Introducing . . . Your Saturday Rant.

I don’t usually write blogs on Saturdays.

And I’m not going to write one today.

You’re going to . . .

Here’s the idea.  I like to tell people that I have the smartest and most passionate readers on the planet.  Since I spend so much time telling you what’s bugging me, I thought I’d open up the floor to hear what’s bugging you.

So here’s the idea.

Comment below . . . any freekin’ thing you want.  Rant away.  Talk about a bad experience you had at the theater.  Talk about a great experience you had at the theater.  Talk about how hard it is to market an off-off Broadway show.  Talk about how hard it is to market a Broadway show.  Talk about how people who sneak food into the theater annoy you.  Talk about how I annoy you.  But talk.

Just write a short little blurb about anything you’d like in the comment section of the blog and we’ll see what is on your minds.

We’ll see if people are ranting about similar things (and when several people are talking about the same things, you know we have to do something about it).  We’ll see if there are topics for future blogs, or future panels, etc.

But most importantly, we’ll see what is on the mind of what I think are some of the most passionate people in the theater today.

And if this works, and I get more than 10 rants . . . we’ll do it once a month.

Rant away.

To Rant:

– Click the comments button below.

– Email subscribers and Facebook readers, click here first, then click the comment button (so we can have all the rants in one place).

Go!

Tags:
Comments
  • RR says:

    My writing partner and I have spent the better part of a year crafting a new play–a comedy. We’ve had it read privately, we’ve had it read publicly and its gotten a terrific response. We talk about this play and its potential in NYC and we think it will work. (Of course we think it will work, we believe in it!). But when to we stop rewriting?? We can make changes forever! When will it be ready for the big city? I say, lets shop it around. Lets send it off. He feels we should keep working. This is what’s on my mind. I have a funny play sitting here waiting to make its debut! Is it ready? Is it ever ready?

  • EO says:

    Oh good, I’ve been looking for somewhere to rant about this. My favorite Broadway show closed two weeks ago. I saw it 12 or 13 time and paid everytime (ok, I never paid full price, but I’m a public school teacher and I paid everytime and often brought friends). So my love of the show is well known, and my friend mentioned it to the people she nannies for, who love theatre. They go see the show in a group of four on comp tickets. What? That could have made my show $500. If you don’t charge the people who can actually afford full price tickets, then how are you going to stay in business?

  • Brady Amoon says:

    Every day there is an opportunity for theatre: to see theatre or to interact with it. I love it, and I love the boards page on talkinbroadway.com. It’s the best resource for what’s playing on and off Broadway, including prices and a bit of what the show’s about.
    I try to go downtown and see new work as frequently as I see the big names in midtown, but I find it hard to find out about the shows I should see. I’d love a more exhaustive theatrical listing, that includes synopses and prices for the downtown shows as well.
    Other than Village Voice, are there other listings I should know?

  • Daniel says:

    The price of theatre. Ken, in the past you’ve said that price doesn’t matter as much, because theatre is a “luxury good”. That’s just the problem–theatre has become a luxury good! This has two major effects:
    One, the pool of people who can afford to see shows, or to see them with any regularity, shrinks dramatically. As someone who believes in theatre and its ability to uplift and enhance our human experience, I think that this is a travesty. We are quickly moving to the point where theatre is like yachting or polo–a niche hobby, only for the extremely well-to-do.
    Two, when it costs so much to produce shows, producers are less likely to take risks. Only safe, easily marketable shows (like movie adaptations) will ever be produced. This also means that shows have to run longer to recoup, which means that fewer shows (even safe ones) get produced. Which means that fewer writers get exposure and experience, which means that the general quality of writing goes down.
    I’d love to see someone *coughcoughKENcoughcough* do a study of Broadway budgets over the last 30-50 years and find out some hard numbers. Which parts of producing a show have led to the dramatic increase in cost? How much faster have ticket prices increased, as compared to inflation? And, most importantly, what can be done to bring down the cost of theatre for everyone?

  • Mike says:

    My rant: there has got to be a way for people to outside of NYC to experience theater – I’m not talking about more touring shows, which would be nice, but some way to allow people who don’t live in the northeast to understand the diversity and caliber of these performances. Filming, broadcasting, simulcasts, webcasts, SOMETHING. I’d love to see more shows, but driving 7 hours to New York with a little baby to see a few shows after coughing up a mortgage payment for a hotel just isn’t going to be possible more than once every year or so, and I really love to do it, but as one of the posters ranted above, the “niche” market also only includes only people within reach of NYC. Wouldn’t producers like to expand their customer base to, say, Omaha? I think if more people could see these shows, they’d be more interested in general (sports, being a live medium, has had no problems extending their reach and demand: the Detroit Lions actually have fans! And they pay for tickets too). Why Broadway hasn’t done this, or isn’t making moves to do this is beyond me. I simply can’t afford to make it such an event any more. I caught the bug, but now I’ll have to wait for the next over-priced non-Equity tour of Cats to come by in order to get my fix. And I really, REALLY don’t like that show. /end rant

  • Adolfo Busó says:

