Episode 43 – John Caird


John Caird told me to break the most important rule of auditioning.

When I was in college, I was always told never look the auditioners in the eye.  “Pick a spot over their head,” was the conventional wisdom.

But when I first met John Caird when he was guest lecturing during my junior year at NYU, he told us to eff that ol’ rule and look him straight in the eye.

Of course he said it in a soft British accent so it sounded so sweet.

John Caird is a guy who defies convention and at the same time has achieved incredible conventional success.  His credits include the epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Eyre, a ton of shows at the RSC, operas all over the world and oh yeah, that little show called Les Misérables.  

He’s also a writer as well, and his most recent credit happens to be Daddy Long Legs playing at my very own theater.

While we were in tech for DLL, I pulled John aside to hear what other advice he had for me and for all of you out there, including:

  • What he thought right after the heard the demo of Les Miz (his answer should be printed on a t-shirt and worn by artists everywhere).
  • Why he doesn’t read reviews.
  • Why he wouldn’t let Andrew Lloyd Webber change the title of Song & Dance.
  • Would the 8.5-hour Nicholas Nickleby get produced today?
  • With all these big shows and big operas, why he was so drawn to an intimate two-character musical like Daddy Long Legs (and why you should be too).

One of the reasons I wanted John on this podcast, is that I found myself gobsmacked every time we were in a notes session on Daddy Long Legs and he went on about character and plot and purpose and motivation and so on.  He knows his way around a play like you know your way around your hometown.  He just lives in the theater.

For a moment I thought he was brainwashing me with that soft British accent.

But then I realized, no, he just knows what the eff he’s talking about.

Enjoy John!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

  • Kit says:

    I generally love each of your podcasts, and this one didn’t disappoint at all. As the interview neared its conclusion you posed the “Genie” question to John and he responded with something along the lines of “I’d have the genie build 40 more Broadway theaters.” This sentiment has been mentioned a few times throughout all of your podcasts. While on the surface this idea sounds brilliant. It would allow more new works to be produced each year! As I thought about it more it would appear that this line of thinking has great fallacies to it. I’ll explain…

    More theaters on Broadway would most definitely mean more new shows, more seats available to the public, more fun for those who are heavily invested in the culture of Broadway theater. Likewise it would mean a diluting of the talent pool, even more shows that fail to recoup investments, and ultimately the closing of more theaters in the end. the shear cost of mounting shows in NYC is already a deterrent to new shows opening. I can’t imagine that having more theaters would lessen this burden.

    Currently Broadway only fills on average about 87% of all available seats in any given week. That is essentially one performance worth of seats per week that go unused in each of the 40 house in the theater district. Adding more theaters would certainly not help increase these numbers. If anything, these numbers would be made worse by creating more options for the public to choose from at any given time. Most shows don’t struggle with too few seats to fill, but the opposite.

    To me the issues that Broadway currently faces have very little to do with Broadway itself, and more to do with the rest of the country’s view of “Broadway” theater. I understand that Broadway will always be the Major Leagues when compared to other locales around the country, but why do other cities treat themselves like second class citizen when it comes to theater?

    I live in Houston which “boasts” the second largest theater district in the country with 17 downtown theaters having some 12,000+ seats that can be filled. When someone mentions destinations for good theater I’d imagine that Houston doesn’t crack your top 10… and with good reason. Houston, like many other locales (Seattle, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, etc.), has a proud theater history as long as that history means that they are used only as “out-of-town” tryout destinations for new work that is looking to land on Broadway.

    The way I see it is that there are plenty of good theaters around the country that could function much more similarly to Broadway, but they choose not to invest in that kind of functionality. New works of theater (especially Musicals) don’t get produced in Houston on any sort of large scale. I’ve beer heard of an “open-ended” run either. I realize that the structure of Houston theaters is not really set up for such system, but neither was Broadway in the 80’s and early 90’s. It took a lot of re-investment in the area to get to the level it stands today, and I don’t understand why other locales don’t make a similar push to create something great right where they are at now instead of simply being a place to stop by occasionally when it’s convenient.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but this issue has been on my mind more and more over the past couple of years. I can’t get to Broadway to see the new shows that ONLY play there. Like most people around the country, we are stuck waiting for a tour (without the big stars and using simpler sets) to pass thru for a couple of weeks in order to see these shows. Which often come years after they are actually relevant anymore, and some of them never get tours. A large metropolitan area like Houston has no excuse for not investing in such things other than that’s simply the way it has always been done, right?

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