Podcast Episode 48 Transcript – Daryl Roth
Ken: Hi, everybody. I’m Ken Davenport. You are listening to the biggest tongue twister on the web, The Producer’s Perspective Podcast. I’m honored to be here today with one of Broadway’s most distinguished, most prolific and downright classiest producers we have. Welcome to the podcast, Ms. Daryl Roth. Welcome, Daryl!
Daryl: Thank you, Ken. That’s a lovely intro.
Ken: According to her website, Daryl has produced over 90 shows on and Off-Broadway, although I actually think it’s probably over 100 now. She’s received eight Tony Awards and, get this, she has produced seven Pulitzer Prize winning plays, including August: Osage County, Clybourne Park, Proof and many more. Some of the most recent productions include last season’s It Should Have Been You, this season’s Sylvia, which I just saw the other night and it’s hysterical, and of course she’s one of the lead producers on Kinky Boots, which is still killing it on Broadway and now has productions in Toronto, London, on tour and Australia coming up. She owns and runs the Daryl Roth Theatre downtown . . . busy, busy woman. So, Daryl, let’s start. Where did the love of theater begin for you?
Daryl: Well actually I was so lucky that my parents always loved musical theater and we grew up in New Jersey, so it was a gift to me that we were able to take me and my sister to theater at an early, early age and I just grew up loving theater and felt that someday, some way, I might find my way into it, although that didn’t happen until many, many, many years later, as you know. But I loved theater from an early age and I can remember, in high school and college, reading plays that thrilled me more than picking up a book, which of course didn’t thrill my mother or teachers, but I just found my passion in plays.
Ken: And what was it that attracted you to the producing side of it? Why not say, “I want to be an actress,” or, “I want to be a designer?” What about producing attracted you?
Daryl: Well I thought about what I felt I was capable of doing and what I enjoyed doing and what I felt I could offer, and I was always pretty good at putting things together, starting with raising my family which, to me, is a big production. I just felt that maybe producing, at least as I understood it 28 years ago, would be my natural place. I never wanted to be an actress. I’m not talented enough to be an actress or a writer or a director or a scenic designer or a costume designer, but what I felt I could do, because what I felt in my heart I really had, was the ability to facilitate other people’s talent, and that is sort of what I feel being a producer is.
Ken: So that’s a very interesting and terrific answer, because I talk a lot about how producers have different skillsets. Some are great fundraisers, some are great marketers . . . so your greatest skill, if you could define it in one word or one phrase, is just to facilitate other artists’ dreams?
Daryl: In a way. I do have to be able to do everything that the job requires, but I think my initial incentive, why did I want to become a producer and why did I feel I might be able to do this well, was because of my respect and admiration for the people that do work in the theater, for the actors and the writers and the directors and everybody that it takes to put a show together. I just have such great regard, and so I felt, if anything, that’s what I could do, I could make that happen. I felt that I could make that happen. I had no training, as you probably know. I just jumped in like the Nike commercial and just did it. There were no mentors available to me at the time. There were no courses to take at the time. And so I think when a producer goes forward it really has to be an instinctive thing that they feel they have whatever it might take. And certainly a lot of people try and I, too, could have been totally disillusioned and totally depressed for many, many years. But I think I was so driven by the idea. And I’m such a tenacious person by nature, which I think really is one of the tent poles that a person needs to be a producer. I mean you are tenacious and I feel that if you get behind a project that you really love, you just can’t give it up. Reviewers be damned, you cannot give it up. And so being tenacious and being really dedicated to the people that you are working with. A lot of it has to do with the feeling of responsibility, which I have always felt very keenly, so I think part of being a producer is making the commitment and then being responsible to see it through and to do your best at it.
Ken: Let’s get to that Nike moment, when you jumped in the water and just did it. What was the first show that you did all by yourself?
Daryl: The first thing I ever did was Closer Than Ever, written by Richard Maltby and David Shire.
Ken: I love that show.
