A Tony Award-Winning Producer’s
Perspective on Broadway
And How You Can Get There Too

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Latest from the Blog

When schools reopen, how will school theater programs reopen? Recommendations here.

You’ve probably heard of the International Thespian Association. After all, 2.4 million high school kids have been inducted into the program since 1929 (and I know several of you out there right now are saying, “I was a Thespian!”).

The core activity of the Association is performance festivals around the country, which if you haven’t attended, you should find your way into one. I went to my first last year to see this show performed by high school students, and I was just blown away by the talent, the energy, and the excitement about the theater. It made me realize how bright our art form’s future is.

While you may have heard of the Thespians, you may NOT have heard of its parent org, The Educational Theater Association, which provides educational opportunities for teachers, scholarships for students, and so much more. I had the pleasure of keynoting a conference for them years before and I remember thinking, “I can’t tell who is more excited about the theater . . . the students at their festivals, or these unbelievable educators.”

Thankfully, the EdTA is leading the charge on what happens with school theater programs as schools get back to their business in the fall (fingers crossed) while the world continues to battle COVID-19.

And being the leaders they are, they put together an extensive guide and handbook called, “Recommendations for Reopening School Theater Programs” . . . and they’ve generously allowed me to share it here . . . for free . . . whether you’re a member of the EdTA or not. Because they believe that anything they can do to help encourage more (and safe!) theater just helps make the world a better place.

Whether you’re in theater ed or not, you should read it. It’s one of the most comprehensive guidebooks I’ve seen about theater in a COVID-19 world . . . and we can all learn from it. I know I did. (Oh, and you can bet I’m working on getting them to speak about this at my conference this fall!)

Speak thanks to James Palmarini, Director of Educational Policy, and Julie Cohen Theobald, Executive Director, for their leadership and allowing me to share this doc. And if you want to support the EdTA as a thank you for the guide, you can do that here. I just did.

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FROM THE EdTA RE: THE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REOPENING SCHOOL THEATRE PROGRAMS GUIDE   

The EdTA Recommendations guide is intended to serve as a support resource to help theatre teachers and administrators decide what is safely possible for their school and students—including in-person and virtual performance, curriculum, instruction, and resources. It is not a prescriptive document in which all suggested protocols are expected to be followed by every school in every state. Rather, it focuses on these three fundamental questions:

  1. How can you deliver instruction while adhering to social distancing?
  2. How can you adapt instruction for virtual teaching and learning?
  3. How can the social and emotional support that live theatre experiences provide be transferred to online learning environments?

Access the guide here: Recommendations for Reopening School Theatre Programs.

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Interested in hearing more about safety in the theater in a COVID-19 atmosphere? Click here to access an exclusive video conversation about this issue and two more top concerns for theatermakers in today’s climate.

 

Tonight on the Livestream: Tony Award-winning Director, John Rando!

Big thanks to Tony Award-winning costume designer Paul Tazewell (Hamilton, Ain’t Too Proud, “Harriet”) for joining me on the livestream last week. His convo had me watching that Hamilton stream in a totally different light! I mean, did you see those cuffs on Jefferson’s coat???

If you missed my chat with Paul, go over and watch the replay and learn about Paul’s process to designing some of the most intricate costumes . . . it’s how it’s all in those details!

And tonight, we’ve got a little ol’ A-list Director switcheroo!

Bart Sher had a last-minute scheduling conflict, so we’re working on getting him rescheduled for later in the summer/early fall.

In the meantime, my good buddy JOHN RANDO from Gettin’ The Band Back Together and the Tony Award-winning Director of Urinetown, as well as the Director of the new musical, Back To The Future (expect me to ask lots of questions about that), will join us for a convo about what he’s been up to since the pandemic began.

Also, joining us on the livestream tonight is a very special guest: Michael Merritt, an emerging TheaterMaker and a nurse, who spent the apex of the pandemic on the front lines at an NYC hospital!

