Podcast Episode 21 Transcript – Scott Schwartz
Ken: You’re listening to the Producer’s Perspective Podcast. This week, the show is sponsored by Hand to God, the most Tony-nominated new American play on Broadway. The New York Times calls it “flat out hilarious” and the Huffington Post raves, “It’s the best play of the season.” For tickets, visit Telecharge.com. And now, on with the show!
Ken: Hello, everybody. Welcome back. Ken Davenport here with the Producer’s Perspective Podcast. Thanks for listening. Please keep the comments and tweets coming, and now on to this week’s guest. I’m sitting down with the acclaimed and award-winning director, Scott Schwartz. Welcome, Scott!
Scott: Hey, Ken.
Ken: What I love about Scott’s resume is that he has an incredibly diverse group of credits from all over the world. Yes, he’s directed on Broadway for shows like Golda’s Balcony and Jane Eyre, yes, he’s directed Off-Broadway with the original productions of Bat Boy and Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, which are two of my favorite Off-Broadway experiences ever, and the most recent Murder For Two, which is touring around the country right now, I hear, but he’s also directed at the New York City Opera and some of the most important regional theaters around the country, including most recently he helmed the US premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the La Jolla Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse, and just recently Scott was named the artistic director of the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Oh, and get this, he’s a Tony nominator. Ooh! Very timely. So we’ll talk a little bit about that, or what we can talk about. You can find out more about him on his website, ScottSchwartzDirector.com. So, Scott, tell me, where did you get the directing bug? How did it all start for you?
Scott: Well I did grow up in a theater family and so I was exposed to it from when I was basically born, but I was very lucky in that, in high school, I went to a very small liberal arts oriented high school in Connecticut and my drama teacher actually let me direct shows. And, even though at that time, at the beginning of high school, I thought I wanted to be an actor . . . as most of us who ultimately get into the theater start out thinking they want to be an actor . . . but I got this chance to direct and I found, right away, that having the ability to be a part of the whole production was what was really my passion.
Ken: So what was the first show that you did? Do you remember?
Scott: Oh God, I think it was little things that I wrote, actually. But I did actually co-direct a production of Working, which is one of my dad’s shows, while I was in high school.
Ken: And what was the first professional gig you had as a director?
Scott: I guess the first professional gig would be a production of Oklahoma! that I did at the New London Barn Playhouse in New London, New Hampshire. Which is still there, a lovely, little, teeny-tiny summer stock theater. I think I was 18 years old when I did that.
Ken: Wow. Yes, it is still there. I think it’s still sleeping 18 chorus kids to a room.
Scott: Absolutely right. One of the most fun summers I ever had was working at the New London Barn Playhouse.
Ken: You mentioned your dad, of course, composer Stephen Schwartz. What did he think about your desires to be a director?
Scott: He was very encouraging. Actually, at the time when I first started, really first started, in high school, dabbling in this idea, he happened to be working in London a lot so actually he didn’t see some of the first things I directed. One of them was Black Comedy by Peter Schaffer. I still love that play. But my mother came to see everything and she reported in to him, I guess positively, and he’s always been very, very supportive of my pursuit of directing.
Ken: You must get some pretty good notes, I would expect.
Scott: Really good notes, indeed.
Ken: As I’ve worked with directors over the years, I find that everyone has their own strengths. Some work with actors really, really well. Hal Prince describes himself as a concept director. What do you think your best assets are as a director? Do you work with artists the best, design?
Scott: I’ve always aspired to be a director that can both bring a strong visual concept to a project but is also strong with actors. One of my great idols is Trevor Nunn and I think Trevor is particularly good in both areas, so I’ve always aspired to that. I don’t know, it’s hard to be in your own body in your own career and know what you’re actually best at. I love working with actors, I do both new plays and classics and musicals and I love working with writers and designers, so I hope I bring a little of everything to the table.
Ken: You have worked on a lot of new plays and new musicals. When do you like to join a project as a director?
