Self-producing problem? Try our new and improved mini-enhancement.

Confucius say, “Anything that can be done big, can be done small.”

Ok, he didn’t really say that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Case in point.  When big Broadway shows “tryout” at regional theaters around the country before coming in, they are usually produced under what we call “Enhancement Deals”.  The Broadway Producers supplement the regional theater’s budget with cash, and the regional theater usually takes a royalty for future productions as well.  Honestly, I think it’s quite a good deal for the regionals . . . and in recent years . . . it has become too good of a deal.  (Read this blog for my reasons why.)

However, even Confucius would agree that the theory is good.

So, back to the big/small axiom.

As you know, I’m a big advocate of Authors self-producing small productions of their work, if they can’t find someone else to produce it for them.  (I’m not sure if you know, but Confucius was actually the first to say, “Just do it,” before Nike stole it.)

Three of the complaints I hear the most from Authors embarking on self-production are:

  • Money
  • Fear of the production being seen as a vanity project
  • Money

While there are many workarounds for both issues (click here to read my thoughts on “Vanity Projects”), here’s another one using those Confucius-like words.

If big regional theaters and big Broadway Producers are benefiting from enhancement deals, why not small non-profit theaters and small off-off Broadway Producers/Authors.  In fact, couldn’t they benefit more?

There are hundreds of small non-profit theater companies in the metro NYC area.  And I’d bet you $10,000 that most of them would do almost anything for $10,000.  So if you’re an Author or a budding Producer, staring at a self-production Equity Showcase budget  of approximately $35,000 . . . couldn’t you approach a non-profit theater company and say, “Hey, I’ve got a play.  If you do it on your season, I’ll give you $10,000.  And I’ll even give you a piece of it going forward.”

Now, that play would still have to be good enough for the NP Artistic Director to take it, and it would have to fit within their mission . . . but isn’t this a win-win for both sides?

  • Self Producing Author (or Producer) saves thousands and gets show produced under auspices of credible theater.
  • Non Profit theater gets infusion of cash and a piece of the project going forward, and a reputation as a launching pad.

Ken says, “Cool.”

Any small theater companies out there have examples of successful mini-enhancements?

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Comments
  • RLewis says:

    Oh, this is just wrong for so many reasons.
    What’s missing is that producer-to-producer enhancements are just a matter of doing business, but the artist-to-producer exchange of money is simply a bribe, and that’s an even worse stain in a not-for-profit setting. Neither the artist nor the producer look as if their focus is on quality, which it should be, and that will end up hurting both down the road.
    “Paying your dues” is a metaphor, not a monetary plea. Work your way up on the merit of your writing; not on how much you can pay for it. I know that every post can’t be a winner, but this one is just too yucky.

  • @RLewis, if a playwright self-produces instead, doesn’t that also look like the artist isn’t focussed on quality?

  • Jim Lantz says:

    @RLewis, I want to ask you about that ‘working your way up on the merit of your writing’ thing. Do you know any playwrights for whom that is really working? And not just a reading here or there, but REALLY working?
    For most of the playwrights I know, the opportunities for an honest-to-god production are very far and few between. Other than a small cadre of fortunate writers who are produced over and over again, the reality is that for the majority of playwrights, there are few opportunities to actually having your work produced. You can grow old waiting to hear back from most not-for-profits only to find out that some other criteria had more to do with whose play was selected, than merit.
    I so wish the world worked the way that you’re advocating for, but I think economic realities makes it otherwise.

  • Richard Seff says:

    We’re doing just that with SHINE!The Horatio Alger Musical, which you should be producing. But as you are not, we’ve accepted moneys from a major backer, and an organization that loves the show. And we’ve begun talking to two interested suitable regional theatres. But believe it or not, even many regional theatre managers would rather do a “new” Berlin or Gershwin musical than one with a fine new score. We shall persevere however, and be happy to have you come to our New York opening. But where oh where are the producers with vision? Enough with the jukebox musicals and the revivals. We need fresh blood and fresh air or musical theatre will go the way of operetta. Richard Seff .

