You’re just ONE of these away from whatever you want in theater . . . or in anything.

There has been a lot of time for reflection during the last five and a half months. (Can it be only 5 months since Broadway shut down? Why does it feel like we’re stuck in some Back To The Future-like time-space continuum.)
 
One of the things I’ve realized is that there have been a handful of moments in my life when I took a hard right turn to something much better than where I was.
Like one moment I was lamenting where I was, wondering how I could get out, and the next moment I was saying, “Whoa . . . this is MUCH better!”
 
 “Ok, ok,” I said to myself as I wrote down some of these moments. “So what was it that got me to take that turn and . . . produce my first show, start a blog, get married (for a few examples of my personal life-changing events).”
 
It took me about an hour to unpack each moment to figure out what each one had in common.
 
And the answer was so simple it was shocking.
 
The first domino that got me to do all those things and a bunch more?
 
Someone gave me a piece of advice.
 
That’s right . . . it was someone else who lit the fire.
 
And it didn’t take much. A few words in most cases. The right question.  A quote in a book.
 
But for whatever reason, they resonated and bam, I took a right turn to a much better life.
 
Now, those few words weren’t from someone random on the street. All the people who poked me with their advice were experts. They had all been through a lot of the same @#$% before me.
 
But in each case they only had to say one thing . . . just ONE thing . . . that forever altered my life for the better.  Like the MUCH better.
(One of them was Hal Prince, by the way, which I talk about here at length.)
 
So what’s the point of me telling you this?
 
Well, if you’re looking for a positive change in your life in the theater or in anything, here’s an exciting and optimistic way to look at it . . 
 
You are just ONE piece of advice away from getting exactly where you want to go.
 
That’s it! A few words from the right person could forever alter your destiny.
 
Sounds easy, right?
 
It is.
 
Just follow this three step formula to getting to where you want to be.

1. Seek out wise words from experts. Mentors, books, whenever and wherever. Devour content from people who have been through it before you and achieved success.

2. When you find an expert who you respect, be open to advice. Or, like my 5th grade Algebra teacher would say, shut up and listen.

3. Act on the advice.
 
Do that and watch the eff out. The change won’t happen overnight, but one day you’ll look back and say, “Hey – my life is better – how’d that happen?”
 
And you’ll realize it was someone who said the right thing to you at the right time . . . and you seizing that moment.
 
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shut up and listen to a few more folks right now, because there is a lot of stuff I still want to do.  And I know they will help get me there.
 
– – – – –
 
If you’re looking for theater folks to listen to and give you actionable advice, come to this. There is nowhere else you can hear from so many theatrical gurus in one place.  And past attendees have called it “life affirming” and an “influential experience” for all the reasons above.  See you there.

Your questions about going virtual, streaming, and putting shows online.

My first gig as a Company Manager was the 1st National Tour of Jekyll & Hyde in 1999. I was a rookie, and I made a lot of mistakes.
 
The biggest mistake I made was not answering questions before someone asked.
 
I would get asked about housing in an upcoming city, opening night tickets, and much more.
 
And often, I got frustrated and thought, “I’m so busy trying to get us to the next city. I’ll get those answers to everyone when I have them!”
 
Then I realized something . . . if these questions were coming up over and over, then they were important to my company. And it was my job to get them answers, even if I didn’t think they needed them!
 
Because if I wasn’t providing the proper information to my company then I wasn’t doing the best job. (Company Managers, Producers, Directors, and leaders of all types need to “read the minds” of the people they lead.)
 
After getting some great feedback from a mentor, I established a principle:
 
If I received the same question 2x then I had to provide the answer immediately . . . because if I got the same question 3x, I failed.
 
Well, I’ve gotten about 300 questions about Broadway shows, Off Broadway shows, high school shows, community theater shows, and ALL types of shows going virtual in the past 3 months. And with greater frequency in the last 3 weeks!
 
That means I haven’t provided you with enough answers.
 
