GUEST BLOG: TALES FROM A MUSICAL FESTIVAL CURATOR

As I type this, we are four days away from the 15th annual New York Musical Festival (NYMF). On July 9th, 30+ new musical productions, concerts, readings, and educational events will descend upon midtown Manhattan (West 42nd St between 9th and 11th Avenues, to be precise) and showcase their developmental work to a New York audience over the course of four weeks.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Since NYMF is a 4-week summer festival, I often get the question, “So what do you do the rest of the year, when the Festival isn’t happening?” People are surprised to hear that the Festival is a full-time, year-around gig and planning for the next Festival begins mere weeks after the previous one has ended. Think of it as a regular theater season with all the programming condensed into 28 non-stop days. The Festival process for me as Producing Artistic Director begins around Labor Day each year when the submissions process for the Next Link Project opens. What is the Next Link Project, you may ask? The Next Link Project anchors the Festival – it’s our primary writer service program that, through a rigorous double-blind evaluation process, selects ten writing teams and their shows to present a production in the Festival. These Next Link teams receive administrative, creative, dramaturgical, and financial support, culminating in a subsidized production in the Festival. By “double-blind,” I mean there are two levels implemented to remove bias from the process: the first, authors’ names are removed from all their materials to maintain the integrity of the work; and secondly, readers’ names are not revealed to one another, so we can get an impartial evaluation from each reader on our Reading Committee (made up of dramaturgs, directors, literary managers, and other working theater professionals).

Next Link submissions close in early November and our reading committee furiously finishes screening (the first stage: evaluating a 15-page excerpt with demos) and reading (the second stage: evaluating the full materials) for another month, leading up to what we affectionately refer to as the Reader Smackdown.  This day-long event gives readers a chance to reveal themselves to one another and debate which shows should be shortlisted as finalists for Next Link. By the end, we typically have 40 shows for me to personally review and determine the top 20 or so finalists. Those shows then go on to be evaluated by our Grand Jury of fancy directors, actors, choreographers, and producers. With their input, we select the ten Next Link Projects in mid-late January! Phew.

But these ten Next Link Projects make up just about one-third of the Festival (and even less in previous years). So where do the other shows come from? Well, many new musicals that come through submissions are conceptually compelling but need time to focus on strengthening their storytelling and character development before they’re ready for production prime time – ten of these shows will eventually go on to be a part of our Developmental Reading Series, which is a barebones presentation in a rehearsal studio with actors on book at music stands (essentially a 29-hour AEA reading). We also choose a few shows – either through submissions or through our email solicitation – to participate as “Invited Productions.” To the outside eye, the Next Link Projects and Invited Productions are really the same and fall under the umbrella category “Productions” – they include all the same production elements (lights, sound, costumes, choreography)- but internally, Invited Productions don’t require the same level of support as Next Link (for example, an experienced producer may want to use the existing Festival structure to share their project with an audience). It’s important to note though that all productions must be considered within the context of the Festival and we recommend they lean in to being suggestive rather than emphasize big-budget Production Values (shows do share space and have limited tech time, after all – it’s a creative challenge). The 2018 Festival will have two Invited Productions along with our ten Next Link Projects.

Concerts and educational events round out the programming – concerts tend to follow a song cycle format and many of these are produced by us. In 2017, we began commissioning what we call “micro-musicals” (30 minutes or less) inspired by politically relevant prompts, which culminate in a concert series entitled How the Light Gets In: An Evening of New American Micro-Musical Works one evening of the Festival. This initiative was developed to create more space for democratic discourse in the Festival as well as create more opportunities for artists to access and participate in the Festival. It’s been a big goal of both mine and our Executive Director Dan Markley’s to remove as many barriers to entry as possible so we can consistently ensure that the most exciting talents have a place at NYMF – we are well on our way.

As a curator, I aim to make sure these 30+ shows showcase a wide range of stories, themes, structures, and musical styles. I’d like to believe there’s at least one show for every Festival goer to revel in, no matter his or her personal aesthetic. I also firmly believe that it’s my job to amplify artistic voices with meaningful stories to tell that have yet to be heard. This year, we will use the Festival’s platform to share stories centered around racial justice, immigration, queer and trans representation, mental illness, and other vital issues – musicals can be challenging, invigorating, and encourage empathy! Of course, we also have a musical about alien lizards that conspire for world domination through a beauty pageant. (Balance is important.)

