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

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The Challenge of Creating Theater during Covid-19. Quite Literally.

As the pandemic continues to put a damper on everyone’s theatrical plans, it can be a struggle to, well, plan.  And I get it. Believe me. On March 10th, I said to my staff, “We’re going to have four musicals debut in the next 18 months!”
 
We planned. A virus laughed.
 
But we WILL get the last effin’ laugh when our curtains go back up. I mean, what a celebration it will be!
 
That’s what I say to myself every morning when I fire up my computer and challenge myself with . . . well . . . coming up with things to do to make theater . . . when we can’t make theater.
 
Over the past few weeks, I came up with a whole bunch of daily tasks, activities, and serious ACTION ITEMS to prepare for ‘Curtain Up’ day.
 
And you know what? They are working. They are moving my projects forward when it’s hard to move anything forward.  
 
That’s why I want to share them with you. And I want you to have some fun at the same time.  🙂
So last week, we created The 19 Day “Creating Theater During Covid-19” Challenge.
What the shutdown is that?
  • 19 daily video lessons from me describing a task (that I do) to keep your project moving forward.
  • A forum to post your assignments/homework.
  • Feedback from fellow committed TheaterMakers like yourself.
  • A “Get Produced” Blueprint WHEN you successfully complete the challenge.
  • And a few surprises along the way.
Does it cost something?
 
Yes. $19. (Get it?)
 
And we’re donating the profits to my Dad’s encouragement fund.
 
I guess we could have made it free instead. But I find that you’re much more likely to “show up” for something when you have to pay for it. True, right? (Why do you think personal trainers exist!). 
 
And I want you to complete this mother-chuckin’ challenge because I want your shows out there in the world when this is over. (And with all this vaccine talk – I figure we’re starting to see a glimmer of light down the road – so now is the time to get ourselves ready!)   And this way we give a little boost to the upcoming TheaterMakers at the same time.
Who’s in to make some theater?
 
The challenge starts on August 10th. Absolutely no latecomers.
 
Sign up for it here.
 
And prepare for some coronavirus-kickin’ action.
 
 
 

7 Predictions For When Broadway Comes Back. Part II

Welcome back, readers, and prepare ye for four more predictions for post-Covid Broadway.
 
In case you missed it, my first four projections went up here a wee 24 hours ago. And I emailed some of you Early Adopters the remaining four last night.
 
For those of you not on that list (which you can get here), here are four MORE things that will change when Broadway comes out of its coronavirus cave.
 
4. Streaming will still be a thing.
 
Not only is streaming not going away, but it will expand even when we don’t need it like we do now.
 
I’m not talking about the umpteen livestreams that are poppin’ up like podcasts or blogs did a few years ago. No, no. Most of those will disappear like . . . well, like the many podcasts and blogs that lie dormant in the internet graveyard.
 
I’m talking about full on productions, filmed for posterity and (hopefully) profit.
 
This shutdown has proven how fragile our economic model is. We (and when I say we, I mean all sides of the aisle from Producers to Artists) are going to need an insurance policy in the future, just in case . . . just in case . . .
 
I think that’s a cue for my 5th prediction.
 
5. Broadway will shut down again.
 
At some point in the next few decades, we will go through this again. We’ll be effin’ better at it then, for sure, but this will not be the last time a pandemic put our backs against the wall.
 
Remember when we never shut down for snowstorms? And then a few years ago, we just did. And now, we close up shop about once a year for a storm of some sort (and for good reason, I might add – as nothing is more important than safety).
 
The virus dam has broken on Broadway and around the country, and I predict we’ll go through another contagious storm during my lifetime.
 
(I say this NOT to be alarmist, by the way. I say it so that we’ll prepare for it. And yes, capturing our performances is one way.)
 
6. Remember all those corporations that came into town?
 
Here is the thing about big business . . . they come when they smell money, and they run when they don’t. Broadway’s boom brought a lot of boys to our yard. But they don’t like to sweat like a startup. That’s why I’d bet that we’ll see fewer corporate players on Broadway when we come back.
 
And that’s not such a bad thing.
 
Fewer bucks from boardrooms means more room for the independent TheaterMaker. And that, my friends is what we need to get us back to where we were before and beyond.
 
As Cameron Macintosh said, “It is my instinct that the theatre has always survived on mavericks – people with a passion for the theatre who go their own way.”
 
So get ready, because our depression may lead to our renaissance.
 
Which leads me to . . . my seventh and final prediction (for now anyway).  And, you know what?  If I only got this next one right, I’d gladly be wrong about the other six, because it’s that important.
 
