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

AS SEEN ON

WANT NEW POSTS AND PODCASTS DELIVERED DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX?

Sign up below to get weekly content plus Ken’s new book “How To Succeed in the Arts…or in Anything!”

Latest from the Blog

Unlike Hollywood, we DON’T do it this way.

Some say Broadway and Hollywood are sister industries.

Eh.

Stepsisters with the same hair color that often get confused for real sisters, maybe.  But I’m not so sure we’re related by blood.

One of the primary differences between the two sort-of-siblings is how things get purchased (aka produced.)

I was reminded of this the other day when I was talking to a Hollywood screenwriter of mine. I caught her on the phone while she was celebrating the sale of a pilot.

“Wow,” I said. “How did that happen?”

“What do you mean, Ken? I went into a meeting.  I pitched the idea. They’re paying me for it.”

That’s right. She sold it on a pitch. And lots of folks in Hollywood have similar stories.

Now, imagine going into a Broadway Producer’s office and pitching a play or musical . . . and someone buying it right there!

It doesn’t happen.

Because on Broadway as opposed to Hollywood, we don’t buy on pitches.

So what does that mean for you if you’re a TheaterMaker looking to get produced?

First, remember that when you make a pitch, no one is going to produce your show based on only that pitch. Remove that possibility and you’ll remove some of the stress about it.

Your goal at a pitch meeting is to get the Producer impressed about the idea, and more importantly, impressed with YOU. Your goal is only to get them to want to read your script or attend a reading when something is on its feet.

This is the same advice I gave when I spoke to a group of actors a few weeks ago. Don’t go to the first audition trying to get the part. Get the callback first. THEN we’ll figure out how you can get the part.

Second, and related . . . if we don’t buy on pitches, how does Broadway “buy”?

Well, it’s baked into the above, but the truth is . . .

Broadway doesn’t buy on pitches.  Sometimes we buy on pages. But more often than not, we buy on what we see PERFORMED.

That’s right . . . the fastest way to get someone like me to produce your show is to get it up. In some way shape or form.

It doesn’t have to be a full production.  It doesn’t even have to be a reading. Tony Winners Pasek and Paul got their first show on by putting songs on YouTube.  Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa Kron wrote and starred in short plays of her own. Lin-Manuel was performing in the basement at the Drama Book Shop (which he now OWNS).

If you want to get produced, yes, prepare your pitch. And yes, perfect your pages.

But figure out how you can get show your show performed.

(Oh, and before you run to Hollywood because you want to sell some stuff just based on your idea, let me break it to you . . . sure, they buy stuff on pitches, but there is no guarantee they’ll ever make it.)

—-

Want more advice like this? Join the TheaterMakers Facebook Group and connect with more theatermakers like you.

10 Inspiring Books By TheaterMakers To Read Right Now (And how to win them all!)

So, who doesn’t need a little inspirational pick-up right now?

And who better than to inspire you than some of the most successful TheaterMakers?

Below is a list of 10 Inspiring Books written by your favorite TheaterMakers, that will help inspire, entertain and educate . . . at the same time. 

And get this – we’re going to give away ALL TEN to one lucky person!  Keep reading, and at the end of the list, I’ll explain how.

I hope you’ll support the incredible hard of these TheaterMakers by picking up a copy.  Or two (I like to buy two copies of books – one for myself and one to give to someone who I know would enjoy it.)

  1. Take You Wherever You Go  by Kenny Leon
  2. A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stage by Kristen Chenoweth
  3. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
  4. Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by Leslie Odom Jr.
  5. Fearless by Mandy Gonzalez
  6. The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker
  7. Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood by Andrew Rannells
  8. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  9. Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  10. The Backstagers and The Ghostlight by Andy Mientus

 

Ok, to win this basket of books, here’s what to do!

  • Head over to my Instagram post about the books.
  • SHARE this post to your story and TAG me @kendavenportbway.
  • I will BUY all 10 of these books for the winner (to be announced tomorrow on my Instagram).

 

Good luck and happy reading!!!