    Live theater is awesome! I have seen a lot of theater productions for the past two and half years because I was the Theater Critic of a now-gone magazine. Everything from well-known pieces like AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, NOISES OFF, M. BUTTERFLY, NORMAN CONQUESTS and NINE to new local productions like BARRIO ARRIBA, BARRIO ABAJO and FLOW. I love to see live theater! And I made a good name out of myself on the Theater Community of my country. I treated every aspect of the show with respect; even if what I needed to say wasn’t that pretty. Somehow, I knew how to say it. Of course, I enjoy even more to be up onstage, but for now I’m feeling very comfortable as a Puerto Rican audience member with a critic eye. But there’s nothing like a Broadway show. I even saw IN THE HEIGHTS with Lin-Manuel Miranda here in Puerto Rico. It was the Touring Company, but still… there was something missing. I wasn’t at a Broadway theater. Besides; touring shows are very rare to come to Puerto Rico and Filmed Broadway shows are somewhat also rare.
    I went to New York for the first time in 2005. The sites were cool to watch, but my main reason to go was to see shows on the Great White Way. My first show was that love letter to Broadway, THE PRODUCERS. A dream of mine is to play Max someday or – at least – participate in a production of it. Other shows followed up during that weekend: the high-speed DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, the epic THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the funny and heart-touching AVENUE Q and the silly and mad MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT. I couldn’t have had a better weekend.
    My plans were to go again in 2010. There are some shows that I want to see. I was saving money to do so and wanted to go with the same friend that I went to NY five years ago. Things were almost set. We just needed to find a departing date. Suddenly… love sneaked in. He met someone and decided to go to Walt Disney World instead. I got so mad, that I was determined to make that trip that year, but I didn’t wanted to go alone. I wanted someone with whom to talk with and exchange comments about the shows. Another friend suggested Las Vegas. I wasn’t very happy about the idea, but I wanted to travel and he convinced me on seeing THE LION KING, David Copperfield, Lance Burton and a Circus Du Soleil show. Whatever! What the heck! I wasn’t going to be able to go to NY with my other friend, so I went to Las Vegas. I had a good time, but it wasn’t the trip that I wanted to make.
    Now, my friend has just left to New York for the weekend and I’m praying for the plane to fall… No, not really. I’m a little mad. He can see any show he wants; I just hope he doesn’t go to THE ADDAMS FAMILY because I wanted to see Nathan Lane. I don’t care too much about the production; I just want to see Nathan Lane! Lol I’m still paying the trip to LAS VEGAS… financially and emotionally… Maybe I won’t be able to see a Broadway show this year, but I’m sure moving my king, queen, rooks, knights, bishops, and pawns to write again for another media and enjoy more theater productions and begin filling my coins jar to finally see another Broadway show. But I’m still paying attention to those Facebook’s statuses and as soon as I read “THE ADDAMS FAMILY” or “Nathan Lane”, it might be the end of a beautiful friendship.
    Nah’, I’m feeling better now. I just needed to share it with someone. Thanks for being my psychologist; just don’t send me that bill!

  • Claire says:

    I’m with Mike on this one: why is it so rare for a Broadway show to be legally recorded and made available for public viewing? I’m a college student, and while I do my best to get to NYC or see national tours, it’s often just not possible. If these shows were filmed, I would see each and every one (I was first in line at the local movie theater when the Les Mis 25th Anniversary Concert played there, I’m thrilled that Memphis is getting such a release, and I really enjoyed Legally Blonde on MTV a few years back). And I know I’m not the only one who flocks to opportunities like these.
    I consider myself part of that niche that Broadway producers rely on. Why not invest a little in your nationwide/worldwide audiences by making plays and musicals more affordable and accessible?

  • Nick Leshi says:

    Here’s a positive rant. I think more theater professionals need to embrace the idea that the theater experience is more than just what happens on the stage. For eample, my wife and I absolutely loved how the entire space was decorated with red lights and set pieces for the wonderful but short-lived Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson — the experience began for us the moment we walked through the doors even before we reached our seats. Another good example is Wicked – love it or hate it, the show tries to take you to that fantasy world of Oz from beginning to end, with a nice farewell message on the wall that the audience sees on the way out. Things like that add to the magic of live theater.

  • Rick Stutzel says:

    I get to New York only once or twice a year, and I go to as many shows as I can.
    What is my rant? Negativity. I follow some of the theater blogs, and people are griping about how bad things are. I see a lot of local theater and you just don’t know what bad is! Even the suckiest shows I see in New York have the best acting and production values in the world.
    Be thankful you live in the greatest city in the world.

  • It’s 3.15am here in London and I’m listening to a live stream from a recording studio in New York where the Broadway bound show “Get Got” is recording a concept album which features J Robert Spencer. I have a huge smile on my face and am really enjoying the session.
    I want to thank New York for being so welcoming to new ideas and concepts, you are really a breath of fresh air compared to London and the talent pool is amazing.

  • I’m with Mike and Nick!

  • Mickey says:

    What’s my beef? All the theatre companies that want people to work for stipends. I know times are tough, but these are our careers, not our hobbies. Would you expect a banker to work full-time for 2 months for $150? The problem with New York is it the performing spaces are so expensive, nobody has money left to pay the actors. My prediction is that, in the near future, the only theatre left in New York will be a Vegas-like strip of corny Broadway shows. The interesting artists and entrepreneurs will take up in secondary cities where we can prosper, like Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, etc. Unless New York can figure out a better way to support its arts and its artists, it will lose them.