Daryl: Thank you, I love it too. To this day I love it and when I listen to the music it just fills my heart, I have to say. Well, I’ll tell you how it happened. I was on the board of City Center. At the time they were developing a new music program, which we all know today as Encores! And they had brought in Richard Maltby, Jr. to be their person to organize this and I, as a board member, was asked to be on that particular committee because they knew how much I loved all of this. Richard and I became friendly and one night he said, “You know, Daryl, we’re doing some songs downtown. David and I wrote these songs and we’re putting it together in kind of a little revue. Do you want to come?” Well I thought I’d died and went to heaven because no one invited me to come see anything in those days . . . maybe 30 years ago this is. So I went and I was really taken by how moving it was and how every song in Closer Than Ever, in what became Closer Than Ever I should say, was talking to me directly. I felt as though I was in some other worldly place. Every song, I felt, had something to do with my life. The theme of all the songs and what the thread is that weaves Closer Than Ever together is doors closing and new doors opening, and I felt as though that was where I was in my life and that was where I would take strength from, in some crazy way. So I went home and I thanked Richard and David for a wonderful evening and I thought about it all night long and I called them in the morning and I said, “Did you ever think that this could be a show? Because I would like to try to do something about that.” I say to this day I don’t know who that voice was, where it was coming from, because God knows I had no confidence, I had no understanding of how it would be to be a producer, I didn’t even know what that definition was. And they said, “Oh, well that’s interesting,” and we went from there. We took it to Williamstown that summer, where Richard had made an introduction for me. Mind you, this was my first step into it so I really kind of went along with whatever. I said, “Sure, I want to go to Williamstown. Let’s go,” and we did and it turned out to be this beautiful little gem of a show which, all these years later, 25 years later, I guess . . . last year was 25, they had an anniversary production . . . and it just really was a way for me to see what I could do. And I was very dedicated to the project and I had a lot to learn and I learned on the job of doing that. We went to the Cherry Lane Theatre after Williamstown and it ran for nine months. And Off-Broadway was kind of exciting in those days. It was like a little cottage industry. Everyone did everything, you rolled up your sleeves. I mean I do this to this day. I walk down the street and I put flyers in people’s newspapers and my son looks at me and says, “Oh, Mom, really,” but I do. It’s my own little guerilla marketing technique. But I started it then and I really realized that when you’re working Off-Broadway particularly, you get your hands around everything, and that was the best thing for me because that’s kind of how I learned and that was my on-the-job training on my first production.
Ken: It’s funny because I was involved as a company manager, general manager, on Broadway shows for many years before I started producing and it wasn’t until that first show that I produced, which was a small Off-Broadway show, that I really got my hands around what it took to be a producer.
Daryl: Right, and you have to be willing to do it all. Not only “willing” . . . I would say it differently. You need to be excited to do it all. I don’t care if it means selling the merch at intermission, if it means putting out the Playbills. Off-Broadway is, to this day, you know, very scrappy, in a way, but what you do for yourself you reap the benefits of for the production.
Ken: So obviously choosing Closer Than Ever and letting that voice deep inside you be heard was what drew you to that because it resonated with you so personally. How do you choose material now? Now you get lots of opportunities, I’m sure, scripts thrown at you from agents and playwrights. Everyone, she just rolled her eyes at the idea of how many scripts she has to read, probably tonight alone. So how do you choose from all of these different shows that you could have the opportunity to produce?
Daryl: Well, interestingly enough, I think my major guideline is still instinct and still what moves me and what I feel connected to, material-wise. Sometimes I’ll go a little bit out of my wheelhouse and that’s good, but I think through the years I’ve seen the threads that bind my interest and they have to do with stories that empower people, stories about strong women, gender-related stories, things that have to do with inequality and acceptance seem to be what I’m drawn to. And I’m sure it comes from some deep childhood place, as most things do in life, but I remember feeling a bit of an outsider in school. I remember feeling a little on the edge of things, and kind of what that feels like I think gave me more empathy to reading plays that have to do with people that also felt that or are writing about that. And I guess I decided in my own little personal way that it would be my mission to kind of choose plays that would open people’s eyes about things and get people to start thinking about things, maybe in a different way than they were used to thinking about things. And it kind of helped me in the beginning in a way because some of the plays that I chose were extremely challenging subjects and, truth be told, most other producers didn’t want to touch them and I was not afraid of that because I thought that they were so meaningful and powerful. And I use the example of Wit all the time. Nobody wanted to do a play about a woman dying of ovarian cancer in those days, and yet it was so enlightening and so life changing for many people that saw it and for me, too. So, I don’t know, I started looking for plays that had very challenging subjects that also fell into the bucket of what I was interested in putting out there for people to think about.
