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

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What you think you want for your show. But you don’t.

In the hundreds of times I have asked TheaterMakers what they want . . . what they truly want . . . what the answer to their theater-making prayers would be . . . can you guess what the answer is?

“I want a Producer.”

If this is you . . . if you’re one of these TheaterMakers who have said “I want a Producer,” then, well, how do I say this . . .

You’re wrong.

Wait, wait, wait . . . don’t be like that.  Don’t walk away just yet.  Hear me out.

I understand why you want a Producer.

You want someone to come up with a plan to put your show on a stage.  You want someone with more connections than you have on your team.  You want someone to raise the money. 

It makes sense you’d pray for a Producer.

But I promise you don’t want A Producer.  You want the RIGHT Producer.

Wanting a Producer is like someone saying, “I want a wife.  I want a husband.”

You know what?  If you really want a spouse . . . any spouse . . . you can find it.  But do you just want anyone?

No . . . you want someone who is going to be your partner.  Someone who challenges you.  Someone who inspires you.  Someone who loves you, no matter what.

It’s the same with the search for a Producer.  And the relationship is almost as close!  (And often . . . lasts longer!)  .

For many, the search for a Producer is the search for validation.  It’s the idea that someone is telling you that you are good enough.  Good enough to get optioned  Good enough to get produced.

And I understand that desire.  Believe me.  When I started out, I was right there with you.  All that I dreamed about was someone picking up my stuff, or even partnering with me.  

And because of that, I got desperate.  And I made some big-time mistakes with some small-time Producers (who BSed about how big-time they were) that cost me money, time, and heartache.

(Now that I think about it – I did the same thing in my love life until I found the perfect mate for me.)

So, first . . . you don’t want a Producer.  You want the right one.   And just that change in your mindset will give you more power as you put your stuff out there in the world.  You’re not going to marry anyone.  I won’t let you.

Second, until you find the “right one,” there is plenty you can do on your own . . . that will make you even more attractive to the perfect partner.

And, you’ll find yourself beating off Producers with your script.

– – – – –

 

If you’re looking for more info on the strategy that I used to get a producer, or what steps you should take to get your show on a stage, click here.

 

This made me so jealous I could spit.

Forgive me for the deadly sin I’m about to commit.

I’m ENVIOUS OF AUSTRALIA!

Read this article from the NY Times . . . Broadway in Australia has re-opened with productions of Hamilton, Harry Potter, Come From Away and more!

How are they doing it?  Well, you’ll have to read the article but it involves robots and app contact tracing . . . and the hardest-piece-of-technology apparently . . . common freekin’ sense.

This should be us.  We should be back.  Not fully, maybe (our city and our theaters don’t allow for the space that Australians have to spread out – and therefore reduce the spread).  But we should have been able to get something back up by now.

Maybe had we had a mask mandate earlier?  Maybe if it wasn’t an election year?  (Although let’s all be glad that election happened!)  Maybe . . .

Ahhh, enough of that.  I can’t go there . . .

But honestly, my biggest fear . . . is do you think that this will damage the Broadway brand permanently?  Will our status as the theater capital of the world be threatened?

You tell me.  Because I’m too jealous to type.

Read the article here.

– – – – –

If you or anyone you know has ever thought about writing a movie . . . you gotta tune into this.

How To Build Your Brand For Your Next Show If You Don’t Have One.

When you open a show on Broadway, a pre-existing brand is important and essential.

Because when faced with a high-priced decision in a competitive market, a consumer will always, ALWAYS choose what they are more familiar with.

End of play.

(BIG DISCLAIMER:  a brand helps you build an advance, and gives you a head start against your competition, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  If your show doesn’t generate enough word of mouth to sell enough tickets to meet your weekly expenses, no brand, no matter how big, will survive.)

So, to mitigate your risk, you should either choose projects that have a pre-existing brand or, and here’s the much more CREATIVE APPROACH, develop that brand for your project before you open.

There are many ways to do this.

The easiest, of course, is to adapt something with a powerhouse brand that exists already.  (Think Harry PotterMean Girls, my own Neil Diamond musical, etc.)

But don’t think that’s the only way to get your show to Broadway or build an advance.

The brand could be in your creative team.  (Think Kinky Boots with Cindy Lauper or Last Ship with Sting – a perfect example of a show that built a huge advance but wasn’t something the public was interested in after the advance played off and Sting left.)

The brand could be a social media army that you build (Think Be More Chill . . . or even Ratatouille.)

The brand could be the reviews and buzz from your one, two, or three out-of-town tryouts (Think Dear Evan HansenCome From Away, etc.)

The brand could be the star or stars.  (Think Bette Midler in I’ll Eat You Last.)