To learn more about the 2018 Festival, visit www.nymf.org. Submissions for the 2019 Next Link will open on August 29, 2018.

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RACHEL SUSSMAN is an award-winning New York-based producer committed to nurturing accessible, inclusive work through creative collaboration.

Rachel is a co-founder of  The MITTEN Lab, an emerging theatre artist residency program in her native state of Michigan as well as The Indigo Theatre Project, a theatre company of passion and purpose dedicated to producing play readings that benefit related non-profit organizations, most recently, An American Daughter (starring Keri Russell and Hugh Dancy for She Should Run). She serves as the Producing Artistic Director for the New York Musical Festival (NYMF).

Rachel has worked with such companies as Second Stage Theatre, 321 Theatrical Management, RKO Stage Productions, Goodspeed Musicals’ Mercer Colony, The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook, The Tony Awards, and CREATE-Ireland in Dublin, Ireland. Independent producing credits include:  the Obie award-winning production of The Woodsman (New World Stages/59E59), Don’t You F**king Say a Word (59E59), The Rug Dealer (Women’s Project Pipeline Festival), The Sweetest Life (New Victory), and Talk to me about Shame (FringeNYC, Overall Excellence Award). Upcoming: Eh Dah? (Next Door @ NYTW) and a new musical about the American women’s suffrage movement by Shaina Taub.

Rachel is a 2014-2016 Women’s Project Lab Time Warner Foundation Fellow, a trustee emeritus for The Awesome Foundation NYC, and a two-time finalist for the T Fellowship in Creative Producing. She sits on the Advisory Board for Strangemen & Co. and The Musical Theatre Factory as well as the Artist Board for Encores! Off-Center. She is a proud member of the Ghostlight Project Steering Committee and the Covenant House Broadway Sleep Out Executive Committee. Rachel is a graduate of the Commercial Theater Institute (Fred Vogel Scholarship) and a University Honors Scholar alumna of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
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The New York Musical Festival (NYMF) nurtures the creation, production, and public presentation of stylistically, thematically, and culturally diverse new musicals to ensure the future vitality of musical theater.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Festival is the premier musical theater event in the world. The preeminent site for launching new musicals and discovering new talent, the Festival provides an affordable platform for artists to mount professional productions that reach their peers, industry leaders, and musical theater fans. More than 90 Festival shows have gone on to productions on and Off-Broadway, in regional theaters in all 50 states, and in more than 24 countries worldwide. Festival alumni have received a wide array of awards including the Tony Award® and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2013, NYMF received a special Drama Desk Award in recognition of its work “creating and nurturing new musical theater, ensuring the future of this essential art form.”

GUEST BLOG: 6 Lessons I Learned Growing A Theatre Blog by Ben Bailey

I’m not a very patient person. In college, I started day trading stocks in class to pass the time and ended up quitting because I was making good money. I turned to real estate shortly after and found myself with some significant money for the first time in my life. I was married but had no kids – it was the perfect time to take a risk. I was a “theatre kid” growing up and had a closeted dream of working in the Broadway industry, but it always seemed so far away from the grass seed farm I grew up on in Oregon.

Scratching the Broadway itch, I literally googled “how to be a producer.” I found Ken’s blog (yeah this one), and the next steps would change the whole course of my life. After reading a post, I responded in the comments with a question. A couple hours later, I get an email from Ken with a very thoughtful and detailed answer.

Fast forward several months, and I was a co-producer on Daddy Long Legs, moving to New York, and looking to pursue a life in Broadway producing. My wife and I sold our house, possessions, and moved here with a couple suitcases… and no idea on how we were going to survive. We had savings, but NYC is expensive… like really expensive.

Cue Theatre Nerds. The idea for Theatre Nerds began as a Facebook page that could act as a focus group for my producing ventures. What it turned into, I could’ve never predicted. Today the TN blog receives over 300,000 readers every month, and we have turned down buyout offers from well-known theatre industry players. We also have a merch division with over 25,000 customers and a staff of people from around the world.