Ken: Ever pass on a play or musical that you wish you could go back and do?
Daryl: Oh yes, and I’m on record as saying this. I will say it to my dying day . . . Angels in America. It wasn’t offered to me. I should have spoken up because I saw it in London and I was never the same. And I should have come home and I should have called somebody to say, “Can I join this producing group? Because it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” and I didn’t. In those days I didn’t have that confidence and I didn’t have a sense of myself in a way that I could have spoken up in that way, and I regret that. That was the one.
Ken: I passed on Once myself so we’ve all got those stories.
Daryl: Yeah, you know, you can’t figure it out. Now, if I see something that I’m interested in or if I read something, I just go for it. And sometimes it doesn’t work out because all the pieces don’t fit in, but I’m not shy about it anymore. I’m not shy.
Ken: So you see a play that you like, or you read a play that you like, and you want to produce it and you want to start pulling together the team. How do you go about assembling creative teams for shows? Directors, designers even?
Daryl: Well I think there’s no one path, actually, as you probably know very well. Sometimes a play will come to me from one of the people already involved . . . if not the playwright, perhaps a director sends it to me . . . so that piece is in place. If there is no one and I’m starting from scratch, as we did with Kinky Boots or as I’m doing with a new musical that I’m developing, I try to think about who the best people are that might have the sensibility for it, and then talk about it with them and see what their passion level is. And usually a director will put together the creative team that he or she is used to working with, so let’s say a director is in place, then we talk together about who’s the design team that you want to work with, and if there’s a list of three people then I might weigh in on somebody that I’ve had a good experience with, but for the most part I think that is the job of the director, and for the producer to be supportive of that choice, because people have history with one another, they know how they work well with people, etc. Sometimes a play or musical comes to me that I might join in on where all of those people are in place. Because some of the things I’ve done I would go to a workshop that I didn’t initiate and then join in on, on a co-producing level, so in that case I wouldn’t be in a position to talk about that. But for the most part, I guess, over the years, we all know who we trust and love and want to work with. We know who’s easier, who’s more difficult, who can stay on budget, who can’t, and whose personality you feel is a good blend with the rest of the people. So there are a few things that go into it. But I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve worked with that I wouldn’t work with again, actually.
Ken: I have a feeling all of those people would say the same thing about you, for sure.
Daryl: I hope so.
Ken: One of the reasons that you’re one of my favorite producers is that you are still so active in the Off-Broadway community. You’ve produced a lot of Off-Broadway shows, you run three spaces at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Why do you still do it? I know a lot of people that would be like, “Ugh, I’m done with Off-Broadway now!” It’s obviously very risky and very challenging these days, so why your incredible commitment to that community?
Daryl: Well I think there are a number of stories that need to be told in more intimate settings, and I think that Off-Broadway is not, for me, a stepping stone to Broadway. Off-Broadway is its own world and I don’t think that they necessarily can’t co-exist, because I think the most important thing is choosing the right venue for the piece that you want to produce and I think that, oftentimes, the experience that audiences have is so determined by the space they experience it in. So, for example, if there is a very beautiful piece that I fall in love with and it doesn’t have a major star in it, it doesn’t have anything, bells and whistles, it would be foolhardy to think that, just because I love it, it would thrive on Broadway, because chances are it won’t. And doing it Off-Broadway is an opportunity, I think, to bring new voices forward, to have these wonderful actors and writers have a place to develop their craft. I don’t know, it just feels comfortable to me. Economically it’s not been the best in recent years. You know, you’ve produced Off-Broadway. It’s very tricky because costs have gone up so much and it’s very hard on an Off-Broadway budget to do the kind of advertising and marketing that it takes to just be visible so, sadly, we have to rely very heavily on reviews, on the hope that people read the reviews and be enticed and, certainly, sadly, not turned off if somebody is not kind. But the world of Off-Broadway, to me, is very exciting. I think I’ll always do both. It’s a good introduction for people, too. I have a kids’ series and that is my way of bringing young people into the theater . . . and I’m talking like 4-9 year olds . . . and that experience in a 99-seat theater is so non-threatening and so welcoming that that alone is a reason to do Off-Broadway, if you ask me.
