Favorite Quotes Vol. XXX: How risk in real estate is related to us.

I was chatting with a very unqiuely intelligent two graduate-degreed guy today.  The degrees?  An MBA and an MD.  Yep, a Doctor who could tell you how to live an extra ten years, and then tell you how much those ten years will cost you.

He told me a story about his first class in Biz School, which focused on investing in real estate, whether that meant your own home, or something you were looking to flip.  He said one of the very first things the Prof. said was . . .

If you’re not sweating just a little bit each month to make your mortgage payment, you didn’t risk enough when you made your purchase.

This quote hit ‘home’ for me, because when I bought my apartment 15 years ago, I could have had a much bigger place for just a bit more.  I could have made it work, but it would have been a little tougher to make the payments, and I didn’t want to risk it.  Well, 15 years later, that other apartment increased in value a lot more than my current apartment.  But I wanted to play it safe, and live comfortably, rather than challenge myself just a bit.

And I lost out because of it.

It’s a great real estate lesson . . . but isn’t this quote also true about in everything in life?

If you want to do big things, whether that’s write a musical, produce a play, make money in the stock market, or heck, even have a wonderful marriage and family  . . . do you think you’re going to get it without a little bit of sweat on your brow every once in a while?  You think you can achieve your dream without that little nauseous knot in your stomach every so often  . . . you know, the one that scares the crap out of you . . .  but also makes you work a little harder to make sure you do get what you want?

Everyone gets scared.  And everyone sweats.

What that Biz Professor was saying, and what I am repeating, is that if you’re not sweating, that’s when you should really be scared.

– – – – –

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Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVII. My Mother The Theatergoer.

There’s always a lot of talk about the Tonys in the weeks that follow the big show.  What numbers were successful?  Could we give the plays more attention and still hold the audience’s attention?  And who fit Katie Holmes into her dress?

But the most important question for the Producers out there is . . . after watching the Tonys, what shows does the public want to see?

All of us in the industry debate this question like crazy.  But what do we know?  Most of us don’t have a clue what it’s like to be a family of four from the suburbs interested in seeing a show on their next long weekend.  In fact, I would wager that the people making the product in our industry and the people seeing the product are more different than in most industries out there.

But that doesn’t stop us from guessing.

I was in the middle of a heated discussion about my own guesses on what the public wanted to see last week, when I realized it was time to go to the source.  I decided to go to what most advertising agencies would describe as the model of a “traditional” theatergoer:  a suburban female in her 50s-60s who sees 3-5 shows per year, mostly musicals, and pays full price.

And that theatergoer is my momma.  And she’s literally been in my backyard this whole time!

I called Mom, who, of course, had tuned in to the Tonys, and asked her if she would write a mini-blog for me about her perspective on this year’s show.  Most specifically, I asked . . . “Mom, after watching the Tonys, what shows do you want to see the next time you are in town?”

Here’s what Mom had to say . . . [my comments are in brackets] “I watched the Tony Awards a few nights ago.  I love the excitement, costumes, music – even the speeches.  I often get ideas about what I’d like to see on our next NYC trip.  Before I tell you what shows captured my attention from the way they were presented at The Tonys, I thought you might find it interesting to get a few additional details about my perspective (and some of these Kenneth doesn’t even know).  [Yes, she, and about three other people on the planet, call me Kenneth.]

  • My first theater experience was 50 years ago when I saw Annie Get Your Gun.  When the stage curtain opened, revealing a real live horse . . . I was hooked!  [When people see things on stage that they don’t expect to see: kids, animals, helicopters, it elevates the experience.]
  • As a teenager, I was addicted to buying show albums, and also listening to show songs popularized by famous artists.  I loved those album covers and the summaries of the shows on the back (King and I, Mame, etc.)  [Oh, if only popular artists were covering our tunes today.]
  • I was a teen in the ’60s, which put me in the proper emotional state to grasp the power of music.  It brought people together, challenged their thinking and even caused them to take action (Hair, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar).  

And now, here are the shows that I wanted to see and the ones that didn’t interest me (there were many other shows that I had no opinion on – I’d have to learn more before putting them in the “to see” or “don’t see” category).  It’s important to remember that this is based solely on what I saw on the Tonys.  I might not see any of these shows, or I might see them all.  A lot of things may change my mind before I get to New York next, including what Kenneth thinks I might like to see or not.  [Good ol’ fashioned Word of Mouth trumps all, and I can’t believe she called me Kenneth twice in this blog.]

SHOWS I REALLY WANT TO SEE!

Memphis:  The music and the dancing were so exciting, this is at the top of my list.  (I have to admit that ‘Listen to the Beat’ sounded like Hairspray‘s ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat.’ but I loved the music and the dancing in that show, too!)  [Music, dancing . . . the keys to an audience-pleaser of a musical.]

