A Producer stands up to God.

Theater Owners have always had awesome power.  But in the past couple of decades that power has only grown, as the overall business has grown (since theater owners get a % of the gross, regardless of whether or not the show is making its nut or not, higher grosses always lead to higher income, which is not the case for the Producer), and as producing theater has become more popular the number of potential tenants has increased.

Additionally, Theater Owners are like the St. Peter of the Theatrical World . . . as they decide what gets in and what doesn’t.

Since they decide so many people’s fates, you can see why a lot of people think they have Almighty-Like powers.

Overseas, a Producer at this year’s Edinburgh festival, David Johnson, decided he wasn’t happy with the policies of his local Deity after getting a request for free tickets, so he complained.  But rather than give a call, and explain his position, and talk through it, he fired off a dramatic written response that explained exactly how he felt.

And that complaint found its way on to a blog.

Spoiler alert:  it’s a doozy.

I gotta give Mr. Johnson props for standing up for what he believes in, and standing up to those that could control his fate now, and in the future.   It couldn’t have been easy, and from the evidence in his letter, it sounds like he has quite a point (there isn’t a response from the theater owner that I know of as of yet).

Admittedly, though, I think I would have taken a slightly different tone in the letter.  I’m reminded of a letter I wrote to some people who controlled part of my destiny back in 1997 when I questioned a practice by my own soon-to-be-union, and their sweeping-under-the-rug of a well known practice of many Producers not paying apprentices what they should have been paid according to union minimums.  I was actually advised by mentors of mine to sit on it . . . to not speak my mind . . . and let what was happening continue to happen.

I didn’t listen, of course, but I did rewrite my letter to make sure it was an impassioned plea but at the same time constructive.  I got some flack.  But I also got a little progress.

As a Producer, you must always stand up for what you believe in.  But you should also remember that our industry is a collaborative one.  People that pi$$ you off today may have to be your partners tomorrow.  People that you don’t need today, you may be begging for help tomorrow.  So stand up, but stand up smart.

Was there a time when you stood up for something with success?  How did you handle it?

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Comments
  • carvanpool says:

    This is a touchy subject, hmm. 🙁

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    Good for Mr. Johnson. Maybe his tone was impolitic, but people need to hear how their policies are being reacted to, honestly. No doubt the theater owners in question would argue that they are being squeezed financially, and they are only trying to make ends meet. If so, let them put the figures out there for all to see. I suspect they are in a rather more advantageous position monetarily than the average theatre producer. They have the right to charge what they want of course, but when they do so in this nickel-and-diming-us-to-death way, it makes them look under-handed, and they have to take responsibility for the negative fallout that creates.

  • Thank you for your comments at the end of this post. It was wise of you to use a collaborative tone while speaking your mind. As a graduate of Cornell University’s Labor Relations school I fully get why you did what you did. Collaboration is the key – as long as the other parties are honest.

  • Bill says:

    Just because you find that life’s not fair it
    Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bare it
    If you always take it on the chin and wear it
    Nothing will change.

  • Paul Lewison says:

    Generally, if you’re quick witted, you can figure a way to couch a complaint to almost anyone about almost anything if you say it to them face to face IN PRIVATE. If you do it with a bull horn on the air or any other widely seen/heard medium….LOOK OUT. Very few of us have short memories, and some of us keep lists. I sure hope this guy doesn’t need that guy again. Then again, maybe that guy is a BIG guy, and will overlook a little immature overkill, and give him a pass. “Hope springs eternal in the breast of man.”

    All I can add was my mother’s rendition of Broadways rule of the road in the twenties, “Be kind to the folks you pass on the way up. They’re the same folks you will pass on the way down.”

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