Ken: Off-Broadway is obviously very challenged right now. How do you think Broadway is doing in 2015?
Daryl: Well there are some shows that are just super successful. And actually thank goodness for them. There’s a big inequality going on right now, without mentioning any names. Some shows have just been taking out all the air, and all the oxygen is going into certain shows. And that’s great, but what it does is cause a little bit of a breathing problem for some of the others. And I’m sorry about that because there are so many valuable things going on on Broadway right now, both plays and musicals I think you will agree, and yet it’s the top few that are getting all the noise, all the audience. I don’t know what to say other than, while I’m thrilled that we have a huge beacon of light, it’s hard for the other shows to find their way. And so you have to work harder. You have to be very creative in bringing in audiences. I mean you are the best marketer around, but you have to be so clever about this, and you have to be so honest about it too because people see through some of these things we do. And you have to be, I think, classy about it. It’s a tough business and, while you go through everything it takes to get the show mounted, the work only begins when you have to fill the seats. And that’s the challenge right now, isn’t it? Because unless you’re riding the wave, you have to figure out how to be heard and how to find your place in the landscape of Broadway. It’s also interesting that many of the pieces are limited engagements. I find that that’s both the good news and the bad news, because it takes a while for word of mouth to catch on and when you’re working on a play that’s a limited engagement, whether it’s because of the cast having other commitments or whether you only have the theater for so many weeks, whatever it might be, by the time you build the word of mouth, you’re gone, you have to close. That’s a double-edged sword in a way, isn’t it? We love the engagements that are limited so that big people will come to Broadway and they’ll give us 22 weeks of their life and that’s great, but does it really serve the play well?
Ken: We hear a lot about how there aren’t enough women directors these days, there aren’t enough women playwrights. How do you think we’re doing in terms of the number of women producers we have on Broadway? Do we have enough? Is Broadway still an old boys’ club in this regard?
Daryl: I think there are a lot of women who are joining the ranks of producers now and I think that they’re feeling more welcome than certainly years ago. I think that there are opportunities for women, and hopefully those same women are the ones reaching back to produce women playwrights and hire women directors. Not that I’m so gender-oriented, because I always say that it’s the best person for the job and that, to me, is another form of bias. If women are only strictly looking at women and if men are looking at men, well that doesn’t do anything for this world. But I do think, to be more direct in answering your question, I think with the theater, more women are feeling comfortable joining as producers because they realize that they can handle it, they can manage it, and they have seen women be successful at it. So I do believe women are coming into this field. Now, I think sometimes they’re not so sure what it takes, and it might seem all fun and games and easy and breezy and la-de-da, but the ones that will stay with it are the ones who get into it and are willing to work really hard and have good sources of investors and have a good sense of what it takes to sell the show and good ideas for marketing and advertising and are willing to speak up and are willing to contribute those ideas, rather than just saying, “I want to be a producer.” It takes a lot more than just wanting, although it’s good to start with just wanting!
Ken: Your son, who also did the podcast here . . . it was a very good one, I might say.
Daryl: Yes, he’s terrific at this sort of thing, I have to say.
Ken: Your son, Jordan, runs Jujamcyn Theaters. What’s it like having a son as a theater owner in a world where sometimes the producer and the theater owner is a bit of an adversarial relationship, the big bad theater owners out there. What’s that like for you?