  • Razghiem says:

    I am a New York City public high school student who loves to go to see theatre. If I had more time and more money I would see a show once a month or so. My gripe: the lack of student rush tickets or student oriented discount tickets at shows. For example some shows have student rush tickets for there first few weeks and then gets rid of them. Some have lottery rush and act like it’s the same. Some shows don’t offer student rush at all. But here’s the thing if you are modeling your show after Spring Awakening or Rent (which many new shows are doing) who do you think wants to watch these shows the most? HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS! High school students who would spend six hours in 10 degree weather to but a $27 ticket (true story). If more shows had student rush tickets available I know I and so many kids would see theatre more often. It’s a short-term solution and a long-term. If we have fond memories of theatre going experiences, we’ll still be seeing shows ten years from now. ‘Hook while they’re young’ Right?
    P.S. $41.50 is not student rush. I don’t care how poular your show is.

  • Laura says:

    Audiences who go see theater seem to mainly consist of two types. One type consists of tourists who go to whatever shows are best marketed: huge, ritzy Broadway shows (many of which are great, to be fair, and some of which are mainly spectacle and less substance). The other type of audience consists of theater people and people who know and love them (i.e. grandma, roomates). How do we get other audience types to the theater?..People who don’t go because they “can’t afford it,” “would rather not have to think so hard,” “don’t know anything about off-broadway/off off broadway theater or how to find it,” “think theater is pretentious,” “don’t think about theater,” “think off broadway theater isn’t good compared to broadway” or “are busy.” It is so difficult for off/ off off Broadway theater creators to get audiences- especially audiences who don’t solely consist of their friends. How do we break down the audience walls and get new audiences excited about theater?

  • Bryan Austermann says:

    I hate people who are noisy with their snacks at shows. Do you really need to dig for ONE M&M at a time?!?! People should have to take a test to see if they are smart enough to consume snacks during a performance. I bet many would fail and in response, our theaters would be quieter during a show.

  • Jamie says:

    My rant follows the wider discussion this week in the NY Times and theatre blogs (including this one) about previews vs. ‘finished’ show. In London, it is common for previews to be significantly discounted in order to generate a ‘buzz’ around the show and for the production team to work out the final glitches with an audience. I find it irritating that in NY, we are expected to pay full price for a half-baked show. Don’t get me wrong, I love a preview as a rule but I resent paying full price. Instead, I now attend previews through Theatermania Gold Club for ‘free’ (only a nominal handling charge). It’s crazy because the producers/theatre is generating no income from my presence and yet I am there and would wilingly pay for my seat at a discounted price. It’s one thing for the producers of a phenomenon such as Spiderman to greedily snatch every last penny from the audience and still sell out but in my experience most shows play preview performances to less than full houses.

  • Barbara says:

    Mickey – I totally understand your grip. It’s a lot of work and time for so little money. On the other hand, the producers have a lot of costs and overhead. For local community theater it’s a real gamble that you may not break even, much less have anything leftover for profit sharing. Producers in a small venue, trying to keep ticket prices low, who stick there necks out presenting new works must rely on actors working for a small stipend with the chance for profit sharing. Having said all that, is there another option or business model that we have overlooked? Does anyone have any other ideas? It’s hard to cast a show.

  • Chris says:

    It’s funny, just this morning I was formulating what would be a blog entry if I had one. Outside the supermarket were some college athletes, soliciting donations to send their hockey team to nationals. I was wrankled: Universities never seem to have any trouble fielding myriad athletic teams and activities, often (it seems) at the expense of arts programs. I can’t imagine this team not making it to nationals because they’re out of cash; some business always comes along to pick up the slack with a sponsorship. Where are these businesses when theaters are in imminent danger of closing their doors?
    I thought about the professional athletes in town making hundreds of thousands of dollars (or, in the case of Tiger Woods, millions) and wondered why some of that excess income doesn’t trickle down to local sports teams. Then I tried to compare that to the arts, and the only parallel I had was movie stars, which made me wonder, do THEY contribute to the small, non-profit theaters that teeter on the brink of collapse every year? It seems a drop in the bucket to anyone earning $20 million per picture to preserve some live theater. But do they? Do our stars value the arts as much as we do?
    I’d love to know.

  • Jack Dyville says:

    OK. Thanks Ken.
    Not a Beef just FRUSTRATION as a Producer/Artistic Director of a successful NEW Off Off Broadway Company in NYC – F.A.C.T. Friends Always Creating Theatre and that is as you say, “How Difficult It Is to Market Off Off Broadway.” So shamelessly, I promote now, our outstanding musical production which we are trying desperately to be seen by future Off Broadway Producers and Backers and that is “Eeek! A Mousical” – a joyful and jubilant Family Musical based on the old Aesop Fable, “A Town Mouse & A Country Mouse” with a 21st Century re-telling starring, MEGAN THOMAS (Off Bway MENOPAUSE, The Musical) and TONI L. STANTON (Bway: Angela Lansbury: A Celebration, Off-Bway: One Man’s Poison.) JAN 27-Feb 5, 2011. Check out our website http://www.FactTheatre.com.
    OK again Thanks for helping us promote OFF OFF BROADWAY!!!

  • meganjance@live.com says:

    Alright, so I’m only a senior in high school. But I’m producing a play for a professor at Kennesaw University; Aaron Levy. I’m not ranting long due to the a.m. hour. So this is going to be more of a commentary I guess. BUT this is my very first producing job, and must say, I have a brand new respect for the profession. My Lord, it’s obnoxious when no one emails you back, and teeth-grinding when people do not fully commit to their word, and it’s eye-drooping at the end of the day. I’m appreciating the journey though. I started off without a clue, and now I feel like I’m really beginning to grasp it. Loosely, but still, holding on. (I did not mean to make a reference to the song) I feel extremely accomplished when something gets done, and get even more excited when I think that it’s ultimately fueling towards the sweet victory product at the end; A Play.
    I just wanted to say though, that I came across your sight and LOVE it. It is extremely helpful and fabulously uplifting on those producer days I need it.
    So, THANK YOU
    I’ll be reading.