Scott: That’s a really good question and it truly can vary. I’ve gotten projects over the years that range from being pretty close to done . . . I mean Murder For Two, for example. The script was pretty close to done when I came in. We did tweak it some, we worked on the opening, we did some shaping, but the show had already had a couple of productions before I joined the team and we did it at Second Stage and ultimately moved it to Off-Broadway and now tour. Then there are some other shows where I’ve started out when it’s just an idea, and I kind of love both. I do really like being in the room on a new piece with the writers for a little while, going through a reading or two, having time to talk structurally, having time to talk about the story, because I think it allows me to incorporate more deeply what the writers want, and even if my interpretation of that is my own, I still have that knowledge sort of built in from the beginning.
Ken: A lot of people come to me saying, “Oh, Ken, I think I need to hire a dramaturg. What do you think about this?” and I always say that what you really need is the other “D,” which is a really good director. Do you agree with that or do you think there’s a role for a dramaturg, especially in commercial theater?
Scott: I think it’s dependent on project. Some directors, and I hope I am one of them, bring a dramaturgical sense to a project, so often with writing teams I will sit in a room and I’ll suggest story ideas, I’ll look at the structure and I’ll really get involved in how that story is being told. But some shows need a different kind of guidance, and a dramaturg who’s not also looking at the piece from the perspective of how it’s going to look on stage, how am I actually going to get from this interior scene to this exterior scene in no time at all? There are uses, I think, for a dramaturg and I think maybe earlier in the process when writers are just starting to shape their ideas and maybe just have a first draft, that’s a good time, potentially, for a dramaturg. But, again, I love getting involved in those areas so it really depends on the individual.
Ken: Tell me a little about how Tick, Tick . . . Boom! came together. Again, I have to give you credit, it was one of the most sensational pieces of theater I’ve seen, never mind Broadway or Off. I remember being so moved by it. Which, for those of you who don’t know, is what I call the prequel to Rent, Jonathan Larson’s piece, which was reconstructed, of course, after his death. So how did all of that come together?
Scott: Tick, Tick . . . Boom! is a really interesting story, I think. Jonathan Larson, of course, had written Rent and then passed away and he had had this show, Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, before he wrote Rent that he had been doing. And it was a one-man show that he performed himself. He performed it at some different venues around New York City. He would have a little band and a couple of backup singers but basically it was this one-man musical monologue. He had then put it aside when he really started working on Rent and, interestingly enough, the reason Jonathan wrote Tick, Tick . . . Boom! in the first place, and remember, this was the early ’90s, was that he had written a big musical, which was a sort of futuristic sci-fi opera musical called Superbia, and he couldn’t get it on. Everybody kept saying it was too big, too complicated, nobody’s going to give somebody who’s never written anything a chance with this big a show, and so I think he thought to himself, “Well, screw it then, I’m going to do something I can do anywhere, anytime that doesn’t require anything from a producer.” So that’s where we started, but he had many different versions of Tick, Tick . . . Boom! and when I was asked to come on board, the producer, Robyn Goodman, who’s a wonderful producer who I was working with on Bat Boy, and her partner on Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, Victoria Leacock, contacted me and said, “We have this idea to do Tick, Tick . . . Boom! again. Here, take a look at the script and the demos,” and they literally gave me five different scripts and a bunch of demo recordings of Jonathan, which was pretty cool to have, and it was all very different. They were all one-man shows but the story was different, the structure was different, and I looked at it and said, “Wow, I love this idea, I love this material, but we need to create a definitive version. I think we need to get a writer and a musical arranger in to sort of shape the material.” And the funny thing was I said to Robyn, “Aren’t you working with this guy? I think his name is David something? David Auburn . . . he just did that show at Manhattan Theatre Club, Proof. He’s supposed to be good, he’s a young writer and it’s about Jonathan turning 30. What about him?” And then, of course, six months later Proof had won all the awards in the world and David was this gigantic star writer and he was working on Tick, Tick . . . Boom!.
Ken: A great piece and a great example of how a piece can change over time. Working on a new musical versus a new play, does it differ at all in terms of when you like to get involved? Do you find things change more with plays based on a director’s input? I find a musical director can massively affect how a musical changes over its developmental period but what about a play?