Fela!:  I love the costumes, the music and the dancing.  The story (about using music to communicate) also seemed very interesting to me.  [See her comment about growing up in the ’60s.  What our audience lived through helped make them who they are today and influences what they want to see.]

Million Dollar Quartet:  Loved the music and the story idea and Levi Kreis’s performance.

Red:  I really liked the premise about the importance of art and what I saw of both Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne.  [Mom was disappointed to hear she wouldn’t get a chance to see this show because of its limited run.  I told her if she was disappointed, imagine how the Producers must feel.]

NAH, I’LL PASS

American Idiot:  To me, it seemed like a concert, and not a show.  I’ve heard about Green Day because my other son is in the music business, but I’ve never listened to any of their music before.  The music was interesting to me, but I’m not going to play it in my car anytime soon.

A Little Night Music:  I don’t know this show very well, so I can only base my thoughts on what I saw, but I wasn’t inspired.  I love ‘Send In The Clowns,’ but I didn’t learn anything else about the show through the performance.”
So there are Mom’s Tony Award Takeaways.

Now please remember, this is only one Mom’s opinion. And the opinions expressed here by my Mom are solely my Mom’s and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Moms everywhere or even me.

But she’s a Mom with a Mastercard, and she uses it to buy tickets.  So maybe we should listen to all of the Moms out there more than we listen to those of us on the inside of the business.

So . . . what did your Mom think?

[Update:  My mom came into the city this weekend unexpectedly.  Although she wanted to see Memphis, she ended up getting Chicago tickets instead (and special thanks to Michael at the Ambassador BO for helping her out).  Why?  “I thought your step-father would enjoy it more.”]

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XVI. My Mom.

I spoke to a recent college grad the other day who was debating the question that we’re all faced with as we start our professional lives:  “What do I want to do with my life?”

I remember asking myself the same question when I was a few years out of school, because I was bouncing around from job to job and just didn’t feel like I found my niche.  I acted, I stage managed, I worked for an agent . . . nothing seemed to fit.

So, I did what recent college grads do.  I called Mommy.

I told Momma Davenport that I was thinking of quitting my job because it didn’t feel right.  Then I started feeling guilty for having tried so many things, and asked her when she thought I’d figure out what I wanted to do?

Mom said, “Hey, think of it this way.  With every job you have, you may not be figuring out what you want to do, but at least you’re figuring out what you don’t want to do.”

She was right.  And to use an analogy that my instructor for my Princeton Review SAT course would be proud of . . .

Life is like the SATs.  If you don’t the answer right away, eliminate the wrong ones, and the choice will be easier.

—–

The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social is TONIGHT, and it’s SOLD OUT!

Free drink!  Door prizes include show tickets, merch, a 6-month subscription to PerformerTrack Webware, and a Kindle!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XV. The BROTHER of the original Producer of Finian’s Rainbow chimes in.

On Monday, I posted an article written by Lee Sabinson back in the 50s.  My press agent remembered that Lee’s brother, Harvey, was just a tad bit involved in the commercial theater as well.  Yep, Harvey Sabinson worked at The League for twenty years, including a stint as its Executive Director, and worked on Broadway for over fifty!  (Just look at those credits!)

A press agent by trade, Mr. Sabinson’s most famous client was . . . Mr. David Merrick.

That means that Mr. Sabinson worked on the Subways are for Sleeping ad campaign, which has been much-ballyhooed on this blog  (you may remember that we had some feedback on the blog from another of the creators of that campaign).

Well, my press agent sent Mr. Sabinson my blog, and like any great former flack, he responded right away (if only all of our current press agents would respond so quickly).

His response was so fitting, that I thought I’d post it here.  So, here’s another expert, giving it to us straight.

Thanks so much for sending me the souvenir book piece written by my brother almost sixty-three years. I remember it well. I was an ATPAM apprentice to Samuel J. Friedman on the original production. Last week, while in New York, I was Jack Viertel’s guest at a performance of the show, which evoked a lot of memories.

But what amazed me was a list of about twenty producers presenting a revival of a show that only two guys did so long ago (and one of them was only an investor). I also bought two tickets for one of my sons for a total of $244. The original orchestra top was $6.90 of which 90 cents was tax.

You’re not the only one who thinks that both of those things are “amazing,” Mr. Sabinson.

—–

The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social is tomorrow, and it’s SOLD OUT!

Free drink!  Door prizes include tickets, merch, and a Kindle!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)

Advice from an Expert: Vol. XIV. The original Producer of Finian’s Rainbow speaks from beyond the rainbow.

My assistant, Melissa, who has been super busy processing all the Social RSVPs, stumbled upon a Finian’s Rainbow souvenir program from the original production at a flea market last week.  She snatched it up for $10 and brought it in for show-and-tell.

She found a pot ‘o gold on the last page, left to her by that lucky leprechaun, Lee Sabinson, the original producer.