 

Theatre Nerds just celebrated its 3rd anniversary! Here are just a few lessons I’ve learned on this journey:


1. Fake It Till You Make It

 

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When I first started the community, I had no idea what I was doing. I had to figure all the pieces out, from hiring a team of writers for the blog, getting press access, managing social media, to figuring out how to speak to my audience. It’s hard not to have imposter syndrome and feel like you’re spinning your wheels. The key is to just take action. It might not be pretty at first, but the only way to learn is to do. You’d be surprised on how many so-called “experts” are just people who figured something out along the way, the only difference is they pushed through the hard part and gained experience through the actions they took. Looking back at it, that’s how I got into theatre. I didn’t have formal training – I just went to auditions. I didn’t make the cut for the very first musical I tried out for, but I gained knowledge and got a small part the next show. Following this pattern, I worked my way up to getting lead roles, and even professional theatre gigs. Don’t you wish there was someone who came out and knighted you as an expert, just so you’d know you’ve made it? That won’t happen – but eventually, you will feel much more comfortable and confident.


2. Patience + Consistency = An Overnight Success

 

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Before you accuse me of being oxymoronic, here’s what I mean: I worked my butt off for 6 months before Theatre Nerds showed any sign of success. In the early days, I would spend hours uploading blog posts and memes on social media and paying our writing team. Day after day and I had not much to show for it, but I was determined and consistent. Then it happened, and it happened quickly. Following my usual routine, I released a blog post, but this time it went viral. Within two days we had over 100,000 visits to our site for that one post, and we never looked back. For whatever reason, the theatre gods released the floodgates and from that day on, we were on the “thespian map”. Six months of nothing and then, basically overnight, we got massive traffic, press coverage, and press offers from big industry publications. Since that post, we haven’t had less than 200K readers a month.


3. You’ve Gotta Have An Angle

 

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Why were we this successful? We separated ourselves from the Broadway industry. There were plenty of publications covering Broadway news and events. Our angle was publishing content every theatre kid could relate to, whether you are in community theatre or on the Broadway stage. I wanted the reader to say “oh hey, that’s me!”. We didn’t want some exclusive Broadway club that they could only peek through the glass to see. At the time, no one was doing Buzzfeed-style content in the theatre space, so we saw the opportunity to make theatre cool and relevant for the younger reader.

4. Haters Gonna Hate

 

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By the law of averages, the bigger you get, the more haters will show up at your door. Ironically, most of these people only have opinions, and not ideas. For the most part, I’ve learned that haters are just a sign you’re doing something right. We’ve had threats and hate mail from Broadway publications, people copy our ideas (to the very post title), and let’s not even talk about social media trolls. It’s hard as a business or brand owner not to take it personally, but you can’t. If you do, it will distract you from the other 99.9% who actually love what you’re doing. This was a massive challenge for me, but I’ve learned to just ignore it and stay the course. I imagine this is true for actors, producers, and any business owner.

5. Listen & Pivot

 

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 By the time a show has made it on Broadway, it has undergone many changes. A play evolves as the characters develop; the final result could be a mere shell of the original idea. Such was true with Theatre Nerds, and it’s a darn good thing. Three years later, TN looks a lot different than what I initially pictured. It’s not centered on Broadway, I’m not using it as a focus group for producing, and the merchandise division has become the core business model. Originally, I had planned on selling ads and Broadway tickets as a way to generate income. One day I put a shirt for sale on the site, thinking If I sold a couple a month that would be a little extra money to pay the writers. We immediately starting selling way more than a couple; it caught me by surprise. I threw out the idea of selling ad space and listened to my community. They wanted merch, they got merch. What had been a complete afterthought is now our primary business model.


6. Theatre People Are The Best People

 

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Moving away from the business stuff, what really made TN work is the wonderful community. I really just wanted a positive place for theatre kids to hang out and share their common love. For most of us, theatre is a family and there’s nothing like the bond a family has. I’ve never met a more loving and accepting group of people, and that makes me very proud to work in this industry. There was always a place for Broadway fans to hang out, but we created a space for theatre kids to say “hey, that’s me!”.