Scott: I think actually musicals change more over the course of their development. Plays sort of do spring full formed from the heads of their writers, and yes, writers do a great many rewrites on plays and many of the new plays I’ve worked on have had real changes in them. In fact, in a play I did at Bay Street last summer, we added a scene and we restructured some things and then we did it at a second theater and the writer moved some scenes around. That’s not to say it doesn’t change, but I think with musicals, in some ways, the director has more impact on the storytelling and the shape than on a play.
Ken: What do you look for when casting a show? Do you know right away, when people walk in a room, “Oh, that’s someone I want to work with?” What’s the casting process for you, as a director?
Scott: Sometimes there is a person who walks in and you say, “That’s it. That’s what I wanted.” “That’s my Hitler,” to quote The Producers. And that’s a wonderful moment when that happens, but actually that’s relatively rare. I think what I try to look for are people who are the right basic type, both in terms of look but also in terms of energy and persona. Do they sort of feel like the role? And then I look for people who seem interesting, who seem clever and smart and adaptive and open, because I think, ultimately, I try to create a rehearsal process where the actors feel really engaged and feel really encouraged to contribute.
Ken: Any tips for any of the actors out there, if you could give them one tip on something to do when they go to try to win that job, when they go into that room?
Scott: I think be confident and be yourself. In the end, all of us directors want every actor who walks into the room to be the one. We actually do. And I think if actors know that, if they know that in a way, even though we are on the other side of a table, even though we are, yes, judging them for a particular role, we are on their side. Because if you walk into an audition room for me and you are right for the role, you are going to get the part, and that’s what I’m waiting for.
Ken: It seems that every meeting I go to . . . early conceptual meetings, I should say, especially design-wise on new shows . . . I’m hearing more and more, “We’ll use projections. There’s this new technology, we’ll just do this, we’ll just do this . . . ” What do you think about technology in the theater and incorporating it in terms of our design and our look?
Scott: It’s funny that you bring that up because I do have quite strong feelings about this. I do not believe in using projections as a replacement for traditional theatrical tools. I think there are ways projections can absolutely enhance. in certain projects it’s very appropriate. I mean in certain projects like Curious Incident on Broadway right now the projections are an essential part of how that story is told that you couldn’t really do in any other way. Even a show of mine, like Golda’s Balcony, which is now many years ago, we used projections quite a lot. But that was because it was a one-woman show about Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, and in a lot of the show she was talking about specific, real people and I thought it would be useful to see these people so that the audience could understand really who she was dealing with. So I think there’s great use for projections, but what I don’t like is the, as you said, default position of, “Just use projections because it’s cheaper. Just use projections because it’s easier.” I think if people want to go to a movie or a TV show, they’ll watch those things. If you want to go to the theater, go and see something that is using the tools that are human, that are earthy, that have been around for hundreds of years, used in new and clever ways.
Ken: The Golda’s Balcony reference is such a good one because you used it so smartly there. You were telling a true story so you knew putting in pictures of real people would help remind people that this was a true story they were watching.
Ken: Rather than, “Oh, let’s just put up a picture of a tree to make people think we’re in a forest.”
Scott: Exactly. And in fact in Golda’s Balcony there are a lot of conversations that Golda Meir has with other people, like King Abdullah of Jordan, and so we would show the picture of King Abdullah and it would actually allow Tovah as Golda to have the conversation, and hopefully the audience was able to imagine a fuller cast, in some ways, rather than just one person. I mean, part of that was just that Tovah, as an actress, was so brilliant, but I hope that the production supported that. I will say one other thing. On a show I did two years ago, which was a musical called Secondhand Lions that I was developing with Warner Brothers, we did use projections, and there was a sequence where, very specifically, we brought in a screen and there was a whole game we played with projections. But in the rest of the show we kind of used them almost as enhanced lighting. You didn’t really know there were any projections on, but they just painted the set a little bit or gave you a more vivid sky in the background and that, I think, can be really interesting and helpful, almost using it as an additional tool just to create beauty and mood and feeling, as opposed to a replacement tool.
Ken: You’ve worked with a lot of producers, obviously, over the years. Tell us your favorites, tell us your least favorites. I won’t ask you to name names, but what are the characteristics or skills that you think producers need to have to be successful producers these days?
