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

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Podcast Episode #238: What About Broadway?

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS EPISODE:  12 Minutes

LISTEN WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS:

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

In my 30 years (!) living in New York City, I’ve never watched a Mayoral debate.

I know. I know.

But with all that’s riding on the next Mayor of NYC, you can bet your A-train that I tuned into the debate between the leading candidates.

And I heard something that I did not like. 

Any guesses? 

Tune into this week’s episode where I unpack whereI think these candidates missed the mark.

 

AFTER YOU LISTEN:

  • FOLLOW The Producer’s Perspective on Apple Podcast (it’s FREE!)
  • REVIEW the Podcast on Apple Podcast (it’s the biggest compliment you can give)
  • SHARE this episode with your friends!
  • JOIN the TheaterMakers Facebook Group

 

My mission is to get more people talking about the theater.  The more people talking about it, the more people who want to make it, perform it, support it, etc.  And that’s how theater not only survives, but thrives.

 

The biggest compliment you can give me is by sharing this podcast.

 

I thank you and the theater thanks you!

RECENT EPISODES:

June 18, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

June 18, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

 

Here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – Katori Hall’s “Hot Wing King” Wins Pulitzer Prize in Drama

Last week Katori Hall won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play The Hot Wing King, which premiered at Signature Theater prior to the COVID shutdowns. Read more about Katori’s show and the other two finalists below. 

Read more: https://deadline.com 

 

2 – In The Heights Is The Biggest Movie Musical Since Moulin Rouge

In case you (somehow) haven’t heard, Jon M. Chu’s movie adaptation of In The Heights hit theaters last weekend and is shaping up to be the biggest step for movie musicals since Moulin Rouge. More details about what is setting Chu’s adaptation apart below.

Read more: https://slate.com 

 

3 – The Broadway League And Actor’s Equity Reach Touring Agreement

More progress for theatermakers – North American touring is back! The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity reached an agreement on protocols earlier this week to give touring productions the greenlight . . . including mandatory vaccinations. Detailed requirements can be found below.

Read more: https://broadwaynews.com 

 

4 – National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners 

Black theatermakers have founded a new, nation-wide association currently made up of seven theater organizations. The association aims to be a hub of resources for Black theatermakers across the country, at every level. Find out how you can become involved below. 

Read more: https://www.americantheatre.org/  

 

5 – Harvey Fierstein NY Public Library Donation 

Tony-winner Harvey Fierstein is giving back to the theatermakers of tomorrow in a big way through the New York Public Library Theater Lab. The lab will serve as a dedicated educational space where students and the general public will be able to attend programs drawing on its vast holdings of photographs, scripts, recordings, set models, costumes and other materials.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com 

 

Fun on a Friday: 

James Corden, Ariana Grande, and Marissa Jaret Winkour celebrate the hopeful summer ahead with a Hairspray twist.

Watch the video here:

 

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Want to be part of an online community of theatermakers? Join 1,000+ producers, writers, actors, directors, and more here. Best part? It’s completely free.

My 2021 Blog-mencement Address to All the Graduating Theatermakers Out There.

June is bustin’ out all over with graduations.

High school, colleges (and even pre-schools!) are sending their students off to their next “stage.”

And from what I’m hearing from the theater students who I’ve spoken to, they feel a little . . . weird.

And who wouldn’t?

I can’t imagine being a student PERIOD right. Never mind a theater student.

One student Facebooked me and said, “What the @#$% do I know now?”

Here’s my answer:

Now look, I have never spoken at a graduation (except my own high school ceremony – where I quoted Les Miz and also sang “Memory” – and thank God there is no footage of that!). But, if you’ll imagine that I’m in a cap and gown, I thought I’d deliver an e-version of what I’d say to any graduating theatermakers in 2021.

Here it is. Ready?

Congratulations. You effin’ made it!!!!!!!!

And that’s pretty much it, in a speech-shell.

See, if you’re a graduating TheaterMaker right now, you survived the hardest period the entire theater industry has EVER experienced.

And I’d wager money that this is the hardest period that the theater industry will EVER experience.

And you made it!!!!!!!!!!!!