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Ben Bailey is the founder and Editor-in-Chief at TheatreNerds.com, and head of swag at thespianswag.com. He recently made his producing debut with the Off-Broadway musical Daddy Long Legs. He’s created numerous Broadway-Themed products that have been featured in Huffington PostPopsugar & CNBC.

GUEST BLOG: How Do I Work With A Dramaturg? by Natasha Sinha

Are you a playwright or other generative artist who is considering working with a dramaturg, but questioning how to start? Here’s one possible starting point!

When I was asked to talk about the development of new theatrical work via collaboration with a dramaturg, I did what I do when I’m developing new theatrical work dramaturgically… I took my cues from the brilliant folks making the work! In this case, I asked some of my favorite generative artists what they want to know.

Many of the subsequent conversations hovered around how and when to work with a dramaturg. The role of a new work dramaturg is a highly customizable one that shifts from dramaturg to dramaturg, and from project to project. What’s reflected here is only my take, shaped by many experiences working at an institutional theatre as well as freelancing.

First off, want to demystify “dramaturgy”? Fellow dramaturgs Jeremy Stoller, Molly Marinik, and I co-founded Beehive Dramaturgy Studio to help do that. Beehive collectively defines dramaturgy as an exploration of the world of the play—both the text itself and how the text engages with the world in which we live (whereby “text” means whatever mode of storytelling is being used—language, movement, etc.).

Since each piece of theater is unique, the role of a dramaturg is further defined on a project-by-project basis. Each process requires a customized approach that begins with a deep understanding of the play and of the generative artist’s goals. I’m so grateful for what has been amassed by traditional dramaturgical studies, Aristotle, Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey,” the Liz Lerman method (a favorite of mine), etc. But particularly in thinking about how to best support work that functions separately from Eurocentric perspectives and the male gaze, I’m curious about additional ways to build a theatrical piece, other systems of logic, the queering of experience, and how to shape the visceral arc of a story. These can be built from scratch by knowing the history and intentionally proceeding differently with the tools we have.

Generally, dramaturgs ask key questions, start conversations, research, provide context, and sharpen intent. Working with a dramaturg may bring up conversations with character maps, timelines, Post-It sequencing, big-picture structural questions, analysis of theatrical devices, world rules, logic policing, etc. For guiding principles that could steer your dramaturgical process, examples of what specifically a dramaturg can do, and varying definitions of “dramaturgy” by a handful of active dramaturgs, click around on our website at www.BeehiveDramaturgy.com.

When should I start working with a dramaturg?

So you want a smart-sounding board, a storytelling collaborator, the perspective of someone who knows your goals yet will continually re-calibrate as you make new discoveries, in order to make it stronger and stronger? Sounds like you want to work with a dramaturg!

Dramaturgs can come on board at many different points in the process– perhaps to help flesh out a conceptual premise, to weigh in on an outline or treatment, to respond with questions after reading a first draft, to join in as the dedicated person keeping an eye on core storytelling needs as a production begins, etc. I tend to prefer being brought onboard once there is some sort of draft in place so that I can start exploring how the execution is serving the premise.

But are you at the right point in your process to start working with a dramaturg? Are you ready to invite someone new into the process? You may feel extremely vulnerable in allowing someone in, which is why you want to find someone appropriately sensitive to how you want to set the tone to talk about your work. Because at the end of the day, it is truly always your work.

How do I find the right dramaturg for me?

A feeling of emotional safety when talking about your work is important. Dramaturgical approach, past experience, and a generally shared perspective on the work are also elements to consider. If you like talking to this person about your work, I often suggest having a conversation (perhaps a phone meeting) to ask how they initially approach new work and what they’ve worked on in the past (and you may want to then more specifically ask if they’ve worked on the type of work that you’re developing).

(A more practical answer to this is that there are lots of great dramaturgs! Beehive is one place you could start. We have bios and testimonials for each of ours, plus we’re also happy to help folks find dramaturgs who aren’t part of Beehive.)

How might the process of working with a dramaturg begin?

