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

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Podcast Episode #244: What TheaterMakers Can Learn From Simone Biles

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS EPISODE:  7 Minutes

LISTEN WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS:

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

If you’ve been following The Olympics this year, or if you’re on the internet, you probably heard Simone Biles withdrew from an individual all-around gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Olympics in an effort to focus on her mental health and well-being, a decision which came one day after she removed herself from the team final.

Tune into my personal reaction of this news and then how I believe we can apply this lesson to all of our lives as we look to reopen the live theater industry.

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!

If you’re raising money for theater, read this . . .

TheaterMakers around the world have had a LOT to worry about over the last 18 months.

And when one worry passed, another one popped up. Am I right? 

(You don’t have to answer that. Because I know I’m right . . . because I’m making theater right along with you. And I know how I’ve felt at times through all this!)

I’ve been tracking a lot of these worries and concerns over the pandemic. And one keeps coming up . . . especially now that shows are getting ready to go back to the rehearsal room.

That concern?

It’s everyone’s favorite thing to do. You know, the reason why people got into the theater. To raise money.  😉

Because this keeps coming up in anxious emails and mentions in my Facebook group, I want to do something to help. If I can.  

I’m digging into some research right now. And asking my Broadway peers what they are experiencing with their investors. (And of course, I’m raising money for my shows as well).

And I’ll have a report for you in a few weeks right here on this blog. (From what I’ve found out so far, it’s going to be pretty fascinating – with some surprises).

But since I’m asking a lot of people, I thought I’d also ask you . . . you who are raising money or thinking about raising money, for your show or for other people’s shows.

Is raising money in a post-covid theater world something you’re concerned about?  

If you’ve got any concerns, questions, etc, click here. I’ve got a 10-second, one-question survey that will help me with my research.

Thanks for your participation, and your passion for doing what you do!
Click here to take the survey about raising money for the theater in 2021. And beyond.

July 30, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

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

1 – CDC Recommends Continued Mask Wearing Indoors

By now we know that our “new normal” looks different almost every day. And next week (!) Broadway will open Pass Over, the first play back after almost 17 months. But to be required to mask or not to be required to mask? That is the question! NY State and Andrew Cuomo are still debating whether the new CDC recommendations will apply to theaters as well.

Read more: www.broadwaynews.com

2 – TLP Announces Company Management

Attention Company Managers! The Theatre Leadership Project has announced its latest initiative for BIPOC Company Managers. The program will provide financial support to five Company Managers and assistants currently working on Broadway shows. Read below for more information about program details and application deadlines. Not a BIPOC company manager? Send this post to them and spread the word.

Read more: www.playbill.com

3 – Making Broadway Anti-Racist

A great reminder from arts journalist Ruthie Fierberg and Bway Advocacy Coalition that Broadway can’t go back to “business as usual”. It needs to go back better. Read more below for ways you can be part of the progress moving forward.

Read more: www.medium.com

4 – Live Theatre Can Make You a Better Person

The science doesn’t lie! New research says that experiencing a live theater performance has the ability to impact an audience’s empathy and actions in the real world (though, as theatermakers, we already knew that!). Bravo to The Public and Artists Repertory Theatre for allowing the world to (officially) see the impact our work has on the world.

Read more: www.psypost.org

5 – Show Must Go On Documentary

The show really must (and will) go on! Thank you, Sammi Cannold and Dori Berinstein for documenting the theatermaker’s experience through this unimaginable time. I cannot wait to see the documentary. Find more details about how you can support the film and The Actors Fund below.

Read more: www.playbill.com

Fun on a Friday:

Get an inside look at the first rehearsal back for The Lion King on the West End (and grab your tissues!).

 

Watch the video here:

 

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Want to be part of an online community of theatermakers? Join 1.5k+ producers, writers, actors, directors, and more here. Best part? It’s completely free.

My Revised Look At What Broadway’s Recovery Will Look Like

Things have changed since May of 2020.