The brand could be The Producer (Think Oprah Winfrey with The Color Purple – and notice how they stacked Oprah’s brand on top of the brand of the pre-existing material – a powerhouse parlay strategy!).

The brand can be anything you want it to be.

But there must be something?

Why?

The most important weeks of a Broadway shows lifecycle are the first few . . .  both creatively and financially.  Most new shows lose money.  The key is to minimize those losses.

A brand of any kind can do that.  How much depends on how big the brand is.

So ask yourself today . . . what does my show have that can attract an audience apart from the show itself?

If you can’t answer that . . . start building its brand today.  Because it’s never too early.  And there will definitely be “a too late.”

And if you need help identifying what yours should be . . . shoot me an email . . . I can point you in the right direction.

A mentor just said THIS to me.

This one is a quickie, but I had to pass it on, because the words kind of punched me in the face.

In a good way.

I got off the phone with a mentor of mine just a little bit ago.  This is someone I call every so often for advice about the business of Broadway, on business in general (he has given me some great stock tips), and even on fatherhood.

So I called to him to ask those questions that we’re all asking right now . . . when will Broadway come back after the pandemic?  What will the business look like?  Will my prediction be right?

In other words . . . “What should I do???”

His words?  Let me quote him:

“Ken, I have two words for you . . . ready?”

“YES, please,” I pleaded.

“BE BOLD.”

Then we hung up.

I didn’t do anything for about ten minutes.

Then I started.

I hope you’ll join me.  Because this is how we make a better Broadway and a better life for others and for ourselves.

– – – – –

If you want to see a video I made of this story, click here.

 

Who I turned to when I wanted to learn this. (And how you can too.)

Last summer, in the midst of my Pandemic Productivity Phase (the other “PPP”), I vowed to finish an idea I had years ago.

And it wasn’t a show.  It was a screenplay.

I optioned the rights to a true-life story and sat down to start writing.

I have written and produced for TV and film before, just on a much smaller scale than Broadway. I actually won a screenwriting award for a pilot I wrote years ago and directed and produced an award-winning documentary and an award-winning web series.

 But a full-length screenplay?  That was new to me.

It wasn’t too long after typing the title page . . . that I realized I needed help.

And who doesn’t need help when you start something new?  Especially when you want to compete at a high level.  Olympic athletes have 27 different kinds of coaches.  Our own Broadway performers train for decades to learn to sing and dance at the highest level.

But for some reason, many people think writing is au naturel or nothing.

Not me.

That’s why I immediately drown myself in studying screenplays. From Syd Field’s classic Screenplay to the obligatory Save The Cat to Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass and more.

And they were all good.  And they all helped.

But one stood out.

And I shouldn’t have been surprised, since it’s one of the Best Selling book on Screenwriting on Amazon.com.

Jill Chamberlain’s Nutshell Technique

Her book broke out the structure of the screenplay so simply, that . . . well . . . I had to meet her.

 I booked private coaching with her, told her about my story and what I wanted to do . . . and bam . . . she made my story better in about 30 minutes.

That’s when I knew YOU had to meet her.

So, in partnership with TheTheaterMakersStudio, I booked Jill for an exclusive private presentation just for you.

Jill herself will be teaching a virtual seminar on “The Nutshell Technique For Your Screenplay (Or Your Show!)” on Wednesday, March 10th at 7 PM.

You can sign up here.

In two hours, Jill is going to break down her best-selling beat-sheet for successful screenplays.  You’ll leave the Zoom Room with a map on how to tell your story.  If your screenplay is done . . . you’ll see where the weak points are that you need to bolster.

 But after my time with Jill, I can guarantee you this . . . your story will be better.  (And you’ll also be jazzed to get to work on it – because so much of how to shape these things will make so much more sense.)

And yeah, in case you’re wondering because a story is a story, The Nutshell Technique works for shows too.  (I already made three changes to a musical I’m working on as a result of my time with Jill.)

Book the seminar here.

Why we are going to need more NEW musicals when the Pandemic is over.

If theater was the stock market, I’d sell revivals short.

I know I run the risk of getting a Reddit-like backlash for this blog, but, revivals are becoming more and more a thing of the past.

Literally.

Their business model was challenged before the pandemic.  The recoupment rate for revivals of musicals was LESS than the recoupment rate for new musicals.  (See the full write-up and stats on that truth-bomb here.)

And as a business mentor of mine said to me last March, “If your business was in trouble before the pandemic, it’s going to be even more challenging after.”

It was those words that made me cut bait on two side-businesses of mine . . . and I’m so thankful I did. 

I know that from personal experience that revivals have had a tough go of it recently, having lead produced three. And none of them recouped, by the way, including two that got raves and one that won the Tony Award for Best Revival.