I’ve invited him to be our special guest tonight to talk about how the experience impacted him and how it’s affecting his future, both as a nurse and as a TheaterMaker.

Set your reminder for tonight’s episode here.

 

And look who’s joining me over the next few weeks . . .

Thursday, July 9th – Altar Boyz Reunion *****  (Added livestream this week! Note the day!)

Tuesday, July 14th – Tara Rubin (Casting Director – SIX, Sing Street, Ain’t Too Proud, Dear Evan Hansen)

Thursday, July 16th – Sammi Cannold LIVE – Quarantined in Korea!!! (Director – New York City Center’s Evita, Ragtime on Ellis Island)

Tuesday, July 21st – Steven Pasquale (Actor – American Son, Bridges of Madison County)

Tuesday, July 28th – Danny Burstein (Actor – Moulin Rouge, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof)

Tuesday, August 4th – Norm Lewis (Actor – Phantom of The Opera, Porgy and Bess, Les Miserables)

Tuesday, August 11th – John Cariani (Actor/Playwright – Something Rotten; Caroline or Change; Almost, Maine)

 

You can catch me every TUESDAY at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT) on my Facebook, on my Twitter, on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel, and on Broadway on Demand.

To learn more about our guests and the organizations for which we are raising money, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

[New Podcasts] The Producer’s Perspective: Live from The Pandemic

Recording my podcast has become a wee bit challenging over the last several months. That’s one of the reasons why I pivoted and started my livestream.

And after only three months of going live, we’ve got 60 episodes with some big ol’ Broadway stars. (Tomorrow’s is A-list Director of South Pacific and The King and I, Bart Sher, for example.)

But a few of my podcast listeners have emailed me recently asking about audio content instead of video, since they listen on their commutes (which are starting to come back, thank the lord) or on the treadmill.

So, I’m taking all of my livestreams and converting them to podcast format for a special series called The Producer’s Perspective Podcast LIVE From The Pandemic.

 

Starting today, I’ll release an episode a week, starting with week #1 of the livestream. So if podcasts are your way to consume content, make sure you’re subscribed here.

Or if you want to see my face and my new #coronacut, you can catch the replays of my Livestream on my Facebook page or Youtube page.

 


We did a survey of the three things that are at the top of every TheaterMaker’s mind as we consider theater’s return post-pandemic. Their answers? Safety, Equality, and Streaming.

Because these three issues are SO vital to the theater’s survival, I had The TheaterMakers Studio curate a 3-part video series featuring experts on these subjects. The videos release next week. Click here to get them (they will not be made available to the public).

NEW Altar Boyz Video and Our Reunion: Take II

Ok, boyz and girls. Now we’re really getting the band back together!

Thank you for your patience as we rescheduled our previously announced Altar Boyz reunion – but we’re now set for July 9th at 8 PM!

And because you’ve been so patient, we’ve added some extra surprises.

We recruited self-proclaimed Altarholic and Broadway star-herself, SUSAN BLACKWELL, to host!  You know Susan from the original cast of [title of show], Now Here This, a whole bunch of TV, the incredible podcast The Spark Fileand lots more. (Watch her on our livestream and you’ll see how much fun she is on these things.)

AND . . . we’ve gathered about 40 of our Boyz from all of our different casts . . . New York, National Tours, and more . . . to record a special version of a signature ABz tune. Watch below!

And then make sure you set a reminder to tune in to our livestream on July 9th at 8 PM to see original cast members including:

Scott Porter, Matthew

Tyler Maynard, Mark

Andy Karl, Luke

Ryan Duncan, Juan

David Josefsberg, Abraham

Kevin Kern (“Wonder-study” #1)

Daniel Torres (“Wonder-study” #2)

As well as:

Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, Composers & Lyricists

Kevin Del Aguila, Bookwriter

Marc Kessler, Co-Conceiver

Robyn Goodman, Producer

Stafford Arima, Director

Christopher Gattelli, Choreographer

Lynne Shankel, Music Director & Co-Orchestrator

 

And you can count on at least one surprise guest, if not more . . . and maybe even another SONG???