Scott: Sure, I have worked with a lot of different producers in a lot of different settings and everybody is different, just as every director is different. The producers that I personally like dealing with the best I think are men and women who do want to engage in the discussions about the art, that are interested in talking about, “What story are we telling? Why? How?” People who do make suggestions and have ideas about how to tell that story better and realize an overall artistic vision as best we can. I like that kind of feedback and I like having that kind of partnership, but I also like producers who ultimately say, “These are my thoughts, these are my suggestions, but you guys . . . director, actors, designers . . . you’re the artists, how can I support you in realizing that vision?” So it’s a combination of real involvement and oversight and partnership and pushing. I actually like to be pushed by producers. Sometimes it’s heathy for me to be pushed by a producer, to say, “You can do better here. I’m not sure why you’re doing that,” but also the sense that, ultimately, that person has my back, in terms of the art. I guess that’s what I would say. Obviously you want producers who you feel confident in handling the business side of things, and there certainly are some producers that I’ve worked with, sometimes less experienced producers, where I feel, as a director, I have almost taken on an executive produceral responsibility as well, just because I’ve done a lot of commercial shows so, even though I’m not a producer myself, I just have experienced it a lot, and that’s okay. I like that, but in some ways I don’t really want to be the producer, I prefer it when I can be left to worry about the artistic side of things.
Ken: It’s a balance. I think producers, and I’m one of them and certainly I have to do this myself. Yes, we have ideas, we want to push, but at the same time we have to know when to pull, or go the other way and sit back. Some of the producers that I’ve witnessed that have got themselves into trouble, they just don’t know when to stop pushing, and I think you’re absolutely right, it is a balance. You’ve worked a lot of places, Broadway, Off-Broadway, opera, regional . . . is there a favorite environment you like to work in? Is there one that just feels like, “If it could all just be like this I would only do these gigs forever?”
Scott: It’s funny, I don’t think I feel that way. I think I like change so I like to do one thing for a while and then I like to do something else for a while. I will say that probably most of my favorite and most fun artistic experiences have been in regional theater. I’m not saying my best art has always been that way, I’m not saying that my favorite shows that I’ve done have always been in those settings, but the support that you get from a regional theater is just different than what you can get on a commercial show, because regional theaters are continuing organisms. You come into an environment that is somewhat stable and built to support you as an artist and, on a show that’s a one-time thing, that all has to be put together relatively quickly, usually. So I think the most fun tends to be regional for me, but I don’t like being out of town all of the time.
Ken: Is there anything you think Broadway can do to enhance some of that feeling, that we could provide some of that regional type of love, if you will? Is there anything that we could do differently?
Scott: That’s such a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s just systematic in terms of what the demands are. I do think partnering with not-for-profit theaters is very useful for a commercial producer, because you do get that built in support system and if your show needs help and support and work and just nurturing, that’s what regional theaters are sort of built to do, at least ones that are good and work. I mean there are some that don’t really do any work, but the ones that do, they know how to support a project as it grows. In terms of Broadway, I think just try to create as safe an environment as possible. For me, personally, a producer being honest and open but calm is useful. There’s an understanding that there are enormously high stakes, that reviews are important. Even if actually they’re not so important anymore in terms of selling a show they’re still important in terms of the perception around a show. But in some ways trying to de-emphasize that side of things as a producer and emphasize just creating the space to do your art.
Ken: The high stakes thing is a very good point because I often made the mistake myself early in my career where I would say to someone or even think to myself, “Does this person realize I’ve got $10 million on the line here?” And I always think the stakes are high for the producer when the artist says, “Do you realize I’m directing, I’m writing my Broadway debut, or a Broadway show, and if this doesn’t work and if the reviews aren’t so good that’s going to hurt my career?” The stakes are high for everyone on Broadway.
Scott: Totally true, in different ways. I would say, for me, being someone, I guess, in the middle part of my career, I have an understanding and an experience now of what producers, as well, are going through when you’re dealing with a commercial project and how high stakes that is. It may be that younger directors need a little reminding every once in a while.