 

Podcast Episode #229: The challenge with revivals as we revive Broadway.

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS PODCAST EPISODE:  18 Minutes

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN:

  • FOLLOW The Producer’s Perspective on Apple Podcast (it’s FREE to do so!)
  • Rate/Review on Apple Podcast
  • FOLLOW on Broadway Podcast Network’s FREE iOS app
  • Share this episode with your friends!

DESCRIPTION:

Some might say that I made my name producing revivals:  Godspell, Spring Awakening, Once on this Island . . .

Which is why you’ll be surprised when you listen to this podcast that explains why I won’t be producing any more of them on Broadway.

SPOILER ALERT:  Some serious data revealed – both from my personal experiences producing Broadway revivals and from our study of the industry.

AFTER YOU LISTEN:

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.

You can help get more people talking about it by sharing this podcast.

 

I thank you and the theater thanks you!

April 16, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From the announcement of the first show to open in NYC to top theatres acting to root out ‘system failure’ of racism to Lin Manuel Miranda and Mayor DiBlasio opening up a vaccination center in Times Square. . . here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – PERFECT CRIME to Reopen as First Show with Equity-Approved Cast in New York

It has been officially approved and announced by the Actors’ Equity Association that Perfect Crime will reopen. The show is set to open beginning April 17th and will be the first show to open with an Equity-approved cast in New York City.

Read more: broadwayworld.com

 

2 – ‘The heat is on’: top theatres act to root out ‘system failure’ of racism

“The Young Vic and Royal Court theatres have entered into a process that aims to root out systemic racism from their venues. Both London institutions have signed a partnership with the social enterprise Sour Lemons that will interrogate the internal structures that uphold institutional racism, raise awareness and accountability, and listen to staff’s experiences of racism inside the buildings.”

Read more: theguardian.com

 

3 – ‘Bridgerton The Musical’ TikTok Creators Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear Sign With CAA

Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, creators of the viral TikTok smash Bridgerton The Musical, have signed with CAA and Kraft-Engel Management.” The duo first came into the spotlight because of their viral Bridgerton-inspired number in January. They’ve been documenting the journey on TikTok, with their songs and performances reaching more than 165 million views with fans all over the world.

Read More: deadline.com

 

4 – T. Fellowship to be renamed in honor of Hal Prince

The T. Fellowship has been renamed the Prince Fellowship in honor of its founder, the late Hal Prince. The 2021 Prince Fellowship, which will open up applications at the end of April, will run from September 2021 through August 2022. 

Read more: broadwaynews.com

 

5 – Lin-Manuel Miranda, de Blasio open Broadway vaccination site in Times Square

A vaccination center was opened on Monday in Times Square for all Broadway workers. Appointments will be reserved for the community of theatermakers living in NY and working on Broadway. The center will be staffed by fellow community members, including “Wicked” company manager Susan Sampliner.  

Read More: broadwaynews.com

 

Fun on a Friday: The Late Show spoofed Hamilton with a ‘My Shot’ vaccine parody

—————————————————————————

Want to be part of an online community of #theatermakers? Join 600+ theatermakers here. Best part? It’s completely free.

 

The answer I HOPE to hear when I ask ticket buyers what got them to buy a ticket.

As the theater comes crawling back to life, marketing is going to be more important than ever.

Every dollar we spend, and every dollar that comes back, is going to be 10x as important as it was. We’re all going to have a bunch of startups. And startups demand more attention to details than ever before.

I’m a big believer in audience research. I became obsessed when I attended a focus group about the Bernadette Peters revival of Gypsy I worked on in 2002. (Some of the people we talked to didn’t realize it was a different production from the Tyne Daly Gypsy from the early 90s!  It taught me that just because you eat, sleep and breathe your show and all of Broadway, doesn’t mean your audience does!)

The most important question to ask your audience is the following:

How did you hear about “INSERT NAME OF SHOW”?

That’s it. So if you WANT to do research but DON’T want to do complicated surveys or focus groups, you can learn a ton with JUST that one question.

Tracking the path your customers take to buying a ticket is how to understand . . .