  • Jason Epperson says:

    Rental venue customer service is, by and large, atrocious. Buy a ticket at any regional theater and the staff will treat you like a king, but rental venue box office and FOH staffs often seem to have the attitude that the show is not theirs, therefore they don’t have to treat the customers with respect or even try to sell the show. I once witnessed a box office agent at a venue I rented when asked about where to park say “I don’t care where you park”!
    One thing I’ve learned running a theater is that customers call up the box office without having made up their mind about purchasing tickets way more often then you would think, and the box office staff is rarely prepared to sell them on the show. Also, most of the general public has no idea and doesn’t care who the producer is, they just assume that the theater is putting on the show. My dream – Box office staff members should be trained as sales people. They should know everything there is to know about the show, and should sell sell sell, and upsell. The venue does, after all, have a vested interest in selling more tickets, whether its a percentage take, box office fees, or simply keeping the show running.

  • Frankie Pace says:

    It’s hard enough trying to memorize and rehearse your lines to perfection. Then you have to go and sell yourself to people that are not looking at art but dollars signs. It’s like you’re not there as they gaze skyward and try to see how much money they are going make or steal out of this.There is very little patience in show business and it’s distressing.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I hate how expensive off-off broadway venues are, and how everyone keeps crying about how they are shutting down, but that’s because economically they don’t make sense. Let’s take a place, like Manhattan Theatre Source, 2,500 a week, for a 50 seat house, on top of the entire cost of putting a production, there is no way a producer in an off-off broadway show can make their money back with just 50 seats. But their rent is so high, they can’t afford to charge anything less. Except they have a space that could be running from sun up to sun down, doing different programing, but their staff is one british gal and a bunch of lazy volunteers, one who was particularly rude to me, when I asked some questions about the space, and kept looking at me, as i tore him away from his facebook page, like he had a million and one better things to do than take care of a potential customer. Buddy, what are you a 35 year old actor working at an off-off broadway house, if you’re still doing that, GIVE UP THE FANTASY OF MAKING MONEY AS AN ACTOR and get a JOB, but please, not in CUSTOMER SERVICE. It’s a ridiculous ego trip to open a theatre to “be artistic” and not have a single business person on board, and that is why all these little theatres close, or should close, too expensive, people don’t know what they’re doing and what’s more important they don’t even CARE.

  • Unsaidtv says:

    @Mike and @claire I couldn’t agree with you more!!! So much so that I am producing exactly what you are looking for, and it opens this weekend. This Friday is the first preview of Better Left Unsaid, the first of it’s kind interactive live streamed play. This is a play, full of established New York actors, performed in NY in front of a live audience – AND- filmed with multiple cameras and streamed LIVE- so that anyone, anywhere in the world can watch the show (and interact via facebook or twitter if you wish).
    (just FYI, one of the reasons shows are not broadcast is Actor’s Equity doesn’t allow it for reasons that are complicated and do make sense- or at least did. We are producing Better Left Unsaid on an AFTRA contract instead)
    We would be honored if you would virtually attend Better Left Unsaid. Let us know you are there and we will make sure to give a special shout out to you both! Tickets are on sale – and only $8 – via ovation tix on our website, http://betterleftunsaid.tv/purchase-tickets/better-left-unsaid-live-streaming-ticket
    I have worked in the theater for over 20 years, and in new media and live streaming for four, and I am so passionate and excited about the possibilities the web holds for artists and audiences alike. Its just a matter of time Claire and Mike, until audiences everywhere will be able to watch their favorite companies from anywhere in the world. The technology already exists…slowly the theater community will catch up!
    all my best!
    Kathryn Velvel Jones
    Founder, Producer
    betterleftunsaid.tv

  • Rant, as requested:…that there’s always so much business thinking/paperwork/planning/math involved in getting an idea off the ground. I have a company I love working with where I do a touring Shakespeare production in the summer, but I want to direct another show a year, make my own decisions and pick the show (there’s a list). Tried movies, but even had to inc. myself and my collaborators for that and I find that that’s a better medium for short form projects and animations.
    So now I’m at the point where Cyrano, a night of Poe, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd, Arcadia et alia want to find their way to a stage but there’s so much to done before that can happen, including finding/negotiating the use of the stage. And if I start the process now, I’ll have to interrupt it for prep work on Much Ado. And if I don’t start the process now, well, that’s not an option I want to choose.
    Thanks for the invitation to rant. Writing it out helps align the stakes and consequences. Decisions to follow.

  • Thomas Nyman says:

    I love the statue of George M Cohan in Times Square. At the crossroads of the world it reminds one and all of the one church that genuinely welcomes every faith…the theatre. But if it had been my call, I think I would have voted for a statue of Bert Williams because, if the church is my theatre, Bert is my favorite Saint. Like Cohan and so many other people that none of us can really remember, Bert Williams knew that you have to entertain to succeed. But Bert was a paradox to Zigfield and others of his time, a paradox that today we call a pioneer. He sang about his life and the plight of the common man. He sang about the hard truth, and the audience loved it!
    It is hard to imagine now that it was a new idea, but producers had built their success on skin and comedy and had never dared to challenge the audience with a message. That all changed with Showboat (1927) and so changed the theatre. That’s why I am so pleased to be working in this business. We entertain people…but at our best, we nudge the world (paraphrased from producer Emanuel Azenberg). I think that’s what’s lacking in so many Broadway houses now, that brilliant balance between entertaining and provocative. So here is to the show, too short in supply, that brings us to our feet and pushes us, just a bit. It isn’t really church if we are just going for the pretty singing!