And if you got through this past year? And if you’re still as passionate as ever to make theater? To act in theater? To produce theater, market theater, direct theater, or whatever THEATER?

Then you’re going to be more than fine.

Because what this business requires of you to be successful (MORE than others) is simple.

Success in the theater demands relentless perseverance and commitment to your goals. It requires a, “I don’t care how many times people say no or how long I have to wait or what I have to sacrifice . . . I am going to make it,” attitude.

And this past year has been the ultimate test to see if you have that “gene.”

And if you’re here. If you’re reading this. If you’re writing your next play (or your first).  If you’re auditioning. If you’re looking to move to New York, Chicago or LA. If you’re taking classes. If you’re taking action towards your future?

You will be successful.

Because you made it. Congrat-u-effin-lations. I don’t know that I could have. But YOU DID.

And you should be so proud. You should be smiling bigger than any generation of theatermakers who have graduated before you. You DID have it harder. And you made it.

And you will MAKE IT.

As long as you put that “I don’t care how many times people say no, or how long I have to wait, or what I have to sacrifice, I am going to make it,” attitude to work.

Starting now.

I can’t wait to collaborate with you all.

Cue “Memory.”  (Just not sung by me, for the love of Pete!)

– – – – –

If you are graduating and want to meet other graduates, join our free TheaterMakers Facebook Group. Networking and accountability buddies are so key to success in the theater, which is why we created this group. See you in there.

Broadway League and Actor’s Equity Set Touring COVID Precautions

Thrilled that the Broadway League and Actor’s Equity have come to an agreement to safely restart Broadway touring.  And yes, it includes . . . mandatory vaccinations.  

And with the announcement of NY lifting its restrictions this week, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter and brighter. 

In other words, life, as we knew it, is on its way back. But with a 2021 twist. 

In addition to the mandatory vaccinations for Equity members, North American touring production protocols include: 

  • No interaction between Equity company members and audience members
  • Daily cleaning of the performance space, venue and props. Cleaning of the dressing rooms, orchestra pit and other high traffic areas before first rehearsal and between each performance.
  • Physical distancing in the orchestra pit and around the stage door
  • No backstage visitors, autograph signings or cast meet-and-greets.
  • A unidirectional flow of traffic within a theater, whenever possible
  • No communal food or drink service for company members and designated food and drink areas within the venue
  • A mandated COVID-19 safety training for cast and crew members and penalties, starting with a $50 fine, if protocols are not followed.

But it’s not like we haven’t figured out we can’t adjust to something different, right?

And while the Broadway League and AEA have yet to announce their protocols for Broadway’s return this fall, we can see the direction they’re probably headed.

To bastardize a Sondheim title . . . we are almost OUT Of The Woods!

What do you think of the touring protocols?

Looking for your mentor?

When I started my podcast over five years and two hundred (!) interviews ago, I told all the A-listers I interviewed that I was doing it for my listeners.

But as you’ve all probably heard, it was as much for me as it was for my audience.

So I culled the BEST takeaways, action items, quotes and inspirational insights from 50 of those interviews and put them into a book entitled . . . Cast of Mentors

Inside the book, you’ll find a couple of pages per mentor, with key questions and answers about how to make better theater – that you can read in 5 minutes. Yep, I designed the book for you to read in bites.

Got five minutes before a Zoom meeting starts? Read tips on directing from Kenny Leon. Or songwriting from Bobby Lopez. Or producing from Daryl Roth. Or life from Ali Stroker. Or . . . on and on and on. Because there are 50 of ’em in this volume alone. (See the full list of mentors below).

And now . . .

Cast of Mentors: Short Sage Advice From 50 Broadway Superpowers E-book and Paperbacks are available NOW!

And, of course, the Hardcover is still available for those who have an empty space on your coffee table.