So if you’re an Altarholic, tune in on Thursday, July 9th to The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! at 8 PM and hear all about how the show was developed, how we found that cast and much more.  And the Boyz will even take some questions!

Oh, and the more you donate to The Actors Fund, the juicier the stories get.

 

WATCH THE NEW ALTAR BOYZ VIDEO BELOW!

 

 

Click here to get a reminder for the Altar Boyz reunion on Thursday, July 9th at 8pm EDT / 7pm CDT / 6pm MDT / 5pm PDT.

And if you need an Altar fix now, listen to the cast recording: on Spotify, on Amazon, and on Apple Music.

 

Forget about streaming . . . what about this? Especially now.

Streaming is all the rage these days . . . whether that means an opportunity to watch a musical shot in New York City like this one, or whether that’s a blogger like me who turns his camera on weekly to talk to an industry hot shot.

And streaming has a very distinct place in our present and our future (although not exactly how you might think – keep your eye on this blog for more on that later this week).

But there’s another type of recording that I’m surprised hasn’t taken off in our world . . . and based on current trends AND the current COVID-19 crisis, I think it should.

And . . . gasp . . . this one is more suited for PLAYS than musicals.

Why aren’t more plays being podcasted?

Audio-recorded content has surged over the past several years.

So why aren’t more plays appearing on Podcasts or in audiobook format?

I know, I know, plays are meant to be seen . . . but ahhhh, not sure if you’ve read the news lately . . . people can’t actually see them. And since shooting a play on video is so very expensive and logistically difficult (and again, please check the news about why even that’s problematic these days), why not turn to the done-for-peanuts-and-in-one-day audio version?

The growth of consumers’ appetites for listening to recorded content on their phones, iPads, and in their cars has proven that they devour content that they love.

Audible is doing a bit of this downtown, but the rest of us just aren’t serving enough content to our audience.

And we should. (It’d also get some cash to our artists who could use it now, before we lose many of them.)

I’m not just talking about why The Hangmen, which canceled its Broadway run because of COVID-19, might think of putting out an audio version with that original cast. Or what about To Kill A Mockingbird?  

I’m also taking about EMERGING plays.

Podcasted or Audio book-ed plays could be the new “Demo” for emerging playwrights looking to get their plays produced.

It’s HARD to get people to read a script. It’s EASIER to get them to listen (evident by the growth in podcasting and audiobook devouring referenced above).

So doesn’t it make sense that if you were a new playwright and wanted a Producer to “read” your script, you might have a better shot of them listening to it?

Just imagine this query letter:

“Hi. I wrote a play. It’s 110 pages. Will you read it?”

Or

“Hi. I wrote a play. I recorded it with actors and you can listen to it on the treadmill.”

Isn’t the experience easier and the product better?

Selling anything, whether that’s a bar of soap or a brand new play, is about reducing the friction between the buyer and the seller, and having audio versions of what we produce does just that.

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I do have more to say on streaming later this week.  Make sure you get that blog (and get my free book – which you can also get in audio version, of course) by clicking here.

 

 

Tonight on the Livestream: Tony Award-winning Costume Designer Paul Tazewell

If you missed the livestream last week, then you missed me sitting down with the #Fearless Mandy Gonzalez. Make sure you go back and catch the replay of that episode to receive a heavy dose of inspiration and motivation from the star of Hamilton, In The Heights and more (and find out what song she’d sing if she could only sing one song every single day!).

And tonight, in honor of Hamilton premiering on Disney+ later this week, I am sitting down with Costume Designer Paul Tazewell (our 60th guest!). Paul is the Tony Award-winning designer of your favorite shows — Hamilton, In The Heights, Ain’t Too Proud, Memphis, and more! 