Lee wrote an article on the last page which he titled, “So You Want To Be A Producer.”

Lee passed away in 1991, but his legacy lives on, with the production of Finian’s currently on Broadway, and with this witty and still relevant article on Producing, which we’ve transcribed for you below.

 

SO YOU WANT TO BE A PRODUCER

By Lee Sabinson

It looks so easy to be a Broadway producer that almost
everyone who ever heard the word Theatre wants to be one.  I don’t blame
them.  They don’t know that producing is a certain path to ulcers,
baldness, gout – if you’re lucky, for that’s a rich man’s disease – and other
innumerable disasters that will not be listed.

After all what does a producer have to do?  Very little!
Find a play, raise the money, cast the play, raise the money, check the
production, raise the money, find a theatre and raise more money!

Now you’re on your way.  Finding a play is a simple
thing.  One little note in a newspaper that you’ve opened producing
offices and you’re swamped with such items as “Bertha” a sequel to “The Sewing
Machine Girl,” “Icecast,” a melodrama with four people and one set that takes
place in the Antarctic during winter – you can save on your electrical
equipment this way.

I started as a producer because I couldn’t get a
thirty-five dollar a week job reading scripts for an established
producer.  I tried to find a play only to find that the well known authors
were submitting plays to well known producers.  I had to turn to novels –
“Counterattack” and “Trio” were the results of reading galley proofs.
“Home of the Brave” reached my partner Bill Katzell and myself only after a
great many, more established producers turned it down.  So finding a play
presents no problem.

Getting “Finian’s Rainbow” was no problem.  The
authors were almost unknown.  E.Y. Harburg did the lyrics for such shows
as “Bloomer Girl,” “Life Begins at 8:40,” “Walk A Little Faster” and for such
movies as “The Wizard of Oz,” “Song of Russia,” “Cabin in the Sky.”  Fred
Saidy, who collaborated with him on the book, co-authored “Bloomer Girl” and
has screen credit for innumerable pictures.  But these boys are novices,
there would be no competition.  The man who wrote the delightful music for
the show, Burton Lane, wrote the score for “Hold on to Your Hats,” and one of
the Olsen and Johnson musicals.  So he wouldn’t be difficult since he was
unknown.

The day after I read the book I landed in California
where the three – author, lyricist and composer were whiling their time away in
the sunshine and earning a measly couple of thousand a week.  I offered
them the opportunity of a Broadway production and they immediately left their
spot on the beach, their beautiful homes and hopped a train for Broadway.
You see all the producer need do is mention that glamorous word Broadway and
the world is his.

Came the problem of finding a director.  I knew
Bretaigne Windust, who had staged “Trio” for me.  Windy presented no
problem.  No one wanted the services of the director responsible for such
hits as “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Life With Father” and “State of the
Union.”  That is no one but Warner Brothers to whom he is under contract,
and seventeen other producers.  But Windy wanted to come back to New York
so that he and his wife and youngsters could move from hotel to hotel every
five days.  There’s nothing like the excitement of finding a hotel to live
in in New York.  These prospects so enchanted Mr. Windust that he decided
to direct “Finian’s Rainbow.”

We next proceeded to raise the money.  Investing in
musicals is a certain way to double your money.  So all you do is call up
people with money who rush to your office immediately, their pockets bulging
with United States currency and kill each other trying to put it on your
desk.  The backers are now cast.

By now your job is jelling.  The show is in
rehearsal.  All you have to do is find a theatre.  Do you know how
hard it is to find an apartment?  Well there are nine hundred thousand
apartments to every legitimate theatre available in New York.  But suppose
you find a theatre are you through with the wonderful, easy job of being a
producer?  You’re not!  You’re just starting out!  There are the
critics out of town and in New York to get by.  If your reviews are good
out of town you wonder if the New York critics are going to come waiting to see
the arrival of a new Messiah.  If they’re bad you’re afraid the critics
will come in bored or something.

But “Finian’s Rainbow” got rave reviews on its tryout and
rave reviews when it opened.  So you think the job is done?  Now you
sit and worry about how you can cast your road company as perfectly as that on
Broadway.  And when you’re through worrying about that you have one or two
other worries.  The show is a hit.  But you’ve got to do another
show.  Where are you going to get the next play?  And so it starts in
all over again.

If there are any prospective producers among the readers
of this piece who let my words discourage them…they were not prospective
producers at all.  For truth to tell, with all the headaches and heart
aches, you feel you want to be a producer.  Well, I’ll tell you a secret,
so do I.

—–

Only 3 days until The 2nd Annual Producers Perspective Social!

Free drink!  Door prizes include tickets, merch, and a Kindle!

RSVP Today!

Click here for details.(please note, due to overwhelming demand the Social will now at be Hurley’s Saloon)

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