 

The Cast of Cast Of Mentors:

Rick Miramontez

Charlotte St. Martin

Nina Lannan

Terrence McNally

Jordan Roth

Tim Rice

Ben Brantley

Michael Arden

Casey Nicholaw

David Henry Hwang

Ted Chapin

Susan Stroman

Daryl Roth

Joe Mantello

Stephen Schwartz

Lynn Ahrens

Diane Paulus

Jeanine Tesori

Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Robert Lopez

Leigh Silverman

Stephen Byrd

Bartlett Sher

Sue Frost & Randy Adams

Tara Rubin

Rick Elice

Lynne Meadow

David Stone

Kenny Leon

Stacey Mindich

Kathleen Marshall

Eva Price

Kwame Kwei-Armah

Pam MacKinnon

Sergio Trujillo

Lisa Kron

Rebecca Taichman

John Weidman

Joe Iconis

Michael Greif

Kirsten Childs

Dominique Morisseau

Ali Stroker

Mara Isaacs

Alan Cumming

Asmeret Ghebremichael

Jamil Jude

Mandy Gonzalez

Robyn Goodman

Paul Tazewell

 

Get the advice on how you can achieve your theatrical aspirations from all these mentors here.

Podcast Episode #237: New Destination Only For TheaterMakers

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS EPISODE:  12 Minutes

 

LISTEN WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS:

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

When I was in college at Tisch, I, like every other student at NYU, tried to get into nightclubs on the weekend.

And for some reason, the fancy door people, with their super chic outfits, always turned me away. In hindsight, it might have something to do with my khaki pants from The Gap, white shirt from The Gap and blue blazer . . . from JCPenney.

I did get into one. Once. One of the ladies from my acting class at Strasberg took pity on me, and escorted me past the velvet rope on her arm. (You know who you are, and I’m still thankful.)

When I got inside, well, things got worse. 

Listen to this week’s episode to find out what happened AND how a nightclub inspired me to create a new place for the cool theater people.

 

AFTER YOU LISTEN:

  • FOLLOW The Producer’s Perspective on Apple Podcast (it’s FREE!)
  • REVIEW the Podcast on Apple Podcast (it’s the biggest compliment you can give)
  • SHARE this episode with your friends!
  • JOIN the TheaterMakers Facebook Group

 

My mission is to get more people talking about the theater.  The more people talking about it, the more people who want to make it, perform it, support it, etc.  And that’s how theater not only survives, but thrives.

 

The biggest compliment you can give me is by sharing this podcast.

 

I thank you and the theater thanks you!

Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for The Hot Wing King

In case you missed the news last week, there was indeed a winner this year for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama!

(There have been several years where the award was not given – and in a year where there wasn’t a lot of theater as we usually know it – there was some worry that it’d get skipped again.)

But nope.  We have a winner!

Katori Hall’s play The Hot Wing King, “the story of two gay black men in Memphis, Tennessee navigating love, life, and family” picked up one of the most coveted awards in the world, the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The show opened at Signature Theater Company in February 2020 before being postponed, but was still granted eligibility for this year’s prize.

(Hall has had a busy couple of years – penning the book (and getting a Tony nomination) for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.  And she was the Executive Producer and Showrunner for P-Valley on Starz, based on her play.  Oh, and she also appeared on my livestream – click here to watch that video).

Another interesting tid bit about this year’s awards was that one of the finalists was a “streamed” production – Patrick Foley and Michael Breslin’s Circle Jerk. 

So yes, my theatermakin’ friends and theatermakin’ fans, streaming is here to stay.

Congrats to Katori, and all the finalists . . . and, well, anyone that got their play off the ground in the past 12 months.  You all deserve awards, just for making it happen.

– – – – –

Watch my interview with Katori Hall here.

June 11, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

Here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ Will Return to Broadway Next Season

A ‘contemporary celebration’ of Bob Fosse’s legacy is heading back to Broadway in the 2022-23 season. The show, which features a unique mix of songs (including Neil Diamond), will begin performances following a to-be-announced out of town engagement.

Read more: www.playbill.com 

 

2 – Musicians United for Social Equity Announces Two Mentorship Opportunities

Musicians United for Social Equity has announced two new mentorship programs for early to mid–career theatre musicians of color, aimed at achieving racial equity off stage on Broadway and beyond. Mentors include multiple Tony and Grammy winners that will give emerging professionals personalized programming opportunities. Applications for both programs are open now through the end of June. 