7. Black Lives will matter on Broadway.
 
Yes, I say this because it should happen. Yes, I say this to put it in the universe to will it to happen. But I also predict that it will happen because of what I’m seeing start to happen.
 
And this beginning is because of the honest and courageous work of the organizations that are rising to this challenge, or who have been born from it. Broadway Advocacy Coalition (if you haven’t attended one of their forums, you simply must), Black Theatre United, Black Theatre Coalition, Black Theatre Network and all those orgs (including those led by students (!)  at universities), the theater owes you a debt that we can only repay through our action.
I’ve pledged to take action. And I encourage all TheaterMakers to do the same. Because we just can’t let up, even when the Covid crisis is over.
 
Those are my predictions . . . what are yours? Do you see big changes, small changes, any changes coming to Broadway post-Covid? Put ’em in the comments below.
 
Oh, and if you want to hear the predictions of people much smarter than I am, you should come to this.
 

7 Predictions For When Broadway Comes Back. Part I

I spend a good 25% of my day thinking about what we’re going to look like on the other side of this thing.

It’s not the healthiest activity to engage in. Things change so fast, it’s hard to know where we’ll be tomorrow, never mind next March (fingers crossed).

But I do it anyway. And I know you do too.

So I thought I’d share three predictions that I see coming as a result of the Broadway shutdown.

Oh, and big ol’ disclaimer . . . every time I make a prediction, by the time I finish making it, something changes.  So I promise to have another set of these suckers in a few months.  Make sure you get ’em by signing up here.)

Here are my predictions as of today:

1. More shows will come in cold.

We’ll have a lot fewer out-of-town tryouts in the coming years, especially in the short term. In fact, I’ve heard rumors about a few new shows that have already committed to coming straight in.

Why? Won’t we still need the creative R&D?

Yes! But the current, previous out-of-town model will be too expensive in the new Broadway economy (see Prediction #2).

And, the out-of-town tryout will also be too . . . well . . . out-of town! Even with a vaccine, trust in travel isn’t going to appear overnight. I expect artists will prefer to keep their circles smaller and stay-at-home, if they can.

Which brings me to . . .

 

2. Everything will cost less . . . because it will have to.

Costs have risen like a rocket over the past several DECADES.

It was hard to keep a lid on ’em, to be honest, since the mega-hits were earning so much mega-profit.

Vendors, unions, and everyone who makes a living on Broadway set their rates based on the best possible scenario, not average scenarios. So, as long as one out of five shows continue to recoup, it’s hard to make the argument that expenses are out of whack. (We’ve had a 20% success rate since we started keeping track!) 

But that potential has changed. Tourists account for 65% of our audience, and right now many can’t come to the city without quarantining for 14 days! Unemployment is 50% higher than it was in 2008. And our audience has said they’re not sure when they are going to come back.

Does that mean we do nothing? NO. We need to produce shows. We need theaters lit. The ONLY way we get back to where we were before and beyond is to raise the curtains. When our audience hears the roar of the crowd and smells the greasepaint, they will run back.

But how do we do that if the risk is HIGHER than it was pre-Covid? You stimulate the production by decreasing the costs . . . across every budget line.

 

3. Broadway Investors will get better returns.

And hey, hey, Broadway Producers (this guy included), don’t think you can ask everyone else to cut expenses and not cut your potential as well

Because here are two truths . . .

First, you know what is going to be hard to do in the next year? Get people to invest in Broadway.

You know what helps stimulate investing in Broadway . . . or in anything? Giving Broadway investors better returns.

We’re asking for the people we “deal” with to change their models . . . we’re going to have to change ours.

 

Phew . . . this is a lot to digest. My anxiety level just spiked and I have three predictions to go!

I’m going to go drown that anxiety in a big, sugary coffee from Starbucks. I’ll tell you the other three things (including the BIG ONE) in tomorrow’s blog.

Don’t want to wait? I already wrote the other four predictions. If you want them now or are afraid you’ll miss them tomorrow, then fill in the form below.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you! Anxiety ahead!

“Give me the rest of them now, Ken!”

 

FILL IN FORM BELOW:






Tonight on the Livestream: 6-Time Tony Nominee, Danny Burstein

Danny Burstein has one of the most unique resumes on Broadway. And it’s because of something he told me on the podcast we did a bit ago.

He doesn’t like to repeat himself.  He likes to challenge himself.

With six Tony Award nominations and a resume the length of the tails he wears in Moulin Rouge, the strategy seems to be working.