  • Paul Pastore says:

    I’m almost in the same boat as RR. I have a 2-act comedy I wrote for our senior theater group here in Heritage Village (Southbury, CT) that is outrageously funny and was performed before three soldout crowds (224 seating cap). The main theme has to deal with the ’65 Blackout so you would think Producers and/or Publishers in New York City would eat it up. Forget about it! It’s still collecting dust on my shelf and electrons in my computer. Where the Hell is a producer and/or publisher who is willing to give an older/non-New York writer a chance?

  • Mike V says:

    Why do most theater groups shun 90% of their potential customers? I applaud that NY theater is generally progressive and happy when it takes risks, but it has become out of the mainstream to a fault.
    I have recently seen more plays about cross dressing males than straight couples. Any play that includes a more conservative lead character is generally dismissed out of hand, unless the character is basically amoral. Just because a play is wild, campy or outrageous doesn’t make it well written, but that increasingly seems to be a prime requirement of too many theaters, and it turns the majority of potential customers off.
    Second beef: Too many theaters (I had a recent experience with one, and I’m not alone) seem more like cults than professional groups that play fairly. One told an excited, capable female playwright I know that they would do her play–if she would “donate” $80,000 to the theater! These horror stories are growing, and are staining the good name of the NY theater scene.

  • Bob G. says:

    My rant: How NUMEROUS individuals take personal ownership of Spider-Man and have a vendetta to trash the show. Here’s a group of people trying to do something unique, that has never been attempted before… and our entire community is shooting them down. Shouldn’t we be supporting those who want to push the envelope? Yes it’s bad actors were injured… but who are you (the chat board folks) to demand the show is closed? Why do you care how many times the show has been delayed? It’s not like any of these people have a financial interest in the production. Who cares how many years it will take them to recoup? Now if you’d like to discuss the show from a creative/artistic aspect, I see that as perfectly ok. If you dislike the story or music or acting, you’re entitled to share that opinion. But why does everyone think they’re an authority on the business side of the show? And these people don’t even know what they’re talking about… It really bothers me how many individuals make grand statements, without understanding Spider-Man’s business plan. The producers aren’t idiots, they know it will take years to recoup in New York. The plan is that if the show succeeds, Spider-Man will roll out in cities worldwide and eventually have an arena tour. That’s where the REAL money is made. Wicked can close on Broadway tomorrow, and it would only put a small dent in the Wicked parent company. Spider-Man is not looking to make their profit solely from Broadway. They have large front end costs with the hope of subsequent productions.

  • Rants: Shows that charge full ticket price for preview performances. If it ain’t ready for critical reviews, it ain’t ready for full priced tickets…. Shows that don’t open out of town to work out the kinks (technical and plot) before coming to Broadway. Hey! This is New York. Get tour act together before taking up theater space here… Both of the preceding remind me: Why does it feel like ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ has been in “beta” longer than G-Mail was? Also, Hollywood and TV stars, hone your stagecraft somewhere else first before embarrassing yourself on Broadway. This is the big show — it’s time it returns to getting the respect it deserves. End of rants.

  • Trey K. says:

    My biggest rant is about the audience. I’ve always said that one of my biggest goals for the theatre is to get someone who doesn’t usually go to the theatre to start going on a more regular basis (isn’t that the goal for everyone). Many times, I’ll bring a friend or family member to a show (be it here in NYC or back home in Iowa) so they can enjoy theatre with someone who is really passionate about it. After the show, we’ll talk and the person will tell me how much FUN they’ve had and to let them know about more. Here’s the kicker: for my folks back in Iowa, they have stopped going to the theatre because I’m not there. They don’t want to go if I’m not there. I’m frustrated beyond belief that they need a hand holder. How do you get new theatre audiences to keep going back without the hand holder?

  • Stacey says:

    Audiences: TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONES! Do NOT text! Do not check facebook, or even check the time on your phone. It lights up and is distracting and disrespectful to your fellow audience members and especially to the actors onstage. Even if you are outside, like Shakespeare in the Park (true story!), that doesn’t mean you can listen to a voicemail! I will be forced to scold you. It is a beautiful thing to turn off your phone for two hours and let your imagination get lost in the world of live theatre. Get into it.
    Thanks, I feel a bit better now.

  • David C Neal says:

    My rant is that while there is often a lot to complain about, there is also a lot to celebrate. How about alternating Saturdays with a Rant Saturday followed by a Rave Saturday. I would love to read and hear about others’ discoveries (no-promotion zone, please), secret wonders, etc. Ranting all by itself can be awfully depressing and discouraging, and if I may: Yes, it’s all for the best…You must never be distressed!

  • Yosi Merves says:

    My beef is similar to Mickey’s. I am an aspiring company manager/general manager in New York City who can’t see to land a position that pays more than $150 a week to work in their office. Also, I am annoyed by the amount of interviews I have gone on for theatrical positions I am qualified or over-qualified for and have not been hired. It seems that producers would rather hire some struggling actors or writers who don’t really care about producing/general management than someone who actually wants to learn that side of the business and work in it as a career.