And now . . . after what we’ve gone through in the last year . . . they are going to be even harder to make work.

Because in one year, many of these shows have aged TEN.  Their attitudes towards racial equality, gender equality, etc, are not only out-of-touch . . . but now many of them will be uncomfortable to watch.

Which means they either won’t get done . . . or they’ll have to be re-envisioned.  (And Michael Arden can only do so many per year!)   I guess a 3rd option is that they’ll require such massive stars that the audience won’t even care what the show is.  But how long will that last?  And will the stars want to do them?

So if you’re interested in producing, investing, or performing in a revival (of a musical, especially), understand that the risks have gone up.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be brilliant ones.  But they are going to be harder to find.

 The upside?  Because there’s always an upside . . .

Theaters are going to need NEW musicals more than ever before to fill the holes left by the retired revivals.

And that’s where you come in.

If you’re a writer of new musicals, keep on writing, because the renaissance is coming.

Yep, I’m selling revivals short and issuing a STRONG BUY alert for new musicals and new musicals writers.

– – – – –

 

If you’re interested in learning more about the structure of classics and how you can use that to create something NEW, I recommend Jack Viertel’s masterclass here.

Hit The “Pandemic Wall”? You’re not alone.

A great writer reads your mind.

They articulate something you’ve been thinking.  But haven’t put it into works.  Or even admitted to yourself.

(One of the reasons for Dear Evan Hansen‘s success is because Benj Pasek, Justin Paul & Steven Levinson put issues on stage that parents and kids were thinking about.  But not talking about.  Hence all those tears of release at the end.)  

This article, called “The pandemic wall is here,” by Maura Judkis in the Washington Post, read mine.

 

If you read #mymorningwhiteboardquotes or heard me speak at our summit (or anywhere), you’d guess that I’m a pretty positive person.  It’s true.  I am.  

I haven’t always been that way, though.  Took a lot of exercise, training, and constant evaluation and coaching to “always look on the bright side of life.”  (Insert Spamalot whistle here.)

If that sounds like staying positive is like an athlete for an Olympic event, it isn’t.  It’s harder.

 

Especially in the last 12 months.  And especially if you’re a TheaterMaker, like all of us.

So, yeah, I know the Pandemic Wall of which Maura speaks.  It’s that feeling that started up in January and has crept into February.  That . . . “Isn’t this over yet?  Wait – variants?  Wait – slower rollout than expected?  Wait – you still have to mask after you get vaccinated?  Wait – Broadway STILL doesn’t have a set start date?”

 

And that’s when you hit the wall.

 

And you want to move to Palm Springs, CA, and get a gig as a golf caddy. 

And eat pizza, binge watch reality TV from the 90s, and think . . . “What I wouldn’t give to go back to 1997.”

I write this to you today because I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve been up against this wall lately.

 

I keep banging on it, of course.  Because that’s what I do.  And honestly?  That’s probably not the best thing to do.  Because this wall is @#$%ing thick.  And swinging your hammer as hard as you can against something as almost impenetrable as this . . . you run the risk of injuring yourself.  

And then you won’t be ready when that wall comes down on its own.  And it will.  It effin’ will.

So, my friends, this is my full disclosure blog to you to say, I ain’t all whiteboard quotes and sweet and silly shots of my daughter.

 

This has been one of the hardest times of my life.  And more recently, when it should be a little easier because we KNOW that there is an end in sight, it has somehow gotten even harder.

If you’re feeling like you hit the wall . . . you’re not alone.

 

We can’t just give up though.  Life as a golf caddy ain’t gonna make you happy.  (My therapist told me that last week – without telling me that – because that’s not what they do.)

 

So here’s what I’m doing about the wall I run into.

 

Stop. Acknowledge the wall.  See it.  Feel it.  Touch it.  It’s real.

 

Rest.  Recover.

When you’re ready . . . do not try to go through it.

Because we will NOT get through this.

But we will get around it . . . if we take care of ourselves and each other.

 

Ok.  Just saying that made the wall look even smaller.  And . . . huh . . .will you look at that . . . I just got a very interesting idea for something I can do right now to make sure I’m better off than when this thing started.  

 

Thanks for listening.

 

Read The Pandemic Wall article here

 

– – – – –

If you’re struggling for any reason during this time, I urge you to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish) or the Lifeline Crisis Chat.

 

My Dad’s EdTA Scholarship Deadline is in less than 8 weeks!

After my dad passed almost one year ago, My wife and I established a fund in his honor called The Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund.

The goal?  To continue on with my dad’s amazing tradition of encouraging others . . . especially in the arts. 