Ken: Speaking of big projects or high-stakes projects . . . Hunchback. There was a much different producer than most of us have ever worked with before because you’re working with Disney, but also you’re working with Paper Mill, so what was it like working with a giant corporate, massively good producer? At the same time, Disney, I should say, has produced some of the biggest hits we’ve seen on Broadway this year. What was that development process like? How was it different from some of the other experiences you’ve had?
Scott: It was a wonderful experience and I loved working with Disney and I’m very, very proud of what we came up with. Tom Schumacher is the head of Disney Theatricals and I guess you would call him the “lead producer” of the whole company, and he’s the final decision maker and overseer. And Tom is brilliant as a producer, and also really brilliant as storyteller and I always loved getting artistic notes from Tom. He just knew how to talk to me, and I suspect other artists as well, about story and storytelling. I worked with them for five years. We started working on the show, just developmentally. We didn’t know where it was going to go at that point, it was just, “Let’s take the existing material, get a new book writer, which ended up being Peter Parnell, who did a great job, and create a new draft.” That took three years. Then we did a couple of very little, low profile readings, just for a day, nothing fancy, and then we all felt good about where the script was and we went to a process where we did a lab, which was a two week rehearsal process where I did some staging and we had some time to really dig in with our cast and then we went to La Jolla and Paper Mill. Throughout, I always felt incredibly supported by Disney, artistically, and actually they were quite . . . I don’t want to say hands-off, because they definitely were there. They definitely guided me and supported me and Tom and the rest of the team were very influential and important, but I always felt, as an artist, that I was left to do what I wanted and that what Disney really wanted to do was help me and the writers achieve our vision. I can’t say enough good things about them because it felt like what you really would want any process of developing a show to be.
Ken: It’s amazing how such a big corporation can feel like such a small one. To everyone that I’ve talked to who’s worked with them, it still feels like Tom and a small group of people, even though it’s one of the biggest companies in the world.
Scott: It’s amazing. I don’t quite know how they do it. They even have these big offices and this big staff but you are, as a director, as a team, still dealing with four or five people most of the time, and I think that’s what engenders a much more intimate feeling.
Ken: Is it coming to Broadway?
Scott: At this point I do not believe Hunchback is coming to Broadway. Never say never, I love the show, I certainly think it could work really well on Broadway. But it’s a very adult story, Disney allowed us to make the show for adults, and that’s tricky for a company whose brand is really for much more of a family audience. I think there are plans afoot for Hunchback to have a further life, to have other productions, and hopefully for the production we created to go on in some other ways and places, but I will say that I do not think it is coming to Broadway.
Ken: What I love about Disney, and I really have to remind myself about this all the time, is that not every show should happen on Broadway, or needs to or must. There’s a variety of ways, especially today, all over the world, to distribute your content, and being smart enough to know when’s the right time or where your show belongs is such an important part of being a producer.
Ken: So now you are an artistic director at the Bay Street Theater and you are in your first season, yes?
Scott: No, this is actually my second season. Last summer was my first.
Ken: So tell me about that. Do you enjoy being an artistic director?
Scott: I do, I’m really enjoying it. I get to wear that producer hat that I don’t wear in the commercial world, and I’ve really been enjoying bringing artists together and bringing in other directors and trying to support them in their visions, bringing in writers. We’re doing a lot of new work. You just participated in our New Works festival this past weekend, which is our way of exploring projects we might look to produce in the future. And having a role at an institution that goes on, where it’s not just about one individual show, but it’s about an overall artistic vision and how that artistic vision communicates with and brings in a community, having a conversation with the community and becoming a part of that place, is a wonderful experience and I’m really enjoying it and I’m learning a lot every day. I’ve still got plenty to learn, I know that too.
Ken: I think you’re the third person that I’ve had on the podcast who has been a director and also an artistic director at some point in their career and has mentioned, “Yes, I put on my producing hat now.” It’s so fascinating to me that the artistic director sounds like it’s more like a producer than anything else. How many shows will you direct this summer?
Scott: I’m actually not directing any shows this summer. We have a number of events that I’ll direct and one of the things I’m particularly proud of at Bay Street and excited about is I’ve started a new Shakespeare initiative where we do outdoor readings of Shakespeare, and last summer we did an outdoor reading for free for the community of The Tempest starring John Glover, the amazing Tony Award-winning actor. This summer we’re going to do Twelfth Night and I’m going to direct that, but that’s a couple of days of rehearsal. I’m really happy this summer to be having four other really talented directors at my theater and I’m excited to watch them work.