1 – What is working . . . so you can double down on it

2 – What isn’t working . . . so you can turn it off.

So what’s the one answer I LOVE to get every time I ask this question?

When I started out and needed an ego boost, I LOVED hearing that the customer heard about my show through an advertising buy I authorized (a billboard, etc.), or through a marketing stunt I came up with.

But then I realized that my favorite answer was . . .

“I don’t know.”

This meant two things:

1. It meant that they most likely heard about it through word of mouth, which is the most important form of advertising.  It’s the most effective, and it’s the cheapest.  Getting WOM, especially in an industry with challenging economics like Broadway, is essential for the show to survive.

2. Not knowing what morsel of marketing got them to buy a ticket means your marketing is working under the radar.  And that’s the best form of marketing. It’s working without them knowing it’s working. It’s branding.

Now, unfortunately, there is no quick hack to getting this kind of response.

You have to do great work . . . and do it for a long time.

And that’s the quickest way to NOT be a hack.

– – – – –

If you’re looking for marketing tips, check out the marketing course included with your membership in The TheaterMakers Studio.


 

3 Reasons Why Crowdfunding Did NOT Take Off on Broadway

It has been 10 years (!) since I crowdfunded Godspell. It remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in this business.
It took two years to put together. It took three law firms. I had to pass a securities exam. Oh, and let me tell you when this SEC slaps your wrist in the midst of your offering, you lose some sleep.
But, like most difficult things, it was also one of the best things I ever did for my business. And my life.
Not only did we fund the production, and help launch the careers of some superstars, but I’m also still friends with many of “People of Godspell”, which is what we called our Producers and Investors (we had over 730 of them!).
We created a family. And it still exists. (That’s pretty common with Godspell, actually, as anyone in it can attest.)
After we successfully crowdfunded the show, using an old regulation called a “Reg A,” Congress passed The Jobs Act . . . which made it MUCH easier for businesses to crowdfund. (Bad timing on my part!)
Everyone predicted an explosion of this type of microfinancing in all industries . . . Broadway and Off-Broadway included.
And it didn’t happen.
I don’t know of ONE Broadway or Off-Broadway production to utilize the new “Regulation CF” since it was passed.
Why?
There are three reasons why.
1. The max money you can raise
Regulation CF was designed for small businesses, so there’s a $5mm cap on how much you can raise. That immediately knocks out 99% of Broadway musicals, leaving only Broadway plays.
Now, ALL Off-Broadway shows are (or should be) well under $5mm. So, this regulation should be in “play” for any commercial producer looking to crowdfund an Off-Broadway show. Still, I don’t know of anyone who has done it. Yet. See below for why.
2. It ain’t cheap to raise small amounts of money.
In our business, there are a limited # of vendors in each area of expertise. There are 3-4 advertising agencies. 2-3 accounting firms. And there are more, but still a limited number of lawyers.
And our lawyers don’t specialize in this . . . which means you’ll need to hire another attorney who does. And that adds to your budget. And smaller businesses don’t want to add to a budget that they were concerned about raising in the first place.
3. You have to work even harder to raise less money.
I remember a consulting session I had once with a writer who launched a Kickstarter campaign. He wondered why he hadn’t raised all this money in the first five days. When I asked him what he had (added) done to promote it, he said, “Nothing. Don’t people just find it in Kickstarter?”
Like anything, just because you build it, doesn’t mean ANYONE will come. You have to spread the word about your offering. And when you’re raising small amounts of money at a time, you have to spread the word every further. We spent a ton of time and money marketing the Godspell offering. That, plus the press we get (that’s where the SEC got saucy), plus my own network, is what led to a successful raise.
Most people don’t want to work that hard. Because it’s true, it IS easier to raise bigger money from fewer people. (That’s why the point of crowdfunding shouldn’t be to raise the money – it should be to raise a marketing army – because all those investors with skin in the game, will shout your show’s name from their e-rooftops!)
(By the way – I gave Kickstarter guys some marketing nuggets and the good news is – he reached his total with three days to spare.)
Wait. Was that three reasons already? But I’m not done. So here’s a BONUS reason why crowdfunding hasn’t taken off on or Off-Broadway.
4. Producers think it makes them look desperate.