That’s why I’m looking forward to hearing how he’s dealing with the challenges he is facing now . . . including recovering from a very nasty battle with COVID-19 (his show, Moulin Rouge, was one of the toughest hit by the virus early on)

Danny will be on my livestream TONIGHT at 8pm EDT, so tune in to hear what his battle with COVID was like and his outlook on the future.

One thing I can guarantee about our chat . . . Danny will give it to us straight . . . yet still with a smile.

See you tonight!

Set your reminder for tonight’s episode here.

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

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 25th – Patrick Page (Actor – Hadestown, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, The Hunchback of Notredame)

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.

How our conference has changed . . . and tickets are (finally) on sale.

At the end of our conference last year, I told my team . . . “Next year, we’re going to do something totally different!”

Little did I know! 🙂

The theater is a constantly evolving art-form, so it only makes sense that our conference is evolving as well!

What has changed?

First, we’ve got a new name . . . The TheaterMakers Summit! Since our past attendees have included such a mix of Playwrights, Composers, Producers, Investors, Directors, Actors and everyone who makes theater, we wanted to honor them all.

Second, surprise, surprise . . . we’re going virtual!

Our virtual summit will be held on November 14th, 15th . . . and an extra intensive day on the 16th for a select few (More on that in a minute).

Now, look, I’ll admit it. I was a bit bummed when I realized we weren’t going to be able to have our conference in person this year. I even threw a tantrum my two-year-old would be proud of. Here’s how it went down:

We were in the middle of a Zoom last May when I said, “If we can’t have our conference in person, then forget it! I don’t want to do it!”

And I e-stomped off (which means I “booped” out of the meeting).

I e-stumbled back into the Zoom room a few minutes later (my staff was still there . . . they knew I’d be back) and said, “Ok, ok, if we’re going to do it virtually, then we’re really going to DO THIS virtually!”

Once I accepted the cards we were dealt, we spun the negative into a super-duper positive.

And now I am so excited that we’re going to be entirely online. Because we’re going to be able to unite more TheaterMakers from all over the world, with speakers from all over the world . . . without anyone having to travel. The conversations on how to make theater in the new world will be more robust than ever!

And we need those conversations. Because let’s face it. We’ve got some hurdles to overcome.

And the best way to figure out how to solve our problems is to get more and more ideas tossed out on the table by more people.

That’s why I’m going to have leaders from Broadway, Regional Theaters, Foreign Market theaters, Community Theater, High School Theaters and more. We’re going to have experts on all of the subjects facing TheaterMakers today from diversity to streaming to safety in the time of Covid . . . not to mention how to raise money in this craziness, how and where to pivot, what “The Road” is going to look like, and lots more.

And in addition to two days of great content, we’ve added an entire bonus day . . . which will feature more “group thinks” and interactive workshops, for those who want to dig into the issues even deeper.

With the attendance we’ve had in the past, and as accessible as can be since it’s virtual, it could be the biggest public conference of TheaterMakers ever.

Tickets have NOT been on sale . . . until today. (It has taken us some time to figure all this out!)

You can get them here (and you’ll also see the incredible line up of speakers we already have . . . and that’s just a few of them!)

And for those who get a ticket by this Monday at 11:59 PM Eastern, you’re going to get that interactive bonus day for free.

Oh, and expect some other surprises as well.

So yeah, the conference is gonna be different. But I think that’s perfect. Because different is exactly how we need to think right now if we’re going to succeed in getting the theater back to where it was before . . . and beyond.

Learn more and get your tickets for the annual TheaterMakers Summit here.

Looking forward to e-seeing you there.

Get your ticket here.

[REMINDER] 10 Days until Apps Due for the Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund Scholarships

Yesterday, I wrote a post to the recently graduated seniors who are jumping into the deep end of the biz right now (with less water in the pool).

Today’s post is a quick reminder to the future TheaterMakers who are still in school . . . as well as those TheaterMakers who need assistance to keep creating.

A month ago I announced two scholarships in honor of my Dad called The Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund, and the deadline for applications is due in 10 days . . . on July 31st!

For more info and to apply, click here.

My dad looks forward to encouraging you to keep creating.

And please share if you know a student that could use some help with their tuition.

 

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

Listen to All Episodes of The Producer’s Perspective Podcast

——-

Don’t forget! I’m going LIVE every Tuesday over on my Facebook at 8pm eastern. To see the full schedule visit, www.theproducersperspective.com/LIVE.

Tonight on the Livestream: Broadway star, Steven Pasquale!

Steven Pasquale is always at the top of every casting director’s list for every role on Broadway.
 
The problem is, the same is true in Hollywood.
 