From my end of it, when I’m having this conversation with someone new to me, I want to soak in as much from the generative artist about inspiration, concept, goals, and concerns. If I’m naturally aligning with much of that and excited about working on the piece, that feels like a good fit! Then I want to start figuring out what the main goals are– whether that’s toward an upcoming reading, a submission deadline, or something else. A loose timeline should emerge as well, which is helpful in guiding the pacing of the conversation.

Personally, I then start the process by saying what I love about the piece, and what I find most resonant. Because that’s why I chose to work on it! This naturally segues into continued excitement via a ton of questions about the work– both the birds-eye-view questions and the nitty-gritty– as I organically also get to know the artist as a person and learn how they respond to what I pose about their work. The approach I take after the beginning steps depends on what feels most productive for the artist– that could mean continued questions, suggestions of scenes or elements to look at that respond to what they’re grappling with most, tough questions to ask in order to honor a full exploration of what’s at hand, pointing out two or more places in the storytelling that could be connected more (or be differentiated more), etc. Rooting the conversation in questions is always part of my approach (since it’s always the generative artists who have the “answers” anyway), as is avoiding prescriptive feedback unless explicitly asked for by the generative artist.

 

How should I receive and process my dramaturg’s thoughts?

It’s always your play, first and foremost! Ideally, whatever the dramaturg presents to you creates a prism of ways to further explore your piece. You receive these thoughts, and then it’s up to you regarding what you want to work into your piece, discuss further, or simply not use.

I am a big proponent of generative artists always knowing that any feedback they receive (whether from a dramaturg, director, actor, designer, producer, audience member, etc.) should be taken with a grain of salt. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored– as long as the piece is created for humans, anyone’s response is of interest! But, you may need to translate these responses, particularly if that respondent is not aware of your goals and/or not someone who uses your storytelling devices the way you do.

For example, if someone expresses confusion about something in the fourth scene, what that may really be telling you is that the questions you have about the dispensation of information in the second scene lead-up could use a look. Or, if six people are telling you how to “fix” that third scene in a particular way, it may not mean huge rewrites– it might just be how everyone is communicating to you that their eye was drawn to something unintended that is distracting and maybe just needs to be taken out so as to not beg the question.

Hopefully, your dramaturg does get to know your goals and how you’re building the piece– and therefore can translate their thoughts (and translate others’) as they relate to your goals. Divergent opinions absolutely may and likely will happen between with your dramaturg– these can be helpful! But if you’re not on the same planet of discussion, the opinions may be too far away for it to be a helpful path to go down. Collaborating is an act of trust after all.

How do I know if the collaboration with my dramaturg was successful?

There’s no black-or-white answer to this. That said, if you feel that the conversations you had with your dramaturg deepened your exploration of the piece, that feels like a successful collaboration. If you want to work with that person again, that feels like a successful collaboration. If your audience is now following storytelling threads that they weren’t before (whether or not they can identify why), that feels like a successful collaboration. And hopefully, your work is closer to your vision than before.

 

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Natasha Sinha is a producer and dramaturg, focusing on new plays and new musical work. She is the Associate Director of LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater which exclusively produces premieres (including Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, Dave Malloy’s Preludes, War by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Martyna Majok’s queens, and Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over). Natasha is a co-founder of Beehive Dramaturgy Studio, which works with individual generative artists as well as organizations such as Page 73, Musical Theatre Factory, Astoria Performing Arts Center, and New York Musical Theatre Festival. Prior to joining LCT3, she was the Associate Producer at Barrington Stage Company. Natasha is on the Advisory Boards of Musical Theatre Factory and SPACE on Ryder Farm. She has served as a judge on award committees, taught classes, and curated events focused on inclusivity.

GUEST BLOG: Should Bots Be On Broadway? by Monica Hammond

Imagine a world where everything is automated.

Actors move on stage with the click of a button. Their voices echo through the theatre like Alexa and Siri . . . hey, they can even do accents! Light cues are triggered automatically by blocking bots . . . the whole theatrical experience is run by a bunch of 0s and 1s!

No?

Well good. Because that’s not the kind of Broadway bot I’m talking about!

I’m talking about marketing bots.