Costume Design is one of the things about theater-making that I know the LEAST about, so I’m excited to learn how Paul helps tell stories with his art.

Sit down with me and Paul (virtually!) tonight at 8pm EDT. To watch the episode, hit the get reminder button here.

 

And look who’s joining me over the next few weeks . . .

Tuesday, July 7th – Bartlett Sher (Director – My Fair Lady, To Kill A Mockingbird, The King & I) with special guest Michael Merritt

Thursday, July 9th – Altar Boyz Reunion

Tuesday, July 14th – Tara Rubin (Casting Director – SIX, Sing Street, Ain’t Too Proud, Dear Evan Hansen)

Tuesday, July 21st – Steven Pasquale (Actor – American Son, Bridges of Madison County)

Tuesday, July 28th – Danny Burstein (Actor – Moulin Rouge, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof)

Tuesday, August 4th – Norm Lewis (Actor – Phantom of The Opera, Porgy and Bess, Les Miserables)

Tuesday, August 11th – John Cariani (Actor/Playwright – Something Rotten; Caroline, or Change; Almost, Maine)

Tuesday, August 18th – Brian Stokes Mitchell (The Actors Fund Chairman, Actor – Shuffle Along, Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, Ragtime)

 

You can catch me every TUESDAY at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT) on my Facebook, on my Twitter, on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel, and on Broadway on Demand.

To learn more about our guests and the organizations for which we are raising money, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

[Announcement] The Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund Scholarship For TheaterMakers

On March 22nd of this year, just a few months after moving into the city to be closer to me and his granddaughter, my Dad, Dr. Kenny Hasija, had a stroke. And as the sun was coming up on Easter morning, he passed.

It has been an interesting time to deal with this loss to say the least, because my Dad was my coach, my cheerleader, my chief strategist, and my friend. Because boy oh boy, could I have used his caring counsel over the past few months.

And as the corona-crisis continues, I am going to miss having him around over the next several months to do what he did so well, and encourage me to keep on keepin’ on.

My dad has been encouraging me since my earliest memory of him. He urged me to learn more, to try more, to speak up more, to fail more, to fight more, to love more . . . and he sacrificed more than he ever let on to make sure I could take every opportunity I had.

Put it this way . . . how many immigrant Indian Doctors do you know who would say, “Go for it,” when their son said he wanted to give up on law school and pursue a life in the theater???

(He didn’t even blink, by the way.)

His encouragement kept me going then . . . and as I vowed to him in his final few days, I will always keep going.

I also vowed to do everything I could to pass on that spirit of encouragement to my daughter, and to anyone else I met who had a passion for the theater.

So, I started a simple scholarship in his name . . . called The “Dr. Kenny” (as he liked to be called) Encouragement Fund.

I was planning on issuing just one $1,000 gift to someone attending school in the fall and pursuing a career in the theater industry. But after I wrote my blog on Wednesday about the number of artists who may already be out of school but struggling to stay in the city to pursue their dreams, I decided to offer two:

  1.  $1,000 to someone enrolled in or going to post-secondary school.
  2.  $1,000 to any TheaterMaker out there pursuing a career in the business.

If you would like to apply for these scholarships or know someone who would, please click here or share this blog.

Because as I’ve learned from being on the juries for other scholarships, it’s actually hard to get the word out to the folks who could use these funds the most. So please, share this sucker around so we can help encourage folks to keep making theater.

Because we’re going to need TheaterMakers more than ever when this is all over.

I’m hoping to continue this scholarship every year, and I’m hoping that it grows, and that my father’s encouragement to me from above can help me add some zeroes to these amounts.  (If you want to help and join some of my family and my father’s friends who are committed to encouraging others, and learn a bit more about my dad, click here.)

To be honest, I even thought about waiting to start this scholarship until I got that big fat hit I will have someday and I could give more.

But then, on Father’s Day this year, I remembered some of the encouraging advice that my Dad gave me years ago.