Thanks to the generosity of his family and friends, that fund has already given away over $10,000!  (We gave away scholarships right here on this very blog – you can view the amazing winners here.)

My wife and I have committed to keeping this fund going and increasing my Dad’s impact on the arts as long as we’re around (and then, my daughter takes the reins).  We’re already partnering with some orgs like Broadway Bridges and The Situation Project – and more on that in the future.

 

Why I bring this up now is this . . .

One of the organizations that we have supported is the fantastic Educational Theater Association (you may know them as the group that runs the “Thespians”). 

We started a scholarship in my Dad’s name and the deadline is April 1st. So get thee to the application! And spread the word!

The details for the scholarship are as follows:

The Dr. Kenny D. Hasija Scholarship is a $1,000 one-time scholarship that seeks to support applicants from groups traditionally underrepresented in the theatre industry, such as those who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Applicants should be inducted members of the International Thespian Society (Thespians) who are graduating seniors or Thespian alumni who are pursuing undergraduate studies at an accredited college or university, and who plan on a career in any area of the theater, from performing to producing. Deadline: April 1.

You can learn more about it here and get all the info on how to apply.


Please do spread the word.  And keep your eyes peeled for more ways my Dad will be encouraging future TheaterMakers from his “box seat” in the sky.


Apply for the Dr. Kenny D. Hasija Scholarship here!

It was more than just a restaurant. And he was more than just a man. RIP Joe Allen: 1933-2021

The only thing more comforting than being in a business that is so shaky and unstable, that restaurant and the man behind it gave us all something solid underneath our feet.

It IS my favorite lunchtime spot.  It’s casual . . . comfortable . . . and I did more deals there than my office.

Thank you for providing us with a place to meet, a place to eat, and for putting the posters of all those flops on the wall, a place to remember that it’s only a play.

Read the full obituary for Mr. Joe Allen, here.

And I’ll see you all there soon.

What does the Bitcoin frenzy mean for Broadway?

Here’s something only a handful of people know: a few investors of mine have used Bitcoin to invest in one of my shows.

It was something we were going to release when it happened because I thought it was a sign of something to come.  Turns out it was.

We ended up not releasing the news because, well, the investment didn’t work out so well.  (sigh)

But the investments happened.  And I’m pretty sure that it was the first-ever Bitcoin investment in a Broadway show.

But it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the last.

The idea for taking the investment came from one of my investors, actually.  She also advised me to buy some.  I did.  And it dropped.  And I sold it.

(Side note . . . it turns out that “buy and hold,” which is what every savvy financial advisor since the invention of financial advisors has advised, is a decent strategy.)

Bitcoin is back in the news, especially with yesterday’s revelation that the world’s 2nd most infamous tweeter, Elon Musk, announced Tesla invested over a BILLION DOLLARS in the cryptocurrency.

What does this mean for Broadway?  And Broadway investing?

Will you be able to buy tickets for Broadway shows with Bitcoin? Could SeatGeek, the new ticketing platform on Broadway, be the first to accept this alt-coin?

If Football players can get paid in Bitcoin, will certain Broadway stars want their cash in ‘coin?

And more investors jump on the train that my investors choo-chooed and invest in Broadway shows with alt-currency?

The answer to all these questions is Yes.

But not for a while.

Broadway doesn’t move as fast as electric car companies, or national sports leagues.  We’re slower to adopt new technologies.

Which is too bad, really.

Because look what Forbes Advisor, Taylor Tepper says about investing in Bitcoin:

“But when it comes time to actually plan out your future, it is something that should be viewed as a speculative bet as opposed to one that you can really rely on. You should go into that with every pretense of ‘this money could be worth nothing tomorrow.’ So that is money that you can afford to lose.”

This is the same thing I tell my new investors before they write a check.  And it’s what I recommend new producers tell their investors as well.

So . . . there could be a crossover in risk appetite between Bitcoin investors and Broadway!

The big difference between Broadway investing and Bitcoin?  Well, you can invest ANY amount of money in Bitcoin . . .  you don’t need to buy a full coin (now over $40,000 – thanks Mr. Musk!).

While it is possible to purchase partial shares of Broadway shows, those partials very rarely go below $10,000. My crowdfunded Godspell was that rare experiment that allowed the micro investor to get involved.

That proved, and this Bitcoin phenomenon proves, that keeping your investment minimums high may not be the way to raise the most money.

What about you?  Do you own Bitcoin?  Are you considering it?  Would you also invest in a Broadway show?  Are the two similar to you?

Comment below.

– – – – –

If you’re looking to learn more about how I crowdfunded Godspell, check out the courses on investing and raising money in the TheaterMakersStudio. For less than the cost of a ticket to see a Broadway show, you can learn how to raise the total cost of that same Broadway show.

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