  • jai says:

    Over the years, Broadway theaters took the risks necessary to develop the art of live theater. It is an art that resonates with audiences still today. But recently, in the interest of profit, the art and wonder of live theater is being sacrificed to marketing. To compete with Hollywood, or worse, ‘be‘ Hollywood theaters are dumbing down their audience and the imaginative art of live theater is being lost.
    Perhaps Broadway is evolving, but it seems to be devolving. It appears to be veering toward mere circus. To compete, directors and performers are compelled to develop riskier stunts and create special effects never intended for live theater.
    Today’s Broadway seems to be run by marketing departments rather than artists or those who appreciate art. Marketers are taking the easy way out. They are avoiding the risk of developing an unknown show to become a hit or making an unknown performer a star. By focusing on the weekly gross rather than the wonder of art theaters are sacrificing the art made Broadway what it is.
    The costs of rising wages, increased marketing, excess administrative personnel, and creating increasingly magnificent spectacle are escalating the price of tickets to an outlandish level. Why should audiences pay an exorbitant price for Broadway tickets to see what they can see for less at the circus or a movie? The bottom line is critical, and spectacle may create temporary interest, but art is infinite and it is priceless.
    Dumbed down marketing seems to be taking over Broadway as it has Hollywood. Producers should stop taking the easy way out with revivals, known titles, known stars, dangerous stunts, and ridiculous spectacle.
    There is no way live theater can ever compete with the special effects and camera angles of Hollywood and it shouldn’t try. It is time Broadway returns to making its own shows famous, making its own performers stars, and allowing itself to be marketed by audiences whose imaginations are ignited by the unique art of live theater. Those of us who love Broadway appreciate a little spectacle, but we want shows that exercise our imagination and make us think, not only with drama, but with song and dance. We want to see performers who, without ever leaving the stage, can fly through our imagination. We want performers who become stars on Broadway and we want shows whose titles have not been made famous elsewhere, but are made famous by Broadway. We do not want our imagination stunted by productions that leave us discussing only the spectacular set, dangerous stunts, and cutting edge technology. We want to sing the songs, dance the dances, and understand the theme and meaning of a show that enlivens our heart.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    I see most Broadway shows via national tours and my rant concens the “watering down” of the quality of those shows. I understand the economics involved and that some theatres are limited to what they can host based on the physical limitations of the space so certain scenic elements may be cut – that’s not my gripe. The 25th Anniversary tour of Les Miz doesn’t have a turntable, but it’s amazing just as it is. No, I’m upset with a small minority of performers and crew members who are not committed to the constant striving for perfection that’s needed for a show to maintain a polished performance. When I hear comments like “it’s only __(city name)__, they don’t know any better” it’s very difficult for me to hold my tongue. NYC is the hub of live professional theatre, but the spokes of that wheel are very long and the majority of the money is on the road. Be professional or find a different profession!

  • Adam says:

    My pet peeve is the refusal of the house staff to do anything about the people who refuse to turn off their phone, talk on phones, talk to people who are with them, text and tweet and rattle candy wrappers(that last one is partially the company’s fault – stop selling candy). The ushers are generally not in the house, so a patron has to leave their seat and go into the lobby to search for an usher, who will frequently refuse to do anything about the disruptive person. I have been told by several house managers that they won’t or can’t do anything about these people because (1) their lawyers had determined that the New York ordinance prohibiting cell phone use in the house is unconstitutional, so they can’t actually do anything if someone chooses to ignore the request that they not use their phone, (2) it’s the house policy not to eject anyone for anything other than smoking. All of the above, plus full-out heckling the actors, is permitted, (3) the ushers are paid and belong to a union which is not answerable to the producers or the theater owner, and the house manager thus has no authority to ask their assistance, (4) the house staff are volunteers and therefore are not supervised. One theater has a policy of ejecting the complaining patron. Privately, I’ve been told that the real reasons are (a) they don’t care and they want to be bothered, and (b) disruptive patrons are more likely to sue if they are ejected than are the people who are having the performance ruined.

  • SK says:

    My beef is (similarly to many others) the fact that so many people call themselves “producers” who can’t seem to scrape together more than $150 to pay a stage manager. I have been stage managing here in the city for five years, and it is my profession. Nobody would dare ask an accountant to do their taxes “just for the experience,” but somehow I should be falling over in gratitude just for the opportunity to “practice my craft.” If you can’t pay a living wage, you’re not a real producer. I didn’t come to New York to do amateur theater, and it’s been a great disappointment to find the vast majority of work being done here is barely good enough for amateur hour.
    And screw Actors Equity Association for negotiating BS “contracts” where actors and stage managers make 275 dollars a week for fulltime work, with money subtracted for pension and health contributions.

