The asset and liability of doing theater.

What I love about theater is that it is always evolving.  You create this work of art, and then it changes and changes . . . through rehearsals, through previews . . . and even years after opening.  Because it happens live, you can tinker and twist to change with the times (and as your actors will allow).

That makes theater one of the most unique art forms on the planet.

You paint a picture, and hang it in a museum and it’s done.

You write a book, publish it, and that’s it.

And film?  Once that sucker is cut and gets to the opening weekend, might as well move on to the next.

The constantly morphing aspect of what we all do is one of the reasons I love the theater.

And it’s also why I hate it.

Because for obsessive compulsive, perfectionist, Type A personalities, like so many of us, we can tinker forever . . . before a show opens . . . and after a show opens as well.

I recently spoke to a playwright who had been working on a show for almost ten years that hadn’t had a production yet . . . not a showcase, not even a reading, nothing!  Why?  It wasn’t ready yet.

And I talked to another very talented producer of a hit show that has been running for a little while now . . . and I asked him what he was doing next . . . “Next???  I’ve got my hands full just making sure everything is perfect on this one!”

And then there were the writers who have had three small productions of a musical that has never broken through, never gotten great reviews, never even had great audience response . . . but they were still desperate to see it on a bigger stage.  (They were like a couple in a bad relationship – refusing to look at the signs.)

There comes a point with all projects when you have to move on.  Otherwise, you’ll be a one-hit-wonder, or worse, a one never-even-get-in-front-of-an-audience wonder, always wondering what could have been if you had gone on to something else.

While searching for perfection is good, our artistic and producing lives are shorter than we think, so sometimes it’s important to think like film producers.  Make it, open it, and move on . . . especially if it’s your first project.

Because if you look at the careers of successful writers, producers, artists . . . it’s rarely the first show that they are remembered for.  It’s usually their second, third or fourth.

What number are you on?


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You can try too hard.

In case you haven’t heard, about two years ago I turned into one of those annoying golfers. You know the ones . . . they watch it on TV, they read golf magazines, and they wear golf attire even when they’re not golfing, etc. And sometimes they even work golf metaphors into their blogs about producing theater!

Like anything I do, when I pick something up, I pick it up . . . big time. See golf is a tricky, difficult sport, and the Type A, OCD, Virgo in me just can’t suck at anything. (And I’ve got a feeling a lot of you have this perfectionist nature too, don’t you?) So when I started with the sport, I took lessons once a week, played twice a week, and practiced every single day.

Yep, that was me this past winter, at the driving range at Chelsea Piers, at 7 AM, watching the condensation on my club turn to ice in front of my eyes in the 7 degree weather.

I was desperate to try and get better at this game, so I could catch up (ok, I’ll admit . . . outpace) some of my peers who also played.

So for months on end, I banged away at ball after ball. At least 100 a day. And on weekends, more.

And one day, I felt a little twinge in my elbow.

“It’s nothing,” I said, “I must get better,” so I banged away more balls, took two lessons a week, and bought every training device known to man.

And the twinge got worse.

A quick check of the WebMD alerted me to a common syndrome called, appropriately, “Golfer’s Elbow,” (which is identical to Tennis Elbow) which is caused by . . . ahem . . . excessive use. And, come to find out, is even more common with idiot guys like me who hit off of “mats” instead of natural grass because of the concrete below. It’s one thing to hit a few hundred balls a week, but a thousand?

“A stupid elbow won’t stop my progress,” I screamed. “I will try harder.” I convinced my orthopedist to give me a shot of the ol’ cortisone miracle cure and I went back at it, grinding away, desperate to succeed.

I was without pain for a couple of months, actually, thanks to the steroid. And then the pain came charging back . . . because I had kept playing and playing while the steroid just masked the injury.

“Fix me, Doc!”

“Ken,” he said. “You can and you will heal from this injury.”

“Awesome! Fix me.”

“I will. But you have to stop playing for at least 4-6 weeks.”

And just like that . . . not only was this great stress relieving and relationship building hobby taken away from me during the height of the summer season, but how could I improve if I couldn’t swing a club???

I had no one to blame but myself. I tired too hard. I was so hungry to beat the system and accomplish my goal that I had knocked myself out of the game entirely. I set myself back! And most importantly, it wasn’t fun anymore.

As you develop your shows, be careful about trying too hard.

Being driven is important. Being ambitious is essential. But being a crazed, obsessive lunatic like I was can actually do more damage than good.


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Someone got mad at me today.

Like really mad.  I wasn’t mean to them or anything.  I didn’t insult them or even punch them in the face.  They just didn’t like the way I did something, that actually had nothing to do with them, ironically.  But they didn’t like it anyway.  Their style and my style were just downright different.