Shoot, things have changed since yesterday!

But since May of 2020, when I first posted my “What The Broadway Recovery Will Look Like” series? Well, dang it, can any of you have imagined that we’d only have one Broadway show running a year later?

Not me. Not me.

Now that we’ve been through the great theatrical drought of 2020 (thanks, Covid!), I thought it was time to revise my prediction.

Because, in case I didn’t mention it. Things have ch-ch-ch-changed.

If you click here, you’ll see that last May, on this very blog, I predicted a “fishing hook recovery”, as opposed to a V-shaped or U-shaped recovery.

Here was my analysis in bullet point form:

  • Prior to the pandemic, things were going along gangbusters.
  • Then we slammed into the Covid wall and Broadway went from 60 to zero in zero seconds flat.
  • And we stayed there . . . and are still there . . . 
  • I then predicted a supersonic rise the moment that Broadway turned its lights back on.
  • After that, we’d have a continual upward trend, getting us back to where we were before in due time.
  • See here for the visual.

So what has changed?

It’s those last two bullet points that could use a rewrite.

Broadway is going to roar back to life when the big shows open back up. The pent-up demand, the support from locals, and the incredible amount of press that Broadway’s reopening is going to generate, is going to sell tickets. (If I had a show running, I’d be working hard to get as early an opening as possible, so I could be part of those press stories.)

And oh the word-of-mouth!

As I’ve been saying since the start of the shutdown, close your eyes for a moment and imagine what it’s like to be at the first performance of Hamilton . . . the first performance of Mrs. Doubtfire . . . Hadestown, or whatever your favorite Broadway show is. I mean, the ovation, the tears, and yeah, the word-of-mouth that’s going to sizzle through the city later that night. (Makes you want to buy a ticket right now, doesn’t it? Here’s a link! Do it!!!)

That said, I’m now predicting that we’ll have a fantastic fall and an even better holiday season.  (Of course, this comes with a big “Delta Variant” asterisk – with hopes and prayers that the unvaccinated begin to understand that they have the power to stop this thing.)

But, after the holidays? Well, that’s where the big change in my thinking is.

Am I doomsdaying?  No, no . . . NO.

Broadway will return to its pre-pandemic glory days. Thankfully, the economy is still roaring along, unlike in 2008. Our ticket buyers still have disposable income to spend on entertainment (and our tickets will also be cheaper – so maybe they’ll see more shows with the same money!)

The recovery is going to take longer, however. And more specifically, in January, I expect a big dip.  

In other ‘doodles,’ here’s how I think Broadway’s recovery is going to look now.

Why?

Well, it’s simple. January/February is always a difficult time. And while New Yorkers and locals will support our shows in the fall . . . the winter is something altogether different. Many aren’t even in the city!

Second, and this is the big one . . . NYC tourism, especially international tourism, which makes up a little of our usual winter-slack, will not have returned yet.

See, last May, we never thought we’d be down this long. And the longer we’re down, the longer it takes trends like tourism to restore to previous levels.

Here’s a prediction from NYC & Company from the NY Times:

New York attracted a record 66.6 million tourists last year and was expected to break that record again in 2020, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

The virus upended those expectations, and the city may reach only a third of last year’s total. NYC & Company has forecast 38.2 million visitors in 2021, rising to 69 million by 2024. Still, it predicts that the number of international visitors will take even longer to return to pre-pandemic levels.

With one-third fewer tourists going into 2022, we’re definitely going to have a smaller audience.

Broadway’s demographic is about 65% tourist. And 18% international.

And they’re not going to be here right away. And definitely not in January. Unfortunately, that means, we may have a little thinning of our herd come winter.

So, we’re coming back, people. But like everything in life, from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, to your own personal career trajectory, it’s not going to be a straight line up, like I had hoped (and should have known).

Broadway’s recovery is going to go up, take a step back, and then start to climb again . . . and just take a little more time than any of us would like. 