  • Frustrated says:

    I too would like to chime in on how hard it is to get a start working in the the theater industry if you are actually trying to support yourself, pay rent, etc. I understand companies wanting to have interns and the like, but anything under minimum wage should be illegal and if you can’t afford that, don’t take interns! So many internships never turn into a job because there are multiple interns every semester or every few months, and very few job opportunities opening up. Heaven forbid you intern at a place that doesn’t have an opening but a partner company does- they have years of interns waiting to apply and probably be considered ahead of you! Good luck! This is the one field that I know I want to work in and am good at, and it is ridiculously hard to get an “entry-level” spot which just kills me, because I know that the administrative jobs I am working at are just to tide me over until I can get back to doing what I really love. It’s so frustrating that I just want to start my own company. This industry needs people who are passionate about what they are doing and would rather be doing this than anything else in the world, and it makes me sad to know so many of these brilliant and passionate people who have to work retail and waitress while their talents aren’t being used to help the theatre in marketing, acting, directing, design, everything. I wish I knew how to change this, and I know it happens in almost every industry, but the arts and entertainment industries seems to be the worst.
    Also- I have something to say about this “dumbed down marketing” and “marketers taking the easy way out” comments a few above me. While I agree that theatre is becoming commercialized, please do not blame this on the marketers. How are marketers taking an easy way out? They don’t decide what shows will be revived and produced, they just work like hell to get what shows are out there to sell tickets and get the attention they deserve. If anything, marketing is not being dumbed down- it is growing with the digital age to include online marketing and an experience that doesn’t just get you to a show, but interacts with you before, during, and after performances. To me, that is anything but dumbed down.

  • Wayne Paul Mattingly says:

    How’s the ivory tower, Ken? Come down to the trenches where the soul of the artistic theatrical wars are ewaged before they’re…uplifted.

  • J.R. Graff says:

    I am sick of not being able to audition because I am Non-Equity, something I’ve been advised to stay as long as possible or until i am invited into a union. Problem is, all of the well-paying gigs are under Union control. I hold a BA in Theater Arts and firmly believe that these Union calls should be open to Non-Union performers who have a 4-year degree. I’ve been told I can show up anyway but that I would have to wait – and thus loose a day of work – and most likely not get in to the room anyway and a whole day is shot. Along with this rant, i need to say this. A great way to be rid of all these wanna-be, untrained actors is to ditch subjectivity in the casting process. Forget the people with raw talent! Make it a requirement to have a degree, period. You don’t see someone performing surgery who hasn’t stepped foot into pre-med so don’t put someone up on the BWAY stage simply because they can carry a tune. (Don’t get me started on American Idol and what a horrific atrocity that is. We have YET to see talent come from that program.)
    I worked so incredibly hard to get that degree and have really been a student of the theater and filmmaking my whole life. It’s not fair to be pooled with people who aren’t trained and only want fame & fortune and not to work on a truly magnificent project. So, AEA, listen up, in your listings would you PLEASE open the auditions to people who may be non-union but DO hold a 4-year degree from a credited Conservatory. Personally, I think AEA or AFTRA should offer union memberships once someone has graduated from such conservatories. Think of all those new memberships! And for God’s sake, after fighting to get into a good conservatory, surviving, performing and graduating – you damn well deserve the benefits and advantages of becoming a member right away.

  • Sage says:

    Here’s mine:
    How the HECK am I suppose to pay my rent, my loans, and find a way to feed myself WHILE trying to get seen for off off Broadway shows that don’t pay anything all so an agents assistant, not even the agent mind you, can look at my post card and go “Eh, I’d rather go to yoga tonight.”
    How on earth are actors suppose to break through when agents aren’t picking anyone up! AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH…
    Hmm.. I feel a little better now.

  • I’m a second year musical theatre student and also work FoH in a West End theatre. My first issue is all the jukebox musicals. I get that they have a place in contemporary theatre with a target audience that they effectively reach. It pains me though to see shows such as Avenue Q (which was selling well!) close and Dirty Dancing and Dreamboats and Petticoats stay open. With the reality tv show culture building up around theatre in London there is a new group of audiences that I have no doubt would continue to visit the theatre were these “stock” shows closed.
    Second issue, as an usher at one of these jukebox shows, is the sheer stupidity of the general public! Why show up to the theatre drunk and loud only to be thrown out? That’s a decent amount of money wasted and not only have they ruined the show for themselves but everyone around them.
    Third, creepy fans. I will happily admit to being a fangirl of certain shows when I was about 16, but I always treated the performers with respect and knew when to keep my distance; the hyperness came when I was home with my friends. I’ve grown out of that phase and now maintain a healthy enthusiasm for all things theatre. It scares me that there are grown adults effectively stalking performers.
    Finally something positive… New York has always been a hub for new writing and it is so refreshing to now see so much new work appearing in London. The only problem is lack of advertising! If someone were willing to sponsor the distribution of posters or flyers, a new audience could be reached. Tickets are not expensive and the performances are always top notch. They often have even cheaper public dress rehearsals as well!
    I could easily have an endless rant about working FoH, but I think that’s going a bit off-topic!

  • In London you are entitled to student Equity membership whilst you’re training and a subsequent two years’ membership whilst you look for work. Graduating from a conservatoire entitles you to full membership on graduation.

  • We have to have an usher sitting in every performance, on every level of the auditorium.

  • tamra says:

    my rants:
    popcorn. I hate popcorn. i understand times are changing and people want to be able to have drinks at their seats, but do they need popcorn? popcorn is associated with movies and this is theater. WHen i walk in i dont want to smell or hear popcorn. i certainly don’t want to hear people crunching on it while i am trying to watch a show. if people really can’t go 2.5 hours (or less) without a snack then wy can’t you sell things that don’t make noises when you eat them.
    i also can’t stand when people sing a long during shows. I came to see the show. I came to hear professional actors (hopefully) sing well, not to hear fellow audience members singing a long. you are a distraction!
    i despise it when people cheer at inappropriate moments. in the middle of a song or a scene when there is nothing that should prompt it. audience members you are causing distractions for other people. i was guilty of this myself a long time ago but realized the error of my ways…
    i also don’t like the attitude of my fellow repeat theater goers when they have a sense of entitlement at Lottories, especially at lat shows of a performer or closings. it is true that when you see a show repeatedly you start to bond with others that do it too, and you become attached to the cast and want to support them on their milestones. that doesn’t mean you deserve to win the few tickets that are available. everyone equally deserves to win them if they are trying to see the show. who cares if someone won that hasn’t seen the show before… they want to see it and why should they be robbed of an opportunity to experience something that might change their life? The show isn’t being performed for its small group of devoted fans. it may feel like that sometimes, but that isn’t the case. (yes i was also guilty of it when i first started seeing Rent, but I got over it when i realized how stupid people sound complaining about that.

