We’re a business of freelancers.

A friend of mine produced a Broadway show this past spring, and we recently got together to trade stories.  When I asked him how it went, he said, “You know that expression, being shot out of a cannon?  Well, everything happened so dang fast, I felt like we were shot out of a cannon that was attached to another cannon!”

While his opening went pretty well, he went on to talk about how hard it was to get things moving quicker during the years of development, no matter how much gas he tried to pour on the creative fires.  And then, once they were within striking distance of the opening night, it felt like they were so rushed, he was concerned they were going to make mistakes and risk all the hard work they had done.

Why does Broadway have to feel so rushed, he wondered.

So I started wondering the same thing.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the fevered pitch that all shows feel as they get closer to the finish line.  If producing a Broadway show were a marathon, we’d all be slow, slow starters with a heck of a kick.  One of the reasons is that finding a theater can be so difficult; it’s hard to make something feel real until that phone rings from one of the three theater chains telling you you are in.

The other reason is that all of the individuals that make up the staff of a Broadway show, from the director to the actors to the company manager to the assistant set designer . . .  are all freelancers.  And that means they have to go where the money is, and when the money is.  So while you’re working on developing your show, or trying to do pre-production, they may be in pre-production or tech rehearsals or auditioning for another show.  It’s hard to get them to focus, for obvious reasons, until they have to or are paid to.

And it does feel like lately people are trying to rack and stack more projects than ever.

What’s the solution?  Well, we could pay our folks more money to be more exclusive . . . or we could put people on staff instead of hire them project by project.

Yeah, and maybe there will be a revival of Moose Murders starring Hillary Clinton and that guy who played Urkel.

We are an industry of freelancers, and that ain’t going to change.  As a Producer, you need to realize it and learn how to manage it, to make sure your show is prepared to run that marathon and sprint like a mo-fo those last 1000 meters.

Because, after all, Producers are freelancers too.


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– 66 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

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  • Richard Seff says:

    Good article on “freelancers”. That’s why we’re so pleased it’s taken us through 3 workshops of SHINE! over a period of 11 years (two of them with the same, the right, director) so that the next step — the regional production prior to Broadway, will not be so harried, so “shot out of a cannon”. That’s just the way it is today, with everyone, from rockers to folk music writers to gospel people to jazz and pop writers all dropping in to Broadway just because it’s something they haven’t done. Craft is flyin’ out the window and when it shows up (BOOK OF MORMON, SISTER ACT, the ANYTHING GOES revival, ditto HOW TO SUCCEED) it’s appreciated, and the shows stick around. Good article, Ken — clearly you are a theatre nut. Richard Seff .

  • Bryan David says:

    As a Bostonian, I’ve been watching The Boston Marathon my entire life. As a Playwright & Lyricist with 12 Two-Acts Musicals to my credit I am running my 1st one. As a future ‘over night sensation’ It took 5 years to find ‘My Collaborator” A Berklee College of Music Grad who taught me the language of music. Rhyme and Meter came somewhat naturally to me. Dialogue I learned as an Actor from the greatest writers throughout the world of Musical Theater. Now my collaborator & I stand at the Starting Line. Waiting for the starting gun (AKA ‘The Cannon’) we’re off & running. See you at the Finish Line!!!!!

  • Alex says:

    OMG, “Moose Murders” was the first play I was cast in. I played “Nurse Dagmar” with the German accent…the murderer…most people never heard of this show. i did it in a regional (sort of)! Funny.

  • Adam Meyers says:

    Ever think about going into book publishing? It’s making a transition to the same model Broadway uses. More and more people are turning to freelance editing, production, and all the steps inbetween. Maybe us authors need to look more to Broadway to learn how to do that model better.

  • Maybe us authors need to look more to Broadway to learn how to do that model better..Ever think about going into book publishing…Good blog..keep it up wit ur good work..its really useful..

  • good blog..keep it up.It’s making a transition to the same model Broadway uses. I was cast in…good blog..

  • kim says:

    Preach it brother! 🙂 I feel like the pre-production of my first show is going snail slow, but I know at some point, I’m going to be running to catch up with it! (scared face) 🙂

    • Valentina says:

      Very much agree with David. If quality is so imrpntaot, then surely professionals should be doing the jobs. Not teenagers who have a bit of photoshop knowledge. I’ve been saying this for ages, you need to break your site down into sections, professionals, students & hobbyists. That way you can set minimum pricing for each sector. You also need to tell buyers what they should expect to pay for a certain job. c2a325 for a logo isn’t good. Its all stemmed from the huge influx of asian workers willing to work for under minimum wage and this site not being willing to do anything about it.

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