So, I failed you. I started this blog to help with issues like this, so I fall on my sword and say only this . .
 
I’m going to get you the answers now. Whether I have them or not, or if I have to go to some more experts to help.
 
But here’s where you can help. I want to make sure I answer your TOP questions about streaming, going virtual, online readings, on demand, virtual concerts, and more. Are your questions technical, artistic, how to charge money . . . what?
 
If you are even thinking about going virtual with a show of yours or curious about how it’s done and have questions . . . click here to answer this ONE question survey about your biggest question.
 
Give me these 10 seconds, and I promise to give you a @#$% ton of information.
 
Because that’s my job.
 
Click here to take the survey and get the answers you want.

The Top 6 Most Important Skills A Producer Must Have. Part II

Did you enjoy your intermission?
 
Yesterday, I gave you Act I of this two-parter with 3 of the 6 top skills Broadway Producers must have now . . . and forever.
 
To give you a recap, that trio of traits is:
 
1. Imagination
2. Optimism
3. Objectivity
 
Now, we resume this e-performance with Act II and three more mad skillz you need to produce on Broadway:
 
4. Thick-skinness
 
Here’s a fact. If you put something out in the world, someone will throw tomatoes at you. Robert Kennedy once said, “One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.” That’s right, 20% of the audience that sees your show won’t like it or YOU . . . no matter what you do.
 
So you best have the skin of a politician to brave the critics, audiences, and even some of your peers! Especially after your first big success. One Hollywood and Broadway A-list superstar once told me, “When you achieve something great, you can bet money that people will try to bring you down.”
 
Don’t let it surprise you. And don’t let it bother you.
 
5. Collaborative
 
I often say that creating a new musical is like trying to get fifteen people to paint the Mona Lisa. Someone wants this shade of color. Another wants this texture of brush stroke. And what about the frame? And maybe she should frown?
 
Creating a musical or a play is one of the most collaborative processes on the planet. So you better be good at it AND you best be good at facilitating it. Because when people fight, as the Producer, you’ll need to suss it out. Because you’ve got the most at risk if the show doesn’t turn out the best it can be. (And rest assured, your team will fight, even on successful shows. And sometimes even MORE on successful shows! Read this book for an example of that!)
 
6. The Action-ator
 
Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, all Broadway Producers need to be relentless in their pursuit.
 
They need to take action, and massive amounts of it, every day, to get their show up the Broadway hill.
 
They can’t wait for someone else to pick up the ball. Because no one will. No one cares as much. It’s up to you. Become The Action-ator and you’ll get to where you want to go, without even knowing how you got there.
 
 
I started this post thinking it was for TheaterMakers who wanted to be Producers. And somewhere during that intermission, I realized that these traits are essential for ALL TheaterMakers. So whether you’re a Producer, Playwright, Director or Actor, infuse your work with these six traits: Imagination, Optimism, Objectivity, Thick-skinness, Collaboration and Action-Taking, and you’ll get through this strange period we’re in and ANY strange period we’re ever in.
 
Need some examples of the action I take to get me and my projects going? Click here for 19 daily actionable tasks that help me get my shows off the ground.

The Top 6 Most Important Skills A Producer Must Have. Part I

Last week, on a Zoom speaking event (because what else is there!), a recent college grad asked me a question.
 
“During this down time, what skills should I develop if I want to be a successful Broadway Producer?”
 
(The fact that she asked how she could turn this @#$% storm into an opportunity has me betting on her future, btw.)
 
I was about to launch into a list of negotiating courses she could take and marketing podcasts she could listen to. And then I stopped.
 
These days, it’s more than specific skills you need. It’s about attitudes and traits and characteristics of who you are as a person, not only a Producer.
 
But the good news is that like negotiating and marketing and raising money . . . you can learn these too.
 
So here’s what I said Producers needed before Covid and during Covid. And will need after Covid.
 
1. Imagination
 
Producers never get to see, feel or taste their final product, until their $15mm is already spent, the NY Times critic is in the audience, and avid theatergoers are already chattin’ about it on Facebook.
 