  • RLewis says:

    ‘Not trying to create a debate, but:
    To Louise I’d say, sure, that’s why “vanity project” has such negative connotations. But it is possible to do you’re own quality show if your intentions are true and if the money exchange is from you to you, or from you to your team, as opposed to it going to an outside org’ under the table. You may not want to believe it, but word of those deals get around.
    To Jim I’d first site my friend Lisa D’Amour, but there are many others… Thomas Bradshaw, Annie Baker, Sheila Callaghan, Eric Overmeyer, Lin-Manuel Miranda… gosh, don’t get me started, there are just too many popping in my head right now (many more can be found here: http://aszym.blogspot.com/). And don’t “grow old waiting to hear back” – get involved! Be a member of the community. See shows where you want to see yours, volunteer, attend events, and hang around other playwrights (that’s where you hear of who’s looking for what). New Georges, Flux Theater, The Flea, Rattlestick, and many members of ART-NY have playwright programs where you can begin to work your way up.
    And to Richard I’d say that I’m sure you do NOT want my company producing your show, because we do site-specific work, so the productions are concieved and designed specifically to NOT move to another venue. But you bring up a good point: you’ve got to know who you’re dealing with. Not every company has a mission that fits for your property (So do your research). And Alger is a tough sell (seperating this writer from his material – yikes!), so I wish you luck with that, but seeing that your show was first announced for Broadway 30 years ago, you seem to prove my point more than you contradict it.

  • @RLewis, you’re right that playwrights should get involved. But that means that they DO do something besides write works of merit. They make connections. They get to know theaters. They behave professionally and helpfully and get known in the theater world as someone worth working with. THEN their meritorious works will get considered.
    As for paying a theater to produce your play, it doesn’t have to be under the table. “Co-produced by Theater X and Name of Playwright” makes it clear what’s going on. If it seems mercenary, consider that theaters already will sometimes produce plays that they know will put butts in seats. That’s also “mercenary.” Granted, though, the playwright has an interest in their own play, but an audience doesn’t have a similar interest in a “butts in seats” play.

  • @Ken — thank you for a thought- and discussion-provoking post.

  • Bryan David says:

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011
    Dear Mr. Davenport, et al:
    Five? Really 5?????; Mr. Davenport unbeknownst to you, (how could you?) I am one of Five (5) boys. I married the only girl from a family of five (5).
    I met my collaborator on May 5th of 2005 and he wrote the 1st of our songs (YES five (5)
    He gave them to me on May 25th 2005. I swear on my Mother’s grave the day I found a parking space in Boston, (if you know Boston; that is a feat unto it’s self!) I got out of my car and yes laying on the ground was a domino face down. Not a box, not a bunch, but a lone domino.
    I picked it up and turned it over. It was a double # 5.
    Today/tonight I open my E-Mail from you and low & behold it’s your,
    “5 Takeaways from this past Sat’s ‘Get Your Show Off The Ground’ Seminar”
    Now you are starting to scare me in a good way. I do believe Sir we will meet (no doubt in May of next year) My offer/bet still stands. I can and will make you money. I can and will turn you from, “The P.T. Barnum of Off-Broadway” to the next Carmeron Mackintosh (PLEASE take that as the complement as it was intended!)
    When I grow up (IF!) I want to be the next Fred Ebb or Tim Rice. (I’ve met my John Kander/Andrew Lloyd Webber) Heck I won’t mind be refereed to as “The new, Stephen Sondheim.”
    I trust you are not insulted?
    Bryan David
    Playwright & Lyricist
    bryandavid25@gmail.com
    “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times
    of:
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™
    http://www.myspace.com/jacktheripperwhitechapel1888

  • @Bryan David
    Serious question. Do you think Ken Davenport will agree to produce your musical because you posted here?

  • Comm Theatre collaborating with NFP Thtr! It’s tough to soar like an eagle when you have to fly with turkeys.

  • 5 take-a-ways: I like #5: “Critics, Awards, etc. all don’t matter. The audience is the ultimate judge.”
    Now, just how to go about working on that relationship is my mission.

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