But, with hard work, great shows and even better marketing, we will get there. (I do think Summer of ‘22 will see a nice surge – and the good kind.)

And I can’t wait until the YEAR that we once again celebrate a new yearly Broadway box office record.

I’ll be around. You?

For more conversations on the state of the industry, you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Come say hi!

Have you seen what’s happening in here?

Check this out . . .

It has been 140 days since we opened up the TheaterMakers Facebook Group.

And we now have 1,400+ members in this group!

We 10x-ed, baby! Grant Cardone would be so proud!!!

As you can imagine, when you get THAT MANY TheaterMakers in one place, some DRAMATIC stuff happens.

Like this!

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TheaterMakers have been meeting collaborators, talking about marketing strategies, supporting each other’s development opportunities, making friends, and so much more.

In other words, the passionate peeps in this group have been making theater.

Join ‘em.  
It only takes a click.

Podcast Episode #243: “As Seen On TV” Commercials

ESTIMATED LISTENING TIME OF THIS EPISODE:  5 Minutes

LISTEN WHEREVER YOU LISTEN TO PODCASTS:

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

Remember infomercials? Late night shopping, ‘as seen on TV’ commercials? I discovered what worked with those commercials and how the most successful plays/musicals used a very similar technique.

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:

July 23, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

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

1 – Actors’ Equity Launches Open Access Initiative

Actors’ Equity Association launched its Open Access initiative this week, effective immediately. The goal of Open Access is to create a more accessible path to membership for actors and stage managers. The program extends eligibility to anyone who can show they have worked professionally in the industry, regardless of the organization’s Equity status. Bravo, AEA! Now let’s keep breaking down those barriers.

Read more: www.playbill.com

2 – Pass Over Announces COVID Restrictions

As we begin to fully understand what our return to live performance will look like, the first shows to return will lead the way. I applaud the courageous Producers of Pass Over on Broadway, who are not only the first play to open on Broadway, but they are the first to set protocols before things are really back to normal.  And they, like Bruce Springsteen, are requiring vaccinations from its adult theatergoers. Read below for more, including some masking requirements.

Read more: www.broadwaynews.com

3 – Historic Cherry Lane Theater Sold

After almost a century of mentoring some of the most recognized writers in American Theater, the historic Cherry Lane Theatre has been sold. The Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation has obtained ownership of the theater, and will announce future plans shortly.

Read more: www.broadwaynews.com

4 – Hollywood Unions Finalize COVID-Precautions

Figuring out our ‘new normal’ is happening one day at a time and across Every. Single. Industry. And this week it happened in Hollywood as film unions announce that studios will now be able to require productions to be fully vaccinated. Do you see this happening in the theater as well?

Read more: www.nytimes.com

5 – NYC Culture Is Leading the Reopening

In case there’s anyone out there who still needs proof that New York is BACK . . . look no further than the unlimited cultural activities opening up as we speak. And I can’t wait to get back out there with you. Check out everything the city has to offer below.

Read more: www.nytimes.com

Fun on a Friday:

Watch the first clip from Netflix’s Vivo, featuring the song “Keep the Beat” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. *will imbed in WP*

Watch the video here:

 

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Want to be part of an online community of theatermakers? Join 1.4k+ producers, writers, actors, directors, and more here. Best part? It’s completely free.

Your last chance to do this, TheaterMakers.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I called everyone I knew for advice. I’m talking big time theater people, as well as big time business people.

“What should I do?”

I got amazing advice. And it reminded me how important it was to ask for advice from others who are at places in their lives where you want to be. (And not just from a business “producer’s perspective” . . . but from a family perspective, a health perspective, a spiritual perspective, and more.)

One of the best pieces of advice I got was . . . “Ken, the people and companies who are going to come out of this ahead are the ones who are going to make use of this time.”

“But how,” I wondered. “Give me something practical I can do while I can’t do theater? I need a to-do list!”