Daryl: Well, I’ll tell you a story. It’s wonderful for me, is the answer . . . but as Kinky Boots was coming together and we were thinking about a theater for it, I knew in my heart that the Hirschfeld would be the right theater for it. It was just the right size and shape and it just felt like a hug, it felt like the audience would be embracing the show at the Hirschfeld. And so I spoke to Jordan about it early on, as the Hirschfeld is one of the Jujamcyn theaters, and we all agreed that, yes, it would be the right theater if we could make the timing work. There was something else in there and then something else had to come in. It’s a puzzle, it always is a puzzle trying to find the theater and the schedule and when you’re ready and when the money’s all there. Everything has to work together. But Jordan is a wonderful theater owner and he also believed very strongly in Kinky Boots at the time . . . I use this as the example . . . and we just all worked together to make it happen. He’s a good businessman and he’s smart and he has exquisite taste in what he chooses for the theaters, and I will say that one of the ingredients in this particular situation was that he was honoring his mother and I admire that and I am grateful for it but, basically, he is my landlord.
Ken: So let’s talk Kinky for a second. Tell me a little bit about how it came to be. I am, first of all, very lucky to have been taken along for this ride as one of your co-producers, so tell me how it came about, before guys like me got involved.
Daryl: Well it came about very innocently, actually. I was on the board of the Sundance Institute and I was out in Utah for the film festival and one of the films being screened was a small British film called Kinky Boots, and it was at a time when I was able to go. You know, they book you up with all of these films, morning, noon and night, and it’s kind of fun and exhausting at the same time, but there was kind of a curious title, Kinky Boots, and I went to see this film and I felt as though someone shot an arrow in my heart. I knew, when I saw this film, that I had to, in my own mind, figure out how I could get the rights to this film and make it a musical. I don’t know what happened to me, I was like a crazy person. So I’m watching this film, I love the story. The story just meant so much to me. It’s very much about a father-son relationship, as it is, and acceptance and all the things we spoke about that are so for me. So I run out when the film is over and here I am on a mountain, ten years ago, with no cell service, with one of those early bird cell phones, and I’m screaming into the phone, I called Jordan in New York, I said, “Jordan, I just saw the most amazing little film. I must have it. I stayed until the end and it’s produced by Miramax and Disney. Can you call Tom Schumacher and see what’s the deal?” And he thinks I’m crazy, obviously. I’m screaming on the phone because I couldn’t hear. Anyway, I came home three or four days later and we sat down and talked about it and it took a while to obtain the rights because it was at a time when Miramax and Disney were kind of separating their assets and we weren’t sure where this particular little film would go, but basically that is how it started, that it was just a sign from above that I had to get involved in this, and it was the story. It always is, right? It’s always about the story and that was one that just touched my heart on so many levels, and it just felt like it wanted to be musicalized. It just felt that way to me. There was so much about it that I loved. It’s my passion, it’s my joy and it’s just something that I knew I would make happen. And then . . . so after we got through all of that, who would write the book? Who would be the person to really understand the story? Harvey Fierstein, first call.
Ken: It just came to you like that?
Daryl: Well I know Harvey. I worked with him before on A Catered Affair. I know him over the years. Yes, I thought he was the one. There was no question in my mind that if he were to do this it would be the right thing. And I called Hal Luftig to be my co-producer for two reasons. One, we had worked together before, some years before, but I liked Hal and he had more experience in the musical world than I had at that point because I was mostly known for producing plays, with an occasional musical thrown in. And Jerry Mitchell was someone that we both knew would be so right for this. It’s been said so many times that the last piece of the puzzle was the most brilliant, and that was Cyndi Lauper, who joined us and then we were off and running.
Ken: I want to talk a little bit about Hal, because I ask a lot of people about choosing directors, like I did with you, or writers even, but one thing I’ve never asked a producer is how do they pick a partner, which is becoming so much a part of how big Broadway musicals are done, because they’re so expensive nowadays and because you, very smartly, matched up with someone who could complement your skills. So, in addition to just because you had worked with him before and you liked him, what were some of the specifics about what you were looking for in a partner and why Hal, who also did a podcast for us?