Read more: www.playbill.com 

 

3 – The Broadway League Announces Inaugural Juneteenth Event

The Broadway League is hosting the first ever Juneteenth celebration event, featuring several Broadway fan favorites. The free outdoor event aims to support and celebrate Black artists in the Broadway community and beyond. 

Read more: www.playbill.com 

 

4 – NYC is Planning a Central Park “Mega-Concert” with Producer Clive Davis

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is teaming up with legendary music producer Clive Davis to open NYC back up in style. The ‘mega-concert’ will take place on Central Park’s iconic Great Lawn this August with details to follow. 

Read more: www.Variety.com

 

5 – New York’s Beloved Drama Book Shop Reopens at New Location 

The beloved NYC Drama Book Shop is finally reopening its doors at its new location. Shoppers new and returning can make reservations to visit now. 

Read more: www.nytimes.com 

 

Fun on a Friday: 

Jimmy Fallon and Lin-Manuel Miranda sing of excitement for Broadway’s reopening in this star-studded clip.

 

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Want to be part of an online community of theatermakers? Join 1,000+ producers, writers, actors, directors, and more here. Best part? It’s completely free.

Maybe it was because I was about to turn 30.

Maybe it was because I was about to turn 30.

Or maybe it was because Raul Esparza, Amy Spanger and Jerry Dixon gave some of the best performances I’ve seen.

Or maybe it was because I so wanted Jonathan Larson to still be with us (imagine what he would have made next – #Rent was his #InTheHeights) and he never got the chance to write his Hamilton.

But seeing the original production of tick, tick…BOOM! was one of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life.

Which is why I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS MOVIE!

P.S. Trailer looks ridiculously amazing.  You agree?

 

A politician teaches you how NOT to fundraise for your project

One of a Broadway Producer’s primary responsibilities is to raise money.  It’s what makes us different from Movie Producers, Record Producers, and TV Producers. 

I used to complain about it. But as a mentor of mine said, “Ken, that’s the game. If you don’t like it, go produce movies instead of theater.”

That shut me up big time. Because it reminded me that we have the choice to do whatever we want in this life. I choose the theater, with all its idiosyncrasies. And instead of complaining about what bugs me, I take the serenity prayer to heart. I accept the things I cannot change, and work with a positive attitude to change the things I can.

One profession who has to raise more money than a Broadway Producer is a Politician.

So, I watch how they do it like a hawk watching a hawk.

I learned a couple of things about how they do it pretty quickly:

  • They follow up and then follow up some more.
  • They come at you through email, text, phone calls, direct mail and would send a carrier pigeon if they could.
  • They’d love a big check, sure, they’ll take lots of littles ones too.
  • They’re good at it. Because their jobs depend on it.

 

Which is why I was so shocked when a certain political candidate I follow was effin’ up so badly.

I’m not going to name names, because, well, it makes no difference who it is. And I eff up all the time, and I wouldn’t want someone else pointing it out either. (Let he without a marketing sin, cast the first e-stone.)

So what was this politician (or his team, more precisely) doing to decrease his/her chance of raising money?

This politician sent out emails that described their fundraising efforts as follows:

“pacing behind our goal.”

“not great.”

“we expect to get pummelled . . . “

 

There are more, but you get their drift. And I’m sure you get why this is the wrong approach when raising money.

No one ever wants to throw money at a sinking ship. One of the most powerful marketing strategies is social proof – demonstrating that whatever it is you’re selling is popular with tons of people. Because people want to do what other people are doing. You see a long line at a restaurant or a night club? You want to know what’s going on. You see a lot of people with the same sneakers or handbag? It makes you curious.

So telling everyone that people AREN’T giving you money when you’re asking them over and over? That can drive people the other way!

Now, the exception to this rule would be if this politician was going to his or her inner circle with open and authentic asks for real help. But communicating this way with potential backers who you don’t know that well, is a surefire way to NOT raise money.

(You can bet that I didn’t click “donate now” when I read these emails.)

Remember, when approaching investors, always be honest with where you are with your fundraising. But down-in-the-dumps, negative-marketing, is rarely a solution to raising money.  Or anything, for that matter.

 

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Want more tips on raising money?  Get my book, How To Raise Money For The Arts or for Anything.

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