Sure, you get readings and workshops, but those are never true indications of what the show will be.
 
The best Producers I know are the ones who can look at someone on a page, or under the fluorescent lights of a rehearsal room reading, with actors on-book behind music stands and say . . . “Can’t you see it? It’s going to be sensational.”
 
I mean . . . do you think you would have optioned Rent, Hamilton, Les Mis, Cats, Hadestown, Dear Evan Hansen, etc, etc. based on a pitch or a script?
 
Learn to see what isn’t on the page to be the best Producer you can be.
2. Optimism
 
Here’s one that Producers need a triple-shot of these days. There’s only a 20% recoupment rate on Broadway. And that’s IF your show gets all the way to Broadway. And if it does, AND it becomes one of the 20%, that doesn’t mean anyone gets rich. Producers need to look those odds in the face and say, “My show is different.” (P.S. A surefire way to success is to make sure your show is different. Unique is what stands out and what stands out is what sells.)
3.  Objectivity
 
Sometimes, your show is going to suck. In fact, most first drafts suck. Most twelfth drafts also suck, just a little bit less. (I have this dream that some of our most successful writers would release the first drafts of their Tony winners or Pulitzer Prize winners so we could all see how they sucked . . . and how they made them better.)
 
I’ve got news for you . . . if your show is in the early stages, it’s not Les Mis, Phantom, A Chorus Line, etc . . . YET. I’m not saying it won’t be one of those box-office busters, but it takes time, effort, and objectivity.
 
Be able to stand back and say . . . “This is not good enough.” And then see Skill #2 and be optimistic that as a team you’ll make it better.
 
Want the next three? Tune in tomorrow for more.
 
 – – – – –
Need some tips on how to keep creating theater during Covid-19? How about 19 tips? Take our 19 Day challenge here.

The Challenge of Creating Theater during Covid-19. Quite Literally.

As the pandemic continues to put a damper on everyone’s theatrical plans, it can be a struggle to, well, plan.  And I get it. Believe me. On March 10th, I said to my staff, “We’re going to have four musicals debut in the next 18 months!”
 
We planned. A virus laughed.
 
But we WILL get the last effin’ laugh when our curtains go back up. I mean, what a celebration it will be!
 
That’s what I say to myself every morning when I fire up my computer and challenge myself with . . . well . . . coming up with things to do to make theater . . . when we can’t make theater.
 
Over the past few weeks, I came up with a whole bunch of daily tasks, activities, and serious ACTION ITEMS to prepare for ‘Curtain Up’ day.
 
And you know what? They are working. They are moving my projects forward when it’s hard to move anything forward.  
 
That’s why I want to share them with you. And I want you to have some fun at the same time.  🙂
So last week, we created The 19 Day “Creating Theater During Covid-19” Challenge.
What the shutdown is that?
  • 19 daily video lessons from me describing a task (that I do) to keep your project moving forward.
  • A forum to post your assignments/homework.
  • Feedback from fellow committed TheaterMakers like yourself.
  • A “Get Produced” Blueprint WHEN you successfully complete the challenge.
  • And a few surprises along the way.
Does it cost something?
 
Yes. $19. (Get it?)
 
And we’re donating the profits to my Dad’s encouragement fund.
 
I guess we could have made it free instead. But I find that you’re much more likely to “show up” for something when you have to pay for it. True, right? (Why do you think personal trainers exist!). 
 
And I want you to complete this mother-chuckin’ challenge because I want your shows out there in the world when this is over. (And with all this vaccine talk – I figure we’re starting to see a glimmer of light down the road – so now is the time to get ourselves ready!)   And this way we give a little boost to the upcoming TheaterMakers at the same time.
Who’s in to make some theater?
 
The challenge starts on August 10th. Absolutely no latecomers.
 
Sign up for it here.
 
And prepare for some coronavirus-kickin’ action.
 
 
 
Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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