

– Partner with the best creative team and let them work their magic!

– Pray.

– Create a safe space for new art to be born.

– Everything but act, write, direct or design . . . In other words, everything you wouldn’t hire someone else to do.

– Deliver an engaging production that appeals to the widest possible demographic.

– Encourage, empower and embrace.

– Create a collaborative, focused, dynamic and exciting team-working environment where everyone shares a common vision for the material.

– How about “everything.”

– I don’t UNDER spend or OVER spend, but WISELY spend every dollar avail on creative advertising and marketing.

– No matter how difficult the biz may be, I always remember the passion which enticed me to be a Producer in the first place.

– I try each day to prove I am the natural heir of Max Bialystock (to collect the royalties he amassed).

– I would say my greatest challenge as a producer is putting together the right team (director, choreographer, music, lyricist, etc).

– Create a safe and supportive environment for artists to make magic.

– A Producer is a midwife for writer(s) and the creative team. .

– To make the impossible possible.

– Assess, finance, assess, stay out of the way.

– Make the best art possible with the available financial resources.

– Find works and artists you feel passionate about and to put them on the stage.

– Realize the world of the play.

– Passionately advocate for the creator’s vision of the play and the investors’ right to recoup their investment.

– A Producer does whatever needs to be done, from A ( finding the property ) to Z (making sure the johns have enough toilet paper).

– Producing is the art of making the deal.

– A theatre Producer manages the collaborators of the most collaborative art form that exists.

– The three F’s:  FIND IT (the show), FUND IT, FILL THE SEATS (preferably with paying customers)

– Create an experience for an audience they never knew they needed.

– Guidance Counselor

– Visionary.

– Advocate/ambassador, sounding board.

– A producer coordinates all aspects of the project and hopes the people he or she picks does the best job possible creating his vision while at the same time getting the most bang for his buck.

– Deal with the people who invest that think they know more than we do re: advertising and everything else.

– Maintains the connection between “show” and “business.”

– Raise money.

– I hold a lot of hands and smile & agree with everyone.

– The Producer is the mother that nurtures the baby until it grows up!

– A benevolent (collaborative) Dictator.

– Make their dreams come true.

– I don’t believe that any writer, actor or director has ever made a live stage event happen.  Without demeaning the incredible talent that the team brings to the table, without a Producer wanting to see the product, nothing would ever get on stage.

– In my view, the Producer is the project manager of the show, who also acts as the CEO/entrepreneur.

– This is a big topic and not one I am comfortable addressing with a sound bite.

– Identify the project, the creative team, and get out of the way.

– I bring together all the resources necessary to transform an intangible idea into reality.

– Support the general partners.

– I often say the Producer is “The glue that holds it all together.”

– A producer ensures that: the show is good, sells well, and runs smoothly and…remains calm.

– Have a vision and find the right team to execute it.

– “Put it all together.” (to borrow, if I may, from Sondheim)

– Producing is keeping the ball moving down the field until hopefully, you help to allow the entire team to score a winning goal.

– Discover & nurture new works, try and keep everyone happy, create a “family”

– Keep myself constantly inspired by reading everything I can get my hands on.

– Make shows happen

– A producer produces.

– Get the show on.

– Choosing what to produce is the most important decision a producer makes.

– To present a writer who is able to spark the thoughts or feelings of an audience in a fresh and unprecedented way.

– If a show is the equivalent of a small company, the producer is its CEO.

– A producer is like the CEO of a company: hires and fires everyone and most importantly, makes sure everyone’s paycheck clears at the end of the week.

– Develop great work and persuade audiences to buy tickets to it.

– Keep the herd moving forward

– To me, producing is development and marketing.

– My response to this often-asked question is that producing each new show is like starting a business – you have to raise the money, hire a business manager (GM), raise money, hire an attorney, raise money, hire a marketing/advertising/promotions team, raise money, hire a director, raise money, select and hire a design team, raise money, deal with the unions and raise money, etc.

– Oversee the financing, marketing and creative process to deliver a show that connects with audiences.

– My first reaction to your question is one word: “nurture.”  Actually, it’s just like mothering.

– Identify the kernel of greatness and execute a vision for making it so

– A producer is (among so many things), both . . . the owner of the sheep, and their border collie.

– Oversee every element both creative and financial

– A Producer is ultimately responsible for everything, but actually does nothing.

– A Producer always keeps the lines of communication open so that artists, management and money are unified around the same vision.

– Strike a balance between artistic vitality and commercial appeal.

– All encompassing; responsible for every detail

– Maintain an environment where your creative team can do the best work they are capable of…

– Focus on the product, not the money. If the product is really good, the money will find you.

– Happily enabling artists to execute their visions.

And lastly, I’ll include one longer answer on this subject because this guy agreed to go on the record with his answer, and because, well, this guy just has a certain way with words.

A producer is a rare, paradoxical genius: hard-headed, soft-hearted, cautious, reckless, a hopeful innocent in fair weather, a stern pilot in stormy weather, a mathematician who prefers to ignore the laws of mathematics and trust intuition, an idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer, a sophisticated gambler, a stage-struck child.  That’s a producer.

– Oscar Hammerstein II
Thanks to all the Producers that participated!

– – – – –

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Comments
  • AVB says:

    This response might be my favorite, because it’s so true:
    “Getting everyone to do what I want done while making them all think it was their idea”

  • Uke Jackson says:

    Great stuff! I posted a link to this on my Face Book page, along with a noodge that any of my friends who are thinking about producing consider one of my shows first.

  • kelley says:

    Thank you sooo much! I’m the high school student who asked you that, and this is just one of the greatest things ever! I printed this out immediately and framed it
    Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Ann Sachs says:

    GREAT post. Go to the source. Love that the student who asked the question was the 1st to respond.

  • Tom Atkins says:

    Great post! Always fascinating how many different interpretations of the role of the ‘producer’ that exists.

  • Ed from Connecticut says:

    Great post, Ken! Thanks!
    It was inspiring as well as entertaining.

  • Malini says:

    Ken,
    Thank you for this post. I was never able to really answer this question for myself. This is the one that best sums up what I do:
    “- A Producer does whatever needs to be done, from A ( finding the property ) to Z (making sure the johns have enough toilet paper).”
    Because I have had to run to the dollar store to make sure we had rolls of toilet paper,paper towels and soap in the johns!

  • Jeff Marx says:

    Ken – you are awesome!

  • Charlotte St. Martin says:

    Nothing happens til a producers produces something. Charlotte

  • Ren Lexander says:

    This is a really great post and probably most producers would agree with ALL comments. Indeed, they are generally great comments on visionary leadership. I’m keeping a copy on file.

  • denisetreadwell@aol.com says:

    I write and produce stage plays (community theater) and it was cool to learn what the ‘big guys’ really do. Thanks for the amazing insight! See you on Broadway!!!
    Denise Treadwell

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    “- This is a big topic and not one I am comfortable addressing with a sound bite.” … quoted from a precious nitwit! At least the quote didn’t go like this; “- This is a big topic that’s not APPROPRIATE to address with a sound bite.”

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