The asset and liability of doing theater.

What I love about theater is that it is always evolving.  You create this work of art, and then it changes and changes . . . through rehearsals, through previews . . . and even years after opening.  Because it happens live, you can tinker and twist to change with the times (and as your actors will allow).

That makes theater one of the most unique art forms on the planet.

You paint a picture, and hang it in a museum and it’s done.

You write a book, publish it, and that’s it.

And film?  Once that sucker is cut and gets to the opening weekend, might as well move on to the next.

The constantly morphing aspect of what we all do is one of the reasons I love the theater.

And it’s also why I hate it.

Because for obsessive compulsive, perfectionist, Type A personalities, like so many of us, we can tinker forever . . . before a show opens . . . and after a show opens as well.

I recently spoke to a playwright who had been working on a show for almost ten years that hadn’t had a production yet . . . not a showcase, not even a reading, nothing!  Why?  It wasn’t ready yet.

And I talked to another very talented producer of a hit show that has been running for a little while now . . . and I asked him what he was doing next . . . “Next???  I’ve got my hands full just making sure everything is perfect on this one!”

And then there were the writers who have had three small productions of a musical that has never broken through, never gotten great reviews, never even had great audience response . . . but they were still desperate to see it on a bigger stage.  (They were like a couple in a bad relationship – refusing to look at the signs.)

There comes a point with all projects when you have to move on.  Otherwise, you’ll be a one-hit-wonder, or worse, a one never-even-get-in-front-of-an-audience wonder, always wondering what could have been if you had gone on to something else.

While searching for perfection is good, our artistic and producing lives are shorter than we think, so sometimes it’s important to think like film producers.  Make it, open it, and move on . . . especially if it’s your first project.

Because if you look at the careers of successful writers, producers, artists . . . it’s rarely the first show that they are remembered for.  It’s usually their second, third or fourth.

What number are you on?


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  • Congratulations on “It’s Only a Play.” We saw it last night! I had performed in an earlier version
    of it as Virginia Noyes, and I loved the script changes, and the updates: missed a couple of lines, though, e.g.,
    “Every second act needs work,” but was SO glad that the lady cab driver, Emma Bovary no less,
    was removed from the script. The audience was ecstatic, especially whenever Nathan Lane was
    on stage. He is just amazing. I know it’s a cliché to talk about timing as essential to humor, but his
    is perfect! And, boy, does that make it all work.
    So, congratulations on your new hit!

  • Duane Poole says:

    For better or worse, computers have made it so effortless for a Virgo writer to be obsessive/compulsive about a script. Highlight. Delete. Replace. Repeat. I’m on what must be my 50th draft of a new musical (shameless self promotion: “Beautiful Poison” in this year’s NAMT Festival), though some drafts were merely tiny changes in dialogue or stage description. I’ve often wondered whether anyone would notice — but as long as I would, that’s reason enough. You’re right, though, that at some point you need to lock it and move on. And in my ideal world, that’s opening night on Broadway.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Having been trained in the world of multiple camera live audience sitcoms, i dont know how to NOT change something every reading, rehearsal or performance

  • Marc Acito says:

    It’s as if you plucked the thought right out of my head. So, naturally, I think your insight is inspired.

  • Katherine says:

    Yes, theatre is a living breathing art form. SO delicious!
    Love the way you write, Ken.

  • JM says:

    Working on #4…

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