“Just start, Kenneth. Begin. A seed can’t grow until it is planted.”

I hope that my Dad’s advice and this gift can help encourage some of you.

To apply, click here.

 

One of the (many) things that worry me most about the Broadway shutdown.

I’ve gotta add one more to the list.

Yesterday, we revealed the top 3 things that are keeping TheaterMakers up at night. And I wasn’t shocked to see that your top 3 were the exact same as my top 3. (See those three things and how we’re going to start talking about how to address them here.)

But there’s something else that has me concerned that I have to add to the ever-growing pile of anxiety-producing issues we’re facing during the Broadway shutdown.

What’s going to happen to our workforce?

I’ll tell you what could happen. We could lose the very bright and creative personnel who we’re counting on to take Broadway to new heights.

The NY Times shared some of my nerve-iness in this article, where the writer talked about how so many NYC residents, especially the younger folks, fled NYC at the beginning the pandemic. And a huge subset of that group was from our very own arts and entertainment industry, since we laid off 78% of our workforce. 

And that doesn’t even count those who consider themselves part of our industry . . . actors, directors, writers, etc. . . who didn’t have a job at that time to be laid off from. (Even super successful artists aren’t employed from time to time, not to mention those waiting for their big breaks.)

So my concern is . . . not will these folks want to return, but will they be able to return?

With it becoming painfully clear that Broadway won’t be back until some time in (crossing fingers) early 2021, and development (readings, workshops, etc.) still in limbo, so many of our theatrical workforce could be out of work for up to a year.

And, as we get closer to the end of the unemployment stimulus package that put an extra $600 in so many people’s paychecks (it ends in July), the ability for these folks to make ends meet is going to be seriously challenged.

Oh, and it’s important to note that when I say workforce, I don’t only mean the Actors, Directors, Stagehands, Musicians, and more who make their living when the spotlights are on.

But what about those people who work in the offices who help keep those lights on?

For example, I was on a Zoom call last week with a bunch of marketing folks, many of whom were millennials.  These are the very groups that I’d usually predict would be the future of advertising and marketing on Broadway.

Now, I’m just praying that we can keep them around.

These doing-it-for-the-passion-not-the-pension peeps, along with the others who manage our shows, book our shows, agent our artists, etc. are not only going to need to find another way to make-a-living, but they are going to be offered other opportunities from industries that are able to get back to full speed, while we sit in neutral.

We have smart, bright, multi-talented people on and off the stage, and they’re going to be tempted to go.

We are going to lose some, no doubt. In fact, we already have. I’ve heard many a story about actors asking to be released from contracts at shows that were coming back. And some admin folks taking this opportunity to go work in the family business, etc.

And @#$% me . . . but I’ve had to lay off people at my own company, which is like sticking needles under your fingernails to an entrepreneur.

Ironically, now is the time when we need these folks the most. And I have even more concerns for the people of color in our industry. Now is the time when we must find MORE opportunities for them . . . at a time industry is constricting.

So what can we do in the short term to make sure our industry doesn’t lose the very people we need to build the new Broadway?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Call your congresspeople and tell them to support the theater industry in any and all stimulus packages.
  • Donate to the Actors Fund which helps anyone in the theater industry weather difficult times.
  • Donate to the Dramatists Guild Foundation which helps writers specifically.
  • We must figure out how to safely get readings going again. Not immediately, of course, but if NYC can enter Stage III, there has to be a way to make socially distanced development work.
  • If you’ve got any reason to hire anyone here in the NYC area (or even for an online opportunity). . . hire a theater person.  (Oh, and have you seen all the theater people on Cameo?  This is a GREAT way to support them and super fun.)

An industry is only as strong as the people in it. And there is no doubt we’re going to have some attrition during this upcoming year. But we must do everything we can to limit our losses. We’ve got an opportunity to build a new Broadway. We just need the artistic and administrative minds to do it.