“First, realize you’re not the only one whose business is shut down,” she said.

“Right,” I thought.

“Second, now is a great time for businesses to look at the plumbing of their business.”

I must have looked as confused as my 3-year-old when I asked her if she wanted to watch golf instead of Frozen.

“I don’t have plumb -,” I started to say.

“I’m not talking about literal plumbing. I’m talking about the stuff that makes your business operate. Open up the walls. Clean out the metaphorical closets. Fix the things that you never have a chance to fix when you are working as fast as I know everyone in the theater works when you’re blasting towards an opening night.”

So that’s what we did. A few examples of how we looked at our “plumbing” over the last 15 months?

Redesigned my company and this blog site from top to bottom. (They re-launch in September – watch for the announcement)

Established “flexible hours” and “flexible vacation” work schedule for all my employees.

Took over the bookkeeping of my office myself to understand how we could make it more efficient. (Cutting costs was pretty important through the last year.)

Had the entire office take unconscious bias training. 

Established partnerships with charity.

Established a new plan for social media.

Read at least 30 books on business and wellness.

Hired a business coach to help us figure out how to work on the plumbing of my business.

Closed three businesses that were taking up my time and not aligned with my goals.

And more.

I don’t tell you all this to say . . . “Look what we did.”

I tell you all these to give you ideas on what you can do . . . before the theater roars back at breakneck speed.

Because this pandemic is ending. And it will end. Despite this annoying last ditch attempt by the Delta variant. And despite the annoying individuals who are promoting anti-vaccination misinformation.  

Already there is a frantic pace amongst the Broadway TheaterMakers I talk to daily.

So if you want to look at the plumbing of your business . . . and you should . . . time is running out. 

Oh, and if you’re a one-person band, artrepreneur, TheaterMaker . . . and don’t think you’re a business . . . the first thing you should do . . . is realize you are one.  🙂

Opening up the walls and addressing what keeps you running isn’t the fun part of what we do.  There is no standing ovation for a clean Quickbooks account.  

But it’s one of the many things that will make the next year your best yet.

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If you need some referrals for “plumbers” or people who can take your theatermaking business to the next level, from websites, to logo designers to bookkeepers, email me. We love connecting theatermakers with people who can help them clean up and step up their game.

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

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

 

1 – Remembering Broadway Wig Designer Paul Huntley

Legendary stage and screen wig designer Paul Huntley passed away last week. I had the pleasure of working with Paul on Thoroughly Modern Millie – my first Broadway show as a Company Manager. His other credits include Sweeney Todd, Hairspray, and Cats. 

We lost a genius. Read more about Paul’s career below.

Read more: www.playbill.com 

2 – Emmy Nominations

The 2021 Emmy nominations were announced this week, which included several theatermakers getting some well-deserved recognition for their work on screen! A special congrats to MJ Rodriguez, who made history this week as the first trans woman to be nominated in the leading actress category. Find the full list of nominees below. 

Read more: www.broadway.com 

3 – Dana H + Is This a Room

When I first moved to NYC, Commercial Off-Broadway was in a crisis. Producers kept thinking of out-of-the-black-box ideas that could help restore commercial Off-Broadway to what it was before and beyond. Now, our solution for Off-Broadway is being used on Broadway, as Dana H and Is This A Room have announced their runs will SHARE the Lyceum theater this fall. More details about the productions below. 

Read more: www.broadwaynews.com  

4 – ALW Arts Activism

Andrew Lloyd Webber has been making major headlines this last year . . . and not just for his adaptation of Cinderella, which premiered last month. His shift to arts activist has taken the West End by storm, creating dozens of conversations about the arts rebuilding in a post-pandemic world. Read more below about how the composer turned arts activist has voiced his opinions on theater’s reopening on the West End.