Ken: And is it your hope that Bay Street will bounce stuff more to New York City over the course of the year? Should producers be looking at Bay Street as a place to try out new plays and musicals?
Scott: Absolutely. I think Bay Street is a great place to try out a show because it’s intimate, it’s 300 seats, or 299 actually . . . Equity, if you heard that . . .
Scott: But we can close it down very easily to be 217, so if you wanted an even more intimate experience it’s easy to do in our space. But you’re two hours from New York, it’s easy to get to and from . . . we’re separate but close. Our audience at Bay Street is a New York theatergoing audience, so you can try out your show in front of the very kinds of people who will be buying tickets to see your show in New York.
Ken: That’s such an important thing for us to understand because producers who try out all over the country, this is the most common expression I hear: “That show was great, it belongs on Broadway. It should be on Broadway,” and then if you ask some of those people how many Broadway shows they’ve seen, the answer would be zero because that audience doesn’t really know, apart from maybe one or two from time to time. But your audience is very close in proximity, they’re comparing apples to apples.
Scott: A large portion of my audience are people who just come out for the summer, and those are people who live in New York and go to Broadway, Off-Broadway, the major not for profits, in New York City all the time. And then you have a portion of my audience which is local full time in the Hamptons, but they’re still coming into New York once or twice a month to see theater so you are getting people who are really knowledgeable watching your show.
Ken: So for those of you out there looking to try out shows, just remember who that audience is, is very important to look at. It’s just like when you’re doing a focus group. What they’re comparing your show to is important so that you can really judge the correct audience response. Now, you are a Tony nominator, is this true?
Scott: It is indeed true.
Ken: But you did not nominate shows this season.
Scott: That is correct. The nominations that just came out for the 2014-15 season, I was not a nominator for. While I was working on Hunchback at La Jolla Playhouse I missed one performance and the Tony Award committee is very serious about that, that all of the nominators have to see all of the original cast and every single production with the original company in order to be a nominator, so I had to recuse myself this year.
Ken: Wow, you missed one?
Scott: I missed literally one, not even a show! One actor in one show, and I had to recuse myself from being a nominator. I’m still a voter this year, which is a lovely perk for me because I still get to see all of the great work that’s being done, but I did not nominate this year. I did last year and I expect to next year as well. It’s a three year term and next year will be my third official year.
Ken: What was it like getting the call or letter saying, “Hey, Scott, by the way, we want you to help decide the fate of the American theater and artis?”
Scott: It was really cool. What can I say? I felt very honored and very proud and very excited to be asked. It’s also nice to get to see every show in a season. It’s an amazing thing. Last season, when I was a nominator, I did go to see every show within a few days of its opening. I think there are one or two shows that I saw a little bit later in their runs, but it’s a remarkable experience to see an entire season in order and kind of get the sense of the broadness of the work that’s being done on Broadway and sometimes also the not broadness of the work that’s being done on Broadway. And sometimes the feeling of, “Gosh, I wish there were more things that stretched boundaries and pushed limits,” or sometimes feeling like, “Wow, there’s so much happening and so many different opportunities for people.” So it’s fun. It’s a little exhausting, I must admit a couple of times in the year, particularly November and December, and then April for nominators is very exhausting because there tend to be a lot of shows opening right in a row and you do have to see everything right around when it opens. So there’s wonderful things, but you do get tired too.
Ken: And I imagine that day when you make those nominations must be a stressful day, in a way. You know the choices you are making and how they impact people and companies. What’s that like?
Scott: I don’t know that I’m really at liberty to discuss what happens in the room when the nominators gather. It was only a period of four or five hours, it was not a very long time. I think I’ve heard of other years that have been longer than that, but my year last year was only, I think, five hours total. They did serve dinner, which was lovely. I don’t know if stressful is exactly the right word, but you do feel responsible to take it seriously and take your own vote seriously because it does impact a lot of people, it impacts a lot of money, and you want to be fair, you want to be fair to the art and not be cavalier about your decisions. I have to say, last year I felt that it was an extremely fair process. I felt that we were not biased, at least in the room itself when we were deciding what shows were going to be nominated. I did not feel pushed or biased to favor or not favor shows. It was quite egalitarian. I don’t think I can really say more than that about why I feel that way, but I did feel that.