This is the one that we need to get over. By not allowing the small investor to participate in the making of theater, we’re ignoring a huge portion of the theatergoing population. Small donors are what got Barack Obama elected. Small investors are what brought down giant hedge funds with the GameStop saga.

And by embracing small investors, whether through crowdfunding or by Producers dividing up $50,000 units into more reasonable numbers, we could launch more new shows, more new voices . . . and market them as well.
– – – – –
If you’re looking for tips on crowdfunding, check out our 8 Tips for a Kick A$$ Kickstarter here, or get my book on How To Raise Money For The Arts Or For Anything.

On the anniversary: Dr. Kenny Dipchand Hasija 10/13/29 – 4/12/20

Dear “Kenny” . . . as you asked me to call you since I could speak. Not dad, no. Because you wanted me to know you were as much a friend as a father.
That’s one of the reasons that today, the one-year anniversary of your passing, is harder than I ever thought it would be. Because for the last twelve months, it felt like two of the closest people in my life were gone.
I know, I know. You’re not gone. And you never will be. I’ll never forget when you and my mother divorced and you told me we would always be together. Always. “We might not be in the same house or in the same state or even on the same continent, Kenneth, but anywhere we go in our lives, we are connected. Always.” And that we are. Because I can hear your support and encouragement with everything I do.
I do want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we never got to go to The Met. I’m sorry that this damn pandemic didn’t allow me to hold your hand when you finally left us on that Easter morning. I’m sorry that it has not been safe for me to travel to your childhood home in India and to spread your ashes in the Ganges as you told me you wanted. I know you understand. You always did. But know that as soon as I can, I will lay your spirit to rest in those waters, so that you may join your mother, and your young brother, and be at peace in the land you left so long ago.
And yes, yes, I know what you’re going to ask. And I will. I promise. I said, I promise! (Now, I know where I get my stubborn side.) And when I do it, I will owe it ALL to you.
Rest, my father and my friend. Thank you for what you did for me while you were here, and what I know you are doing for me, for your granddaughter (your “genetic code” as you said), and for my whole family, from high above us all.
Love,
Kenneth Anjum Hasija
In remembrance of Dr. Kenny Dipchand Hasija 10/13/29 – 4/12/20

Podcast Episode #228: How I know and how you should know what shows to do.

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS PODCAST EPISODE:  11 Minutes

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN:

  • FOLLOW The Producer’s Perspective on Apple Podcast (it’s FREE to do so!)
  • Rate/Review on Apple Podcast
  • FOLLOW on Broadway Podcast Network’s FREE iOS app
  • Share this episode with your friends!

 

DESCRIPTION:

“Why?”

It’s a common question.

“Why did you produce that show, Ken?”

A lot of people think it has to do we a google-like algorithm, or focus group results, or the “perfect budget.”

While I look at all of those things . . . it’s usually AFTER I decide I’m going to produce a show.

Want to know my super-secret system and what it has in common with this female billionaire?

Listen in.

And I advise you follow it when choosing what theater you choose to make.

April 9, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From Actors’ Equity releasing new protocols for fully vaccinated productions to the first performance in a Broadway theater since March 2020, here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . . 

 

1 – Broadway Reopened. For 36 Minutes. It’s a Start.

This event showcased the dancer Savion Glover and the actor Nathan Lane, where they performed before a masked audience of 150 scattered across one of the biggest Broadway Theaters, St. James. This event was the first such experiment since the coronavirus pandemic caused to close on March 12, 2020. It’s the first step home — the first of many,” said Jordan Roth. “This is not, ‘Broadway’s back!’ This is ‘Broadway is coming back!’ And we know it can because of this.”