Read more: www.nytimes.com  

5 – LMM and Philanthropy

Most people would say “art imitates life”. But for Lin-Manuel Miranda, they are one in the same. And I don’t know about you, but I can see that sentiment in everything Lin creates. Read more about the Miranda Family Fund grants and how art and philanthropy work their way into Lin’s daily life and work. 

Read more: www.apnews.com  

 

Fun on a Friday: 

Go behind the scenes of the music of Girls5Eva, featuring Broadway favorites Renee Elise Goldsberry and Sara Bareilles

 

Watch the video here:

 

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Want to be part of an online community of theatermakers? Join 1.2k+ producers, writers, actors, directors, and more here. Best part? It’s completely free.

An Off Broadway Model Comes To Broadway (It’s About Time)

I arrived in New York City during the Golden Age of Off-Broadway. Forever Plaid, Nunsense, And The World Goes Round, Cryptogram, Family Secrets, and more, were a few of the shows running in theaters under 499 seats . . . in commercial productions! And many actually recouped!  

When I started creating and producing commercial theater, I started Off-Broadway. I wasn’t ready to raise $10mm for Broadway shows (which is what they were then . . . compared to the $15-20mm they are now). I wanted to be a Lead Producer and didn’t have the decision-making experience yet. And, well, the ideas I had come up with were Off-Broadway ideas (my first three shows were The Awesome 80s Prom, Altar Boyz and My First Time).

So that’s where I started. 

No one told me that in the fifteen years since I arrived in NYC, the Off-Broadway model changed. And trying to run and recoup an Off-Broadway show was . . . ahem . . . challenging.  (And is even more so now.)

In other words, Commercial Off-Broadway was in a crisis.

So, I pivoted. And so did everyone else in the community. (This is when the Off Broadway Alliance was born . . . and I’m proud to say I was at that very first meeting!)

We asked ourselves . . . what were the out-of-the-black-box ideas that could help restore commercial Off-Broadway to what it was before and beyond?

One of the ideas that was born in this era was the idea of two, three or more shows, sharing a theater. We termed it “bunk-bedding”. It required simple sets, similar lighting plots and a whole lot of cooperation between companies (especially when the Producers were NOT the same people) . . .but it worked. My First Time ran at least an extra year because it was a “top bunk.”

It reduced costs, of course, but also reduced the # of performances in a week that each show could perform. And that was an advantage! Since there wasn’t demand for 8 shows for 99% of commercial Off-Broadway shows, bunk-bedding filled up fewer performances, increasing ticket scarcity. Almost the same # of tickets were sold for fewer shows as opposed to 8. And those fewer shows were filled, creating a much better experience for the audience. 

Need a case study? Of the three productions mentioned above that started my career? The ones with less than 8 performances did better financially. 

Flash forward, and Broadway (and the theater industry) is in a bit of a crisis as we stage our comeback from a pandemic.

Again, Producers face a question . . . how do we decrease risk, but still produce great theater?

Yesterday, a group of creative and bustin’-the-box thinkers, Dori Berinstein, Sally Horchow and Matt Ross, proposed a solution.

Using “bunk-bed” theory, these first-into-the-Broadway-battle-post-covid Producers are bringing TWO shows to Broadway . . . at the same time . . . to the same theater.

The plays, Dana H and Is This A Room, are transfers from The Vineyard, and they begin performances in late September at Broadway’s Lyceum.

As this article describes, these two shows are being done for the price of a touch-more-than one.

And most importantly, to quote Dori Berinstein (The Prom) . . .

 “It gives us an opportunity to bring great theater that might not otherwise make it to Broadway to Broadway.”

What could be better than that!?!?!

No one wanted this crisis. But one of the blessings (it’s hard to find them, but they are there), is that NOW is the time for artpreneurial Producers, Writers and all TheaterMakers to challenge our precedents and come up with new ways to make theater..

Because the theater is too important to NOT give everything a go.  

Oh, and when you’re looking for ideas? Sometimes, big businesses like Broadway should look to smaller businesses like Off-Broadway, to see what worked for them.

 

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