Are you a TheaterMaker (Artist or Admin) who has decided or is thinking about leaving the business because of shutdown?  Email me at ken@theproducersperspective.com. I want to hear your story . . . and I have a feeling others do too.

 

 

 

 

[Update] What You Told Us Were Your Top 3 Concerns About TheaterMaking.

A few blogs ago I announced that we’d be taking our Fall conference virtual this year and asked you for a favor – to tell us what two burning questions you had about creating theater in the new world.

We got hundreds and hundreds of very passionate responses (I’m not surprised).  And there were three subjects that were far and away the most important to you TheaterMakers out there right now.

And I was also not surprised to see what they were.

Can you guess?

(I’ll wait while you do . . . go on, guess, and then scroll down.)

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

– – – – –

The three issues about TheaterMaking in the new world that are top of your mind are:

1. SAFETY. How can we ensure the safety of audiences, actors, and creators going back into theaters?

2. EQUALITY. How do we raise the voices of people of color and other underrepresented minorities not only on stage, but behind the table and in the offices where decisions are made?

3. STREAMING. How can we create a sustainable business model to be able to stream shows worldwide?

 

How’d you do?  Guess them all?

I can’t thank you enough for filling out that survey and for helping us understand what is on your minds so we can make sure that we curate our conference accordingly and feature these three issues (and many more) in our content line-up.

But it was also clear to me from the overwhelming majority of people who mentioned the three subjects above that we shouldn’t wait until November to start conversations about these important issues now.

So, I asked my staffers at The TheaterMakers Studio to develop a 3-part video interview series with an expert on each of the subjects above.

If you’d like access to this special (and free) video series, click here to sign up.

The videos will be released starting on July 7th and will only be available to those who request access – because I don’t want to send you more emails than we already do.  🙂

I look forward to jumpstarting these conversations now, so we can jumpstart the action to improve TheaterMaking for all of us.

Sign up here.

 

Tonight on the Livestream: #Fearless Broadway Star, Mandy Gonzalez

Last week, we debuted what we’re now calling the official start of our 2nd season of The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! (Who would have thought we would have had two weeks of these live streams, never mind two seasons!)

We kicked off our new weekly format with Broadway veteran Asmeret Ghebremichael, who has been one of the leading voices of change in our industry over the last few weeks. If you haven’t caught the episode yet, you can do so here

And tonight, we have another #FEARLESS theatermaker joining me live!

I’ve had Mandy Gonzalez on my “must interview” list for a looooong time. You may have seen Mandy’s jaw-dropping performances in Hamilton, In The Heights, or Wicked. And we’ll talk about her rise to the top of the business and just how she did it, as well as how she stays positive with everything going on in our business, while she battles breast cancer.   

I’m excited to sit down (virtually) with Mandy tonight at 8pm EDT. To watch the episode, hit the get reminder button here.

And during this episode, we’ll be raising money for Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Check out their website to learn more about the work they’re doing. 

 

And look who’s joining me over the next few weeks . . .

Tuesday, June 30th – Paul Tazewell (Costume Designer – MJ The Musical, Ain’t Too Proud, Hamilton)

Tuesday, July 7th – TBD

Tuesday, July 14th – Tara Rubin (Casting Director – SIX, Sing Street, Ain’t Too Proud, Dear Evan Hansen)

Tuesday, July 21st – Brian Stokes Mitchell (The Actors Fund Chairman, Actor – Shuffle Along, Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, Ragtime)

Tuesday, July 28th – Danny Burstein (Actor – Moulin Rouge, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof)

Tuesday, August 4th – TBD

Tuesday, August 11th – John Cariani (Actor/Playwright – Something Rotten; Almost Maine; Caroline, or Change)

 

You can catch me every TUESDAY at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT) on my Facebook, on my Twitter, on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel, and on Broadway on Demand.

To learn more about our guests and the organizations for which we are raising money, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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