Marketing bots are the hot topic today at all the major Marketing conferences across the country, and these bots take many forms. From Facebook messenger bots to pre-filled website chats, bots are automating the customer journey for many businesses.

Imagine you are on the ticketing page of a Broadway website and you’re confused as to where the best seats are located (a common question on our Once On This Island chat), then an automated pop-up asks, “any questions I can help you with regarding seat location?”

“Why, I thought you’d never ask!” you may reply!

After typing your question, a real person is alerted on the other end via a pop-up notification that you’ve started a conversation and now you’re speaking with a living and breathing person! After your questions are answered, you feel confident in your seat location and whip out your credit card!

This transaction was prompted all because of an automated chatbot. The customer’s questions are answered and the show gets to put some butts in seats. Seems like a win-win to me.

Bots can provide proactive customer service by prompting and answering frequently asked questions to help customers overcome objections and lead to a quicker sale. They also lessen the need for humans on the phone until one is truly needed, which can help reduce costs for businesses and streamline communication.

Sounds pretty efficient, right?

As an experiment, I visited the website of 18 Broadway shows to see if any were using a basic automated chat feature. I was surprised to find that 18 out of 18 Broadway show websites did NOT have a chat feature, at least that I could detect, and it made me wonder . . .

Why isn’t Broadway using bots?

Some patrons prefer to pick up the phone and ask the box office where they should sit, some want to send an email, and others prefer to chat their questions. So why not offer chat as another option?

If bots and automation are at the forefront of digital communication, then why hasn’t Broadway caught on? Should we reallocate customer service team members to accommodate a new mode of conversation? Are we stuck in the digital Stone Age? Are we too focused on the concept of “authentic conversations” in the digital space to try a bot? Does the use of bots automatically mean inauthentic?

The world of bots is advancing by leaps and bounds each day, and the potential for marketers seems truly endless. Bots are the new email, the new phone number, the newest mode of conversation, and Broadway should consider the implications of their use with our audiences, because not all bots are bad.

What do you think? Should bots be on Broadway?

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Monica Hammond is the Director of Marketing for Davenport Theatrical Enterprises. Broadway: Once On This Island (Circle in the Square) and Gettin’ The Band Back Together (Belasco Theatre, 2018), Spring Awakening (Brooks Atkinson Theatre). Off-Broadway: Daddy Long LegsShear MadnessThat Bachelorette Show, as well as the North American Tour of A Night With Janis Joplin. Monica also manages Ken Davenport’s members-only community for theatre professionals, The Producers Perspective PRO. Monica also runs her own custom coloring book business Curious Custom.

If you enjoyed this content, join Monica at her upcoming Crafting Your Marketing Plan workshop. Extremely limited availability remains!

GUEST BLOG: Why Saving Original Theater Journalism Matters to Broadway by Matt Britten

When I launched the theater industry newsletter Broadway Briefing about 3 years ago, I sent the first edition out to about 20 friends. I never could have imagined how quickly it would grow — or that I would never get any sleep again! The Briefing now reaches thousands of theater professionals in New York and around the world, including top influencers, award voters, and decision makers.

At Broadway Briefing, we celebrate the Broadway coverage from the theater sites, the New York news outlets, and sources all around the globe. However, after nearly three years of closely following theater news, the problem became clear: theater journalism is dying.

Critic and arts journalist/associate editor of The Stage Mark Shenton wrote a year ago of theater journalism, “As a supposedly niche interest … it is an area that is being subjected to death by a thousand cuts.” In the year since he wrote that, even more cuts have followed, affecting local, national, and global outlets and their theater journalists. You likely have heard about the recent spate of theater journalists leaving — or being forced out of — their posts.

The Briefing did not set out to start a theater news organization, but after a couple of years of reps, reporters, and readers sending us their tips, it seemed that we had one. So, as other organizations cut theater coverage, we moved quickly to launch Broadway News (www.broadway.news), a new home for quality original theater coverage.

Here are some of the principles that guide Broadway News, and why original theater journalism should matter to Broadway:

PUT THE NEWS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

“17 Craziest Patti LuPone Moments” listicles are fun. Millions of fans around the globe are dying to read them and share them. And that’s good for Broadway because it keeps us relevant even to those who aren’t in New York watching our shows.
At the same time, hard news is important too. When tax law changes are made that affect Broadway or legal battles related to new shows are being waged in court, it is important for those things to be reported. The outcomes of these stories affect what shows are produced on Broadway, who produces them, how much they cost, and more.

