Where did that job come from?

Just the other week, I was talking to a very well-respected Producer who has been around for quite a few Tony Awards. He wanted some advice on hiring an internet marketing firm. I was giving him a few tips on how I pick my internet vendors, when he interrupted me and said, “You know, Keith, it wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t have internet marketing firms.”

He was right, of course – not about my name, obviously, but the guy has so many Tony Awards, I’d let him call me Steely Dan if he wanted to.

He was right about the late birth of the Internet Marketing Director.  This industry, as slow to adopt new technology as it is, didn’t start driving down the information super highway until the early 2000s.  And believe you me, we weren’t breaking any speed limits back then.

And that got me thinking.  As  producing plays and musicals on Broadway has become more complex, more complicated, and . . . duh . . . more expensive, we’ve seen quite a number of names and jobs get added to contact sheets.  For example, the Technical Supervisor was a role that was born in the 80s when the Mackintosh musicals made their way onto the scene with their chandeliers and barricades and heavyside layers, oh my!

Obviously, that position was a necessary addition to the team.

The only problem with adding new positions to rosters in any industry, is that once you add something, it’s usually hard to take it away.

I found myself at a cocktail party recently inhabited by a lot of industry vets, including Producers, General Managers, Designers, etc., so I started asking them for a list of Broadway jobs that are around today that weren’t around a few decades ago.  Here are just a few that gigs that they told me weren’t on every show that they saw popping up more and more as the norm:

  • Casting Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Internet Marketing Director
  • Dance Music Arranger
  • Technical Supervisor
  • Physical Therapist
  • Assistant Company Manager
  • Make-Up Designers
  • Music Supervisors
  • Production Sound Person
  • Production Assistants
  • Etc.

Obviously, most shows produced in our modern times require the majority of if not all of these positions to make sure that we’re producing first class, top-notch, Broadway quality entertainment that we can charge $130+ for.

But do all of them?

It depends on the show, of course. If you’re doing a two person play versus a fifty person musical you’ve got some questions to ask.

Could someone that is on the team already be thrown a little more money to do the work required, thus saving half a salary?  Could anything be done in house by the Producer?  If you started work earlier  on a show and paid people earlier, would everyone have more time, and therefore require less personnell support during crunch time?

I don’t know.

I do know that it’s a Producer’s job to never just accept what has been done before.  In today’s world of ballooning budgets (which is the reason why ticket prices are what they are), It’s your job to ask the question . . . is this position, set piece, box of paperclips necessary for my production?

Are there any jobs that you think have been added to a show’s payroll that might not be needed on all shows?  Comment below (email subscribers, click here to comment).

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  • Jesse says:

    Dont forget my new favorite: “Vocal Designer”…which is apparently different then Vocal Arranger. But a few people have started being given this credit, such as Ann Marie Milazzo on DANGEROUS BEAUTY.

  • Jon says:

    Dance Music Arrangers have been around for a long time; John Kander did the dance arrangements for Gypsy. Additional arrangements have been done by composer’s assistants since opera, and are widely used in film. I suspect that more Broadway shows used additional arrangers than are credited, especially in ye olden days (think Kern, Porter, Berlin).

  • Anita says:

    Hi Ken–interesting post, as usual.
    Question: Are these new jobs union jobs, and as such would union regs restrict a producer from taking on a job herself or adding it to the responsibilities of people on the creative or producing teams?

  • Michael Mooney says:

    Long before John Kander, there was Trude Rittman. Rittman took a position with Agnes de Mille as concert accompanist, and in 1943 did the arrangements for her choreography in the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash musical One Touch of Venus. Rittman went on to work on shows including Finian’s Rainbow (1947), South Pacific (1949), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Paint Your Wagon (1951), Fanny (1954) and Camelot (1960). Working on Carousel (1945), she began an association with composer Richard Rodgers, and went on to provide arrangements on The King and I (1951) and The Sound of Music (1959). She also did Peter Pan (1954) and My Fair Lady (1959).

  • Marshall says:

    Why is it you speak such simple truths and ask such “duh” questions, and yet nothing ever changes? As Anita asked, “Are these union jobs?” you just know many are. And like the federal government, once those positions are created it takes an act of Congress to delete them. Don’t mean to be a Gloomy Gus–keep up the good fight, Ken!

  • RLS says:

    I think that the role of the a resident director is one that is unnecessary on many shows. That position is also a result of the British system where Stage Managment essentially calls the show and the Company Manager schedules rehearsals. The problem here is that Resdients usually end up working on multiple companies or on their own projects leaving the PSM with a diminished role – some PSMs refuse to give notes for fear of stepping on the resident’s toes and some actors have gotten so used to the residents rpthat they won’t take an SMs notes. There are some shows where the residents are essential to the process , but I think there are many shows that can do without.

  • Matt Lowe says:

    And here I am, on the other side of the coin, salivating over the growth of job titles and yet the doors to get in on them (union or not) still seem to need gigantic crowbars to open them up…

  • jai says:

    Looks like producers should leave Broadway for the real world more often. In the real world of community theater, everyone does everything or else no one does anything. And everyone is paid only with applause.
    But probably the reason that works in community theater whereas it wouldn’t work on Broadway is that we have avoided unionization. Few unions want a share of the love that develops in a production and is beyond price.

  • Eric says:

    Though this is a job I think IS necessary (for some productions…), projection designers are starting to pop up everywhere! Especially on Broadway- which is why I think it is going to need to be a new category in the Tony awards sometime in the next few years.

  • Malini says:

    I added Graphic Designer and Program Designer to my last show.
    Our graphic designer designed our slides for projection but it wasn’t something we could have done in-house. That was a specialty.
    However, I had to ask someone to come in last minute to design my program because all my people were tapped.
    So I 100% agree with you that pre-planning will reduce costs.

  • For me, the writer, director, and producer should be at the heart of casting–the producer if he’s a hands-on type as I think Ken Davenport is. I’ve noticed where Casting Directors have made weak choices: writer/director/producer with a grasp of the characters and full vision should cast the show.

  • Adam says:

    You left out the most obvious one. “Producers” who don’t do anything other than find capital for shows. It used to that there was a Producer (now called the “Lead Producer”) and there were Angels or Backers. They weren’t called “producers”, because they don’t produce anything but money. And that wasn’t necessary back then.

  • Henry says:

    This reminds me of a riddle I once heard. The question is:
    There is a job that is performed by exactly one person in every single Broadway theatre. What is it?
    The answer is:
    The person who hands out the assistive listening devices.
    This is the sort of job that could end up on that list; it did not exist until recently, it does not have a huge effect on the show, and there is no way to get rid of it.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    The purpose of community theatre is not the same as professional theater. Broadway is a for-profit enterprise; commuinity theatre is done for the love of it. There are poor quality productions done at all levels, and excellent ones.

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