Read more: nytimes.com

 

2 – Wear a Mask, Avoid Intermission: Lessons from the Covid Think Tank Town Hall 

The rapid rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has increased new and improved ideas and optimism about indoor theater swiftly reopening in the U.S. In addition to the vaccine, testing, enhanced theater ventilation, and continued mask-wearing is also the key to gradually restarting the industry. Their plan for reopening? “Plan now,” Dr. Smith said. “Even if you don’t have a go-live date…There are so many layers. There’s a lot to think about and to talk about.”

Read More: broadwayjournal.com

 

3 – COVID Passports: Entertainment venues air concerns over plans

The government has said Covid-status certificates could be used at theatres, nightclubs, and festivals starting in June. They could be used to prove vaccination or testing. They will be trialing this at events at venues in Liverpool, as well as sporting events. 

Read more: bbc.com 

 

4 – Actors’ Equity releases new safety protocols for vaccinated productions

The new guidelines come after the backlash from the community about previous protocols. Absent from these protocols are the requirements of private transportation to and from theaters, as well as the need for Plexiglas and 12 feet of distance on stage. Those regulations are still included in documents for indoor theater productions without a fully vaccinated workforce.

Read More: broadwaynews.com

 

5 – Neil Diamond Bio-Musical Sets Sights on Broadway

A Beautiful Noise is set to run for four weeks at the Emerson Colonial Theater Boston in 2022, the show’s producers, Ken Davenport and Bob Gaudio announced on Tuesday. They plan to bring the production to Broadway following that run.

Read more: nytimes.com

 

FUN ON A FRIDAY! Josh Groban’s New Song

Bush’s Beans and Josh Groban teamed up to give the bean the ballad it deserves.

 

 

—————————————————————————

Want to be part of an online community of #theatermakers? Join 600+ theatermakers here. Best part? It’s completely free.

I got great advice from this tech billionaire.

It’s not a secret that one of the places I look to learn the secrets of theater-making . . . is outside the theater biz.

First, by examining what other industries do, I get a perspective that I don’t have.

Second, a product is a product is a product. And even though our product is an art, we build it, market it, and sell it in the same way as everything else.

Here’s a story that reminded me of that basic truth . . . from the tech space.

In February, Whitney Wolfe Herd became the youngest female billionaire on the planet.

And she did it by breaking into one of the most competitive markets around . . . online dating.

Whitney invented Bumble, the dating app where women get to make the first move.

Now, whenever anyone breaks through ceilings like Whitney, the first thing I do is jump up and down for them and tell as many people as I can. (Purpose of this blog #1.)

Second, I try to learn from them, and how they bust through the barrier. . .  and then tell as many people about that so they can learn from it too. (Purpose of this blog #2).

And what I learned from the many articles I read about her success is all in this perfect little quote. When a reporter asked her why she made Bumble, she said . . .

“I’ve truly just always tried to build what I wish existed,”

Whitney didn’t follow some fancy business plan. She didn’t pay attention to algorithms. She didn’t listen to focus groups.

She thought about what would she would like to use, and what her friends would also like to use, and she built it.

And she made a billion dollars.

To put this in theatermakin’ terms?  Whitney’s quote is the same as saying . . .

I produce shows I want to see.

I write shows I want to see.

I direct shows I want to see.

I act in shows that I want to see.

Etc.

The cool thing about following this mission is two-fold:

1. You can’t go wrong. If the show doesn’t work? You got to see it. And you wanted to see it. I hang all the posters of my shows on my office wall, even the ones that didn’t “succeed.”  And they ALL make me smile. Because I wanted to see them.

2.  You have good instincts. If YOU want to see something. Odds are other people do too. You are your OWN focus group. This is derivative of the Peter Lynch philosophy of investing . . . investing in what you use every day. You are investing your time, creativity, money . . . into something you WANT to use every day. And I’d be if you want to see that show, there are a lot more people where you come from

So take heed to the tech billionaire’s advice when you’re making theater. And I look forward to hearing how you break through your barrier.

And if you want to see more about what other TheaterMakers think about this, click here!

– – – – –

If you want help breakin’ through, watch one of the masterclasses on everything from producing to writing to directing and more.

 

X