  • Maureen says:

    Please help me understand what is holding up the digital theater idea from bringing the product to the masses. There are many of us who will not get to New York to see Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice, or Cate Blanchett in A Glass Menagerie, but would pay a broadway ticket price to see it in the comfort of our own home or a local theater.

  • YH says:

    Ken: I am new to your blog and was so excited to learn that you are a writer, a director, and a producer. I too wear all of these hats, and was so encouraged. There used to be a time when roles were clearly defined, but no more. In order to get work done, sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself. I am a proud member of the ranks of “producing artists” in New York. Anyway, on to the rant part which isn’t really a rant but a question and comment. I read an older post about writers whose shows may have failed on Broadway being able to “make a living” when the show moves on to stock and amateur productions. As I said, I primarily consider myself a playwright, though I put my producer hat on when reading your blogs. I understand why producers would want a piece of the playwright’s royalties from amateur and stock productions. After all, it is the producer who took a big risk and even though it may have flopped, put the show on the map, bringing it to the attention of high schools and community theatres. I wonder, however, if the money that some writers (as reported in the article you sited) have made is more the exception than the rule? As you have described, playwrights like producers, can barely make a living in this business. After YEARS of working on a play or musical, if the play fails on Broadway and then goes on to have a life in high schools and summer stock, then isn’t that a blessing for the playwright? You liken producing to the stock market, if you take a risk and you loose, you take the hit and look for the next hot stock, right? I know you answered the question as a producer, but I am wondering, if you took a crack at it as a struggling writer, would your answer be different? (I know you have had success as a writer so you’d probably have to put yourself in the shoes of a writer who may be more the “rule” than the exception.) My point is, I wonder if there is a way for both the writer (who has spent years working on a show) and the producer (who took the risk to produce it) to benefit without dipping into the playwright’s royalty or making these shows unaffordable for stock and amateur producers to get the rights to perform. My question may be naive. I do not pretend to understand everything about this business, that is why I am still taking workshops and educating myself, while producing when I can. I’m learning to wear all of these hats. But could there possibly be some other solution that hasn’t been thought of? From what I can see of you so far, if anyone can come up with an answer, it would be you. Y.H. PS. I am a big fan of yours. Last night I told my husband that I think I have a crush on you. He was like, “Who?” Anyway, thanks for your great blog and for all the information you give to us in such a cheerful and informative way. It makes the producer hat not so daunting to don.

  • YH says:

    Maureen: It is more than likely a union issue. As with the “wild wild west” of cable and the remuneration problems it presented, I am sure the “wild wild west” of digital has similar issues. Also, “live theatre” is just that “live.” Perhaps that has slowed things up a bit too. If you can ever get to the Performing Arts library at Lincoln Center, I’m told there are many shows that have been preserved for viewing. I’ve been wanting to check it out myself, just haven’t been yet. YH

  • Anna Moore says:

    No rant, just a question. How can we innovate on the economic model for theater to give start-up theater companies (like mine) a fighting chance at survival?

  • MJ says:

    My rant:
    What’s with unpaid internships?! I know that it’s hard enough for many theatres to stay in the black, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment to at least put forward the minimum wage for young people who want to explore the industry start their careers.
    As a current college student from a middle class background, I’m already bogged down with $50K in student loans, plus the insane cost of living in New York. Unpaid internships essentially exclude anyone who is not from a wealthy background from gaining experience in the field. For an industry that is constantly trying for mass appeal, you’d think that you’d want to a bit more diversity coming up from the younger generations and make the industry accessible to everyone.
    /rant

  • John says:

    My rant: All the people complaining about the system, how Broadway is broken, how art is lost, how I can’t afford to live on what they are paying.
    Do something about it. Find a new model. Find something that works, that’s different, something that changes the game. Don’t wait for Ken or anyone else to give the answer.
    Take risks, challenge the norm, don’t settle for status quo.
    Easy? Hell no. Real, substantive change is incredibly difficult.
    So, are you a leader or a follower?

  • Rachel says:

    If you plan on working in theatre (especially non-profit), you’ll learn that there’s not much money in general, even to full-time employees. While most theatres don’t offer paid internships, you can often get school credit, plus lots of perks (comps to shows, opening & closing night parties, networking opportunities, MetroCards, etc.)

  • I wish Broadway seats were more physically inviting. I am 6’5″, and I never enter a New York theatre without fearing I won’t fit in the seat. At PROMISES, PROMISES, that actually happened. I worry that my children will be taller and unable to attend theatre because either they won’t fit or the peopole behind them won’t be able to see (if there is knee room, you can slide down in your seat).
    On the plus side, I am still in awe of IN THE HEIGHTS. When a show is great, it is really magical and long-lasting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X