To many, such reports on the already narrow topic of theater could be considered boring. But to a particular audience, the Broadway industry and those interested in it, they are just the opposite, the most valuable information that is otherwise shrouded in secrecy and not reported on at all.

HIRE TRAINED JOURNALISTS

In order for theater news to be reported fairly and accurately, it is important for it to be reported by trained journalists.

This past fall, we hired Caitlin Huston as editor in chief of Broadway News. Caitlin joined Broadway News after covering startups and initial public offerings at MarketWatch, part of Dow Jones, and working as an editor at The Wall Street Journal. In addition to her business reporting at Dow Jones, Caitlin contributed to the WSJ’s Broadway coverage and helped to launch Broadway coverage at MarketWatch. She began her professional journalism career as a crime reporter.

We were looking for someone with a passion for Broadway, but also someone who would bring an outside eye to the industry, as well as superb reporting chops. Caitlin has proven an excellent leader for Broadway News.

PROTECT INSIGHTFUL CRITICISM

Theater criticism, in particular, has experienced a great number of cuts over the past year. So, it became important to us to provide a platform for critics’ voices to be heard.

We were thrilled to hire Charles Isherwood, a brand name in New York theater criticism. Previously of The New York Times, Charles has continued to critique Broadway in his unique and experienced voice.

It was also important to us to bring new voices to Broadway reviews, and so we were delighted to hire Elizabeth Bradley. Liz has a distinguished background as a theater professor and practitioner, having helmed both the NYU and Carnegie Mellon drama departments.
With Charles and Liz, the tradition of first-class theater criticism lives on with a new home at Broadway News.

ENCOURAGE DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES

One of our more recent efforts has been the launch of the “Views” section of Broadway News. This new section will be home to opinion columns from some of the most important voices in theater journalism, as well as a platform for new talent. The first two columnists are Jeremy Gerard and Janice Simpson.

Jeremy has been a critic, columnist and reporter since 1977, and has held prominent posts at The New York Times, Variety, The Dallas Morning News, New York Magazine, Bloomberg News and Deadline.

Janice directs the Arts & Culture Reporting program at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, spent three decades at TIME magazine, and has also served as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

They are extremely well-sourced theater journalists and their columns will reflect that, weaving their personal perspectives with new insights gleaned from interactions with key players on Broadway.

INSPIRE INDUSTRY INNOVATION

Theater is perpetually considered an industry that is lagging behind the innovation and disruption of others. And while there is reason for hope — new and exciting theater-adjacent businesses are now popping up nearly every day — there will always be a need to hold ourselves and our industry accountable. Real journalism is the best tool to challenge ourselves to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, how can we do better?”

If you’d like to support our effort and help us in the fight to reverse the decline in theater coverage, you can become a Broadway News subscriber today.

This coming Broadway season is going to be as dynamic and fascinating as ever, and Broadway News will be there to go beyond the press releases, providing context and conversation about the questions and challenges that face our industry every day.

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Matt Britten is a theatrical entrepreneur, writer, and producer. He created Broadway Briefing, a daily theatrical industry publication. Always seeking to innovate, Matt produced the groundbreaking first-ever app-enabled theatrical experience, BLANK! THE MUSICAL. Among other theatrical projects, he created ODYSSEY, an epic musical retelling of the classic myth. Matt previously served as Creative Director for the theatrical non-profit New York Musical Festival, where he conceived and oversaw the acclaimed “Musicals Live Here” campaign featuring Broadway talent in iconic roles. He also served on the Board of Directors for The Uprising, a New York City non-profit empowering underserved teens. Matt has worked for The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, and was educated at Syracuse University, Shakespeare’s Globe, and programs with screenwriting legend Aaron Sorkin and powerhouse producer Arielle Tepper, both fellow Syracuse University alums. Matt has lived and worked in Detroit, Los Angeles, and London, and currently resides in New York City.

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