And to be honest with you, over the course of my career, they haven’t been the only one.

Other producers have been mad at me.  Agents have been mad at me.  And hey, based on a few comments I’ve read, some of you have even been mad at me!

It happens.  All the time.

But I’ve got news for you.  If you’re a producer, a playwright, a politician, or just a, well, person, it’ll happen to you too.  (Even JFK, Gandhi, and Bert & Ernie had people mad at them.)

Because not everyone goes about things the same way.  People have different styles, different motives, and different objectives.

So along your producing path, you’re probably going to piss some people off too.  But here’s what someone told me once . . .

The key to a successful career is . . . try to make more people happy than you make mad, and you’ll be more than fine.


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Why running out of salt can teach you about budgeting.

I’m a salt-a-holic.

I’m not as bad as my little bro, who salts his bacon hamburgers, but I’m still pretty bad.  I’ll add extra salt to things like, oh McDonald’s fries (which come pretty doused as is), pizza crust, and if you find yourself between me and a bag of those salted-in-the-shell peanuts, well look out.  I’ll not only eat the peanuts and the salty shell, I’ll take down the bag with me too.

So imagine the horror I experienced at about 12:30 AM last week when I got home after a long day, sat down for a little fast food, and found out I was out of salt.

There haven’t been expletives invented to express what I was feeling.

I needed that farkultic salt!  (Farkultic is a new expletive I just invented to describe such a saltless situation as this, by the way.)

But son-of-a-salt-shaker, there was none.

What was worse was that I remembered how just a few days before I had partaken of a local fast food restaurant and grabbed a whole ton of those little paper salt packets (McDonald’s has the best).  And at the end of the meal, there were shockingly a few paper packets left, still filled to the brim with their sodium chloride goodness.  “There are a lot more where those came from,” I thought.  “I’ll be fine without ’em.”  And I swept ’em up, and tossed them away.

Three days later, and I was saltless.

If only I hadn’t wasted those little packets away.  What was seemingly meaningless at the time, now, in my hour of need, when I was desperate, seemed like the holy grail of NaCl.  But it was too late.

What I should have done is apply the same strategy that I do when producing shows, and I would have been fine.

During the early stages of a show, from pre-production up until the last few weeks of tech, I can be pretty thrifty.  Some might call it cheap.  But those folks would be failing to look at the big picture (and we all know it’s a Producer’s job to look at the big picture).  Why am I mindful of trying to save every dollar on the journey towards opening night?  Because I want to make sure I have enough salt left when we really need it.

You see, during those last few weeks of rehearsal, or those final few days of tech, that’s when things happen fast and furious on a show, and that’s where massive amounts of money can be spent.  And that’s when massive amounts of money sometimes need to be spent.  You may need an extra set piece.  You may need more orchestra rehearsal.  You may need a new lead actor.  All of these things may be essential to your show’s success.  Is that when you want to be out of money?

No, which is why you need to mind every dollar before you get there so when your team asks you for something, you can say, “Absolutely, because we’ve saved enough along the way, that I can give you what you need without the show going over budget.”

I’ll even let creatives and staffers know of my strategy early on in the process when I get a request that may seem a little luxurious.  “I’m saying no to this now.  Because I don’t want to have to say no to you later, when you really need it.”

Try it.  I find that it works . . . because it makes sense and saves cents for a saltless day.

Because you never know when it’s going to be 12:30 at night, and you’ve got a plate of bland french fries in front of you.


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My two least favorite words in the English language.

Did you guess ’em?

I’ll give you a hint.  My two least favorite words are not, “Didn’t Recoup.” (Which is technically three words anyway.)

And surprisingly, they are not Jeremy Piven. (Still bitter and proud of it, after all these years.)

My two least favorite words in the English language are . . . Unrealized Potential.

What is Unrealized Potential?  Oh, it’s a lot of things.

It’s the stack of already-paid-for flyers for a show that are sitting on a shelf because nobody has handed them out yet.  It’s a script sitting on a writer’s shelf fending off dust mites, instead of getting produced, somewhere, anywhere.  It’s an empty theater that could be filled with a show if a landlord would just bend the rent a bit.  It’s the actor who blew off the audition because it was easier (and less risky) to sleep late or go to the park.

It’s all over the place.  And it’s super sad.  Because with just a spark, that Unrealized Potential could ignite into something spectacular.

Great Producers, Artists and Entrepreneurs have fantastic UP radar.  They recognize it in their own work, or in other people’s, and then strike a match, and light the fuse.

That’s your job.  To find Unrealized Potential in other people or in yourself, and slap the “un” right out of it and turn it into Realized Potential.

Have I told you what my two favorite words are in the English language?


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