We’re lucky that he loves the stage as much as he does, which is why we snagged him for Bridges of Madison County (a show I was proud to produce), American Son, Junk, and a few more.
 
And tonight, I snagged him for our livestream!
 
Join me tonight at 8pm EDT when I chat with Steven about how he’s holding up through the pandemic, what he’s doing to keep creative, and more.
 
And what Steven doesn’t know is that tonight’s livestream is really an intervention to get him to do even more theater. 🙂
 
So join me!
Set your reminder for tonight’s episode here.
And look who’s joining me over the next few weeks:

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.

My message to the 2020 Graduated Seniors getting into the Theater.

You had one dream.
 
You wanted to be in a show. Or direct a show. Or write a show.
 
What did you get instead?
 
A @#$% show.
 
I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be you right now. Look, we’ve all got our own drama to deal with because of the pandemic, but it pains me to think of how it’s affecting you.
 
Because I remember how excited I was to get to it. To audition. To do readings. To drink black coffee at the Westway diner until 3 AM spitballing new show ideas with friends.
 
And now, I have a feeling that the optimism you should have right now . . . the optimism you had in February when you were counting down the days until you were a Pro . . . has faded.
 
I get it. I do.
 
I’m sure you still get yourself pumped up about a Zoom reading, or a self-tape, or a theater that’s opening in Germany. But then, a quick check of CNN sends you into a “Will we ever get back to normal?” spiral.
 
Well, I’m here to tell you that . . . no, we will not get back to normal.
 
And that should get you more excited than the idea of winning your first Tony.
 
Why? Why is THIS the most exciting time to be a graduating senior from a college theater program? Or a high school kid going into a college theater program? Or any kind of TheaterMaker at any age looking to make a career in the theater?
 
The theater is one of the oldest art forms on the planet. It’s filled with glorious traditions, techniques . . . and a whole lot of archaic rules.
 
Especially on Broadway.
 
And now . . those rules are being rewritten all over the world.
 
And you’re going to be the generation that gets to rewrite them.
 
I’ve said before that it would take a “dark period” like we had in the 80s to loosen up its artistic and economic restrictions.
 
And, well, we got it. (I never imagined ALL of our theaters would be empty!)
 
So what makes theater theater? Does theater have to happen in a theater? What can we do about the price of tickets? Or the price of putting on a show?
 
These are all questions that you can help answer . . . when any other time the industry would ignore you.
 
But not now.
 
It’s going to be a painful few months. Maybe even more. But hold tight. Stay strong. Because we will return.
 
And get together with friends . . . just not at the Westway diner just yet. Come up with answers to these questions and questions we haven’t even asked yet.
 
Because you are the future of the theater.
 
Do that and the theater will not only return, but it’ll come back stronger than before.
 
– – – – –
If you are a student or know one, we’ve got a scholarship just for you, see here.  If you’re NOT a student, but just a passionate TheaterMaker, we also have one for you too.  

A few (choice) words from Governor Cuomo (that may sound familiar).

This will be brief.

And it will NOT be a trashy takedown of our Governor. Because he has done a fantastic job facing this monster of a crisis.

No, no. The choice words I have for him are his own

Let me explain . . .

After New York hit the apex, our Governor appealed for aid from the federal government.

And every day he expressed frustration at how Congress was talking about diving up the money.

His argument was simple . . . More money should go to the states that suffered the most.

He even got into Twitter fights about it.

And of course, he was right. The people who hurt the most should get the most help.

So, Governor (and Honorable Mayor de Blasio, as well), I hope that logic will apply to Broadway and the theater as well.

See, the theater is one of the hardest hit industries in our city, our state . . . and on the damn planet. There is no curbside pick-up for the theater. No take-out. No 50% occupancy.

It’s all or nothing. And for the foreseeable future, it’s nothing.

When you give the green light for New York to enter ‘Stage 4 on Monday’ (cross fingers), theater doors will remain shut.

And almost 100,000 actors, musicians, stagehands, and more will remain out of work.

Like New York state, these individuals suffer the most.

And, at the same time, these individual are part of an industry that has an economic impact of $14.7 billion a year.

So, using your logic, shouldn’t the industry that is suffering the most, yet providing the most, get the most?

Isn’t this the same as you telling the fed that New York should get the most, because it paid the most to federal coffers?

You know why this blog can be brief?

Because what you said makes so much sense.

And now it makes sense for us.

– – – – –

Interested in hearing more about how Broadway and the theater comes back?  Last chance to join the 3 Part video series that started earlier this week.  But the 3rd video – about safety in the era of coronavirus – is still to come!  And when you sign up, you get access to the other vids as well.  Click here.

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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