Would I have produced Rent if I had seen a reading?
Demos of Rent were famously circling the biz for years before the show was eventually picked up for a tryout at the New York Theatre Workshop, and then eventually revolutionized musical theater as we know it.
Lots of people heard the tunes, read the script, saw readings . . . and they all passed.
Well, many of them probably just didn’t like it. And so they should have passed. First rule of producing? Do what you love, and only what you love. Because there is nothing worse than when something doesn’t work . . . and you never liked it in the first place.
But I have this funny feeling that many people passed because it wasn’t perfect. They saw too many flaws, too many imperfections, and just wrote it off.
One of the greatest tools a Producer needs is imagination. Producers need to be able to look beyond what something is . . . and see what it can become. It ain’t easy. Going to readings and workshops is like looking at a kid and saying, “Yep, with the right education, the right guidance, this one can be President.”
But what Producers also need is the ability to accept that nothing is perfect, especially early in the process. Shoot, Rent still isn’t perfect. Les Miz? Nope. And while I hear Hamilton is the most incredible thing to bust onto a Broadway stage in a long time, I’d bet an actual Hamilton that it isn’t perfect either. But these shows’ imperfections didn’t stand in their way of being successful.
I talk to a lot of want-to-be first time Producers, Writers, Investors, etc. and many are sitting back, waiting to get into the game, because they want the “perfect” opportunity. They wait to write anything because they haven’t come across the perfect idea. They wait to invest because they are waiting for the perfect cast and show combo. They wait, wait, wait . . .
And what happens more often than not is that they sit by the edge of the pool, watching the other kids play in the water . . . as time ticks on.
I get it. We all want to be “perfect,” even though we know it doesn’t exist. I was the same way.
In fact, I remember pitching Hal Prince about a hundred ideas for shows once . . . and in the middle of it he stopped me and said, “Ken, do you remember what was the first show I ever produced? It was The Pajama Game. West Side Story was my third show. Don’t come out of the box trying to produce West Side Story. Be happy if you get The Pajama Game. Do something. Anything. But start.”
If you look for perfect as a Producer . . . or in your life . . . all sorts of amazing imperfect things will pass you by.
Don’t let them.
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