Got a question about Broadway? Then call the Hotline: 1-855-SEE-BWAY

I talk to lots of theatergoers: in focus groups, at the TKTS booth, in the lobby at Godspell, on the subway, on vacation, and everywhere in between.

It’s become somewhat of a hobby.

What amazes me every time I talk to them is how much they don’t know.  They’re not “dumb”, by any means.  It’s just that there are a lot of myths, urban legends and just plain bad info about Broadway out there.  And since our industry doesn’t have megabucks to spend on public service announcements (or rather, the people with the megabucks won’t spend it on public service announcements), a lot of this bad information gets spread instead of getting stomped out.

What also amazes me is how fascinated theatergoers are with talking to someone like me who does know what shows are running, who is starring in what show, how to get the best tickets, what time the TKTS booth actually opens, if Hugh Jackman is as good looking as he is on TV,  and so on.

After disseminating whatever info I have, I also usually direct them to a website or two.

And here’s where it really gets interesting (but not that surprising).

That’s when they usually complain about the websites, and the lack of easy-to-find info, the navigation, the ads, etc., etc., and they usually say something like, “Sometimes I just want to talk to a person.”

You know the feeling, right?  Ever have a problem with a computer?  An airline ticket?  Something outside of your everyday world . . . and all that you want to do is get a person on the phone who can give you the answer to your question, or steer you in the right direction?

Wouldn’t that make your whole process more positive?  Maybe it would even make you want to do more of it?

Well, that’s exactly what I thought . . . so then I wondered . . . why doesn’t Broadway have a hotline?  Why doesn’t it have a toll free number that people can just call to find out stuff?  Ivory Soap has one.  Coke has one.

And now Broadway has one too!

Introducing 1-855-SEE-BWAY, the first ever free Broadway hotline.

Yep, we created 1-855-SEE-BWAY (733-2929) to help answer your questions about Broadway.

It’s staffed by a bunch of the nicest Broadway theater lovers you could ever imagine (they also happen to be my staff, in a very Zappos-inspired “we all answer the phone including the boss” structure), and we guarantee we’ll get you the answer to whatever question you have about Broadway theatergoing.

Need to know what’s playing?  Need to know at what times?  Price of tickets?  Suitability for kids?  Location?  Parking?  Restaurants nearby?  Sure, we got that.  And if we don’t, we’ll get it for you.  Promise on our autographed original cast recording of Company.

Oh, and before you ask . . . no, we’re not selling anything.  This isn’t about us trying to make any money.  This is about a service that should exist.  And needs to exist if we’re going to grow our audience (just like Zappos increased theirs).

So starting today, the Broadway Hotline is open for biz.  Call it yourself, or give it to your friends, or write it on a bathroom wall for all I care.

Everyone on my team loves talking theater, so we’re just taking turns trying to help theatergoers see more theater.

And when people see more theater, everyone wins.



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10 Takeaways from TEDxBroadway a day.

Damian, Jim and I had high expectations for the first ever TEDxBroadway, but we were blown away by the presentations given by our big-brained speakers.  It was an exciting and inspiring day and all of us were so thankful to each and every presenter, and especially to each and every audience member who gave up a day’s worth of work and $100 to focus on what Broadway could be in twenty years.

The talks will be online in the near (or so) future, so if you’re not a New Yorker, then you’ll be able to catch them all in their entirety.

But in the meantime, I thought I’d give you one quote from each of the 16 speakers’ presentations that I found memorable/insightful/funny.  And let me tell you, distilling it down to just one was haaaaaaard.

Here goes.

1.  Jordan Roth – “No one sets out to create something unremarkable.”

2.  Randy Weiner – “Different is my favorite word.”

3.  Neil Patrick Harris – “I find that the more I drink the more I enjoy the show.”

4.  Patricia Martin – “We are poised for another renaissance.”

5.  Joe Iconis – “I’ve never actually seen a Powerpoint presentation.”

6.  Matt Sax – “I hate to say this, but Broadway is looking a lot like Vegas.”

7.  Frank Eliason – “Customer service is about a simple human connection. We’ve lost that connection in business.”

8.  Kara Larson – “Create the future and let other people adapt to you.”

9.  Steve Gullans – “The opinion of 1000 people is better than the opinion of 1.”

10.  Damian Bazadona – “Think of Broadway as an idea factory.”

11.  Barry Kahn – “What if all Broadway theatres worked out of the same box office?”

12.  Vincent Gassetto – “Schools + Broadway = Infinite Possibilities”

13.  Juan Enriquez – “You would be doing a disservice to the theatre to ignore today’s medical questions.”

14.  Joseph Craig – “Do not ignore the male audience for Broadway.”

15.  Greg Mosher – “You can’t Google a broken heart. That’s what we need Shakespeare for.”

. . . and finally, in my “prologue”, I ended by saying . . .

16.  Ken Davenport – “People create ideas, and ideas create the future.”

And I am so thankful for all of the people and their ideas that are what made the first ever TEDxBroadway a success.

I am going to make a prediction now about our future.  You ready?

There will be a TEDxBroadway next year.


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My best advice for people who want to start producing.

I was recently asked to provide a quote for a new book about people interested in pursuing a career in the arts, and specifically producing.  The author wanted a pearl for wannabe producers on how to get started in this biz, where $10mm is now a small Broadway musical, and so many shows seem to be about which Hollywood stars you know and can get to hang out with you for 14 weeks.

I typed out a quick quote, and then realized that I’ve never addressed it on my blog, so I wanted to share it with you as well, since I know so many of you are upcoming and/or currently producing at all sorts of levels around the world.

So here’s my attempt at a nugget:

My advice for people just starting out is to . . . start.  Producing sounds like a big, fat, scary word.  But producing really just means getting a group of people together and getting a show on.  Maybe that’s Broadway, maybe that’s Off-Broadway, or maybe that’s in your living room.  It doesn’t take millions of dollars to produce something.  Produce whatever you can produce.  But produce it today.

So now that I’ve given you my talking point of the day, take a moment, all you Producers-to-be, decide what it is you want to start producing today, and comment about it below.  Putting it down publicly, and on this blog, will help you commit to getting it done.

And before you can even help it, you’ll be a Producer.


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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.]


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.]


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.”]
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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