Daryl: In Hal’s case it was more than we just knew each other and I knew we worked well together. It was that he had the experience of developing a new musical, which was important to me, and I knew that we both had great respect and admiration for Jerry Mitchell, so we agreed on that. And I wanted a partner who would be a complement to me, and Hal’s skills and my skills dovetail very nicely. That was the beginning and, usually, I think when you’re choosing a partner you just want one person to get going with, and then the other partners come to you as you’re further along and you have something to show. We didn’t have anything to share at that point, so just working with one other person, for me, and I think Hal would agree, was the most efficient way to get this going. In choosing partners, though, which was your question, I always want to share it with someone who feels the same passion that I do for the very piece that we’re talking about. So if you send it to someone who doesn’t seem to respond to it, I just say, “Thank you,” and go on to the next person. I don’t want someone to do something that they don’t feel totally committed to because it’s too hard, it’s just such a task if you don’t love what you’re doing. That’s not to say that I, myself, haven’t joined in with other people as a co-producer on something that I’m not the lead producer on, but I do that because I really love the piece. And I also feel I can’t develop everything from square one. I mean, it takes years to do these projects. And so I like to be involved in other pieces of good theater. I have a wonderful group of investors who are loyal to me and who share my taste or happily trust my taste, and so I like to be able to have opportunities to offer them, involvement in things, so I join other people at the same time that I develop the things that I feel personally passionate about.
Ken: Obviously not all shows can work, not every show can be successful.
Daryl: We’ve been there. Yes, we know this very well, all too well.
Ken: And we’ll be there again, unfortunately, and you talk about those investors. How do you let them down? How do you tell them, “You know what, this one’s not going to work?”
Daryl: It’s really the hardest part of the job for me because I feel very personally responsible and I feel like I let everybody down. Not only the company of marvelous people that created the work, but the people that believed in it and invested it in. And it is truly the most difficult, depressing and hard part of this business. For me, particularly . . . I’m sure all people feel this to some degree . . . but I can’t just go merrily along after something doesn’t work. I think there must be another word for it, but it’s like a postpartum depression when you have to close a show that you believed so thoroughly in and people worked so hard at and, for whatever reasons, it just doesn’t catch the wind and it just doesn’t become the success you had hoped for and felt it should become. It’s very difficult. It’s difficult and I don’t think I’ll ever feel different about it. It doesn’t get easier with the years that I’ve been doing this. I’m just as depressed every time something doesn’t work as I was at the beginning of time, which doesn’t bode well for my maturity!
Ken: So I’m sitting in your office and I’m looking at the Tony Awards right here and the plaques of Drama Desks and all these nominations.
Daryl: I’m a little bit of a pack rat, you have to admit.
Ken: And all of these opening night gifts, that’s also the cool, fun thing.
Daryl: I know, I never want to part with anything because I think there’s sort of a little bit of good karma in every little thing.
Ken: Look, and it’s Daryl Roth with Mike Tyson, everybody!
Daryl: That’s bizarre. There’s a better picture of Daryl Roth with Mike Nichols.
Ken: I’m going to take a picture of that for everyone so you can see it. So all these shows, I want to ask you one of my themed questions now. I want you to imagine that your phone rings and it’s the Smithsonian Institute and they say to you, “Daryl, you’ve produced a lot of wonderful shows. We’ve got room for one of them in the Institute.” What’s the one show you would ask them to forever preserve, of all the shows you’ve produced?
Daryl: It would be Kinky Boots. It would be Kinky Boots because it was something that I feel personally responsible for and it was something that was so meaningful to me, story-wise, and the whole process, the whole joy of it . . . we’re in our third year now and, as you mentioned, kindly, we have all these wonderful productions all over the world and we’re really changing minds. This is not just something to say. We are changing the minds of the way people think about other people and the way they think about themselves. And I do believe that, while I feel very proud of everything I’ve chosen to do, I have to say, in all humility, I feel like that particular production of Kinky Boots that we birthed, I guess is the right word, that we gave birth to, is the most meaningful thing of my career. And I don’t think I will surpass it for as long as I hope to be working, because everything about it, aside from being very personal to me, just fell into place in the best possible way and, when you talk about what it is that makes a successful show, the things on paper, the numbers and how’s your audience doing, “This was this week, you broke all records,” it’s so much more than that, really. You know that. So if they want it, they can have the Kinky Boots everything. I have rooms full of stuff, I can’t part with anything.