Ken: It’s funny you say that, because my side of the business, the producers, we lobby this and do this. I’m a big believer, at the end of the day, when the nominators . . . or, more importantly, the voters . . . are all alone, staring at that ballot. They’re going to vote for what they think is the best. There’s no one else around, they’re going to do what they think is right. They care about the theater, they love the theater.
Scott: I think that’s true. We’re all human beings and we’re out there in the world and we’re hearing people talk and we’re hearing what our friends are responding to, so I’m not saying that there aren’t just normal, day-to-day influences that anyone who goes to the theater regularly gets, but in the room it’s very much left to the nominators, at least last year it was, to make the decisions that we believed in. Since this is the Producer’s Perspective Podcast . . . by the way, I love the alliteration of that . . . I will share that one thing I wasn’t crazy about, about being a nominator, was how much stuff I was sent. In all honesty, I found it difficult. I think I may still have piles of things from last year. It wasn’t gifts and stuff . . . they’ve actually loosened the rules now . . . is my understanding, but it was scripts and CDs and, after a while, souvenir brochures. I felt bad for how much paper was being wasted, in all honesty, so for me, personally, you don’t need to send me the stuff. If I saw the show, you got me. Maybe send me a letter reminding me, you don’t need to send me a packet of a ton of materials.
Ken: Right, all those producers out there will strike the Mercedes Benz order they have for you next year.
Scott: Damn it!
Ken: No, but that’s a very good point. We often produce shows inside of a vacuum, forgetting that every show is doing the same thing, and we think that the package you’re getting is the only one from a show, or maybe it’s two or three, but there could be 40 shows in a season sending you crap.
Scott: Again, it was literally about paper, that it just felt like we were sent so many scripts and letters, all of this stuff. It was just piles of paper. Here’s the other thing . . . and this is a real insider tip . . . don’t bind your scripts with metal, circular brads that you can’t take out because I want to recycle my scripts after I’m done looking at them! I don’t have room to save all of these things and if they’re bound in such a way that I can’t, it actually makes me frustrated.
Ken: That’s a good tip.
Scott: Go for gold brads, go for binders. I strongly support it.
Ken: I love it. The last question, which is becoming my genie question, as it’s been so called by the Twittersphere . . . imagine that the genie from Aladdin comes into this room right now and says, “Scott, you’ve been such a fantastic director and contributor to the community. I’m going to give you one wish. You can change whatever you want about Broadway. With the snap of my finger, whatever keeps you up at night, whatever frustrates you, whatever angers you, I can make disappear or change with just that snap, that fast.” What’s the one thing that drives you so crazy or that frustrates you so much that you would change?
Scott: Gosh, that’s a really cool question. I actually think that my wish is already kind of coming true, but could continue to. I wish that shows would be judged more on their word of mouth and their artistic merit from one’s own perspective than based on a handful of reviewers. I’m not saying that there’s not importance for reviewers, I’m not saying that they don’t have a real job to do, but I think as artists and producers and people in the industry, we have to remember that one or two people’s opinions are just one or two people’s opinions and we’ve got to try to look at our work in a broader way.
Ken: That’s a great, great wish. Scott, thank you so much for being here. Everyone out there listening, if you are in the tristate area, go see a show at Bay Street this summer. I was just out there, it’s a beautiful place and they’re doing great stuff, and catch all of Scott’s shows as they come in and out of town. Thank you so much, we’ll see you all next time.
Ken: You’ve been listening to the Producer’s Perspective Podcast, hosted by me, Ken Davenport. This episode was sponsored by the Tony-nominated play Hand to God. New York Magazine says, “Hand to God is irresistible, intelligent and heartbreaking. It’s Broadway’s unlikeliest new must-see play.” Get tickets to Hand to God at Telecharge.com.