Ken: What’s the one show that didn’t work commercially, that never caught wind? I love that expression, by the way. That never caught wind and worked that frustrates you the most.
Daryl: Well I would just go back to the recent season and I would answer by saying that It Should Have Been You was a magnificent musical, beautifully written and heartfelt and wonderful songs, directed by David Hyde Pierce, written by Brian Hargrove and Barbara Anselmi, an amazing cast led by Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris and Sierra Boggess and Lisa Howard. I’ll go on and on. And the audience actually loved it, but some of the reviewers were unkind, and they didn’t allow for people to see the goodness in it. And so it was such a struggle to find our audience. But I will tell you that, no matter who came to see the show, to this day people say, “Oh my God, that was one of the best musicals. What happened to that musical? I wanted to bring my sister, my mother, my grandmother,” and I will not be able to answer that question ever, other than to say that the theater gods were not smiling on us and they were wrong.
Ken: I get those comments a lot about some of my shows. I usually say, “You didn’t tell enough people to go see the show!”
Daryl: Well that’s the answer, isn’t it? Because word of mouth is the best tool we have but it takes the longest to get there. Especially with the internet you would think that everything would happen, like boom, boom, boom, so if somebody can tell somebody, boom, boom, boom, but until that person then goes and gets a ticket and figures out their calendar, “Oh, maybe I’ll wait until Thanksgiving,” I mean you could just cry.
Ken: By then four more shows have opened.
Daryl: And we’re waiting for that person, yeah. It’s very disheartening sometimes when you know you have something of value and you know, you see audiences loving it so you know you’re not crazy. You’re not deluding yourself. But I don’t know, I think that was my heartbreak of last year.
Ken: Okay, my last question, which people have termed my “genie question.” I want you to imagine that the genie from Aladdin comes to knock on your door, right after the Smithsonian, apparently . . . it’s a busy day out there . . . and says, “Daryl, you’ve produced such amazing works of art, a lot of shows Off-Broadway that never would have been seen. Kinky Boots is changing minds all over the world. I want to thank you for that,” says the genie. “I want to grant you one wish.” What’s the one thing that drives you so crazy about Broadway, that makes you angry? You’re one of the sweetest and nicest women I’ve ever met and I wish everyone could see the smile on your face right now.
Daryl: Thank you!
Ken: But what really makes you mad? I want to see and hear Daryl Roth get mad over the one thing on Broadway, this one thing. What would you wish that the genie could change?
Daryl: I want to try to be diplomatic about this answer . . . and it’s a great question. I don’t think I can change this but what I wish that the theater genie could help with is having a sit down with the people who have the power to critique a work that people put in hours, weeks, months, years of their lives to do, and to tell those people who are critiquing that work to look for the good in it and to try to understand what it takes to put all these things together and to realize that it is not in their power to turn people away from going to theater. It should be in their power to encourage people to go and make up their own minds about any given piece of theater, encourage them by telling them honestly what the show’s about, what is important about the show, what is entertaining about the show, certainly not to say that everything has to be daisies, but not to be so insensitive as to come in with the sword of the pen and destroy someone’s life, career, hopes, dreams, without the slightest understanding of what they’re doing and, to me, that’s the biggest problem right now. And, mind you, I am certainly happy to be on the side of a great review. But I speak for other people. I’m not just talking about my own shows, I’m talking about the industry and how so quickly someone can just destroy something valuable by not being fair minded, by not being smart about it. I think that that’s my wish.
Ken: Well hopefully some of those people are listening right now. And if they’re not and you know anybody out there, listeners, forward this on to them! Thank you so much for spending some time with us, Daryl. Everyone out there, go see Sylvia on Broadway, go see Kinky Boots, which is now starring Wayne Brady. For more on Daryl and all of her activities visit DarylRothProducitons.com. Thanks, everybody, for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe. We’ll see you next time!