5 Tips for a Successful Street Team in Times Square

The middle of NYC, also known as Times Square, is now like the Wild West.  Instead of gunslingers, we’ve got street teams peddling Broadway tickets, stand-up comedy tickets, photos with Elmo, and even Scientology.

So if you’re trying to sell tickets to your Broadway show, Off-Broadway show, or . . . uh . . . religion . . . how do you stand out from the crowd?

Here are five tips to running a successful street team in Times Square:

1.  Speak several languages.

Remember, Times Square is oft called The Crossroads of the World . . . so English isn’t the only language spoken in this district.   And according to the most recent Broadway League demographic report, 14.1% of our audience is from outside of the US, with a little over 9% coming from non-English speaking countries.  Guess what street team an international visitor is more likely going to speak to?  One that speaks his/her native tongue.  If you’ve got sellers that can speak Spanish, French or any other language, you’ve got a leg up on your competition.

2.  Don’t just sell your show.  Sell any show.

Sure, you’ve got a pitch, and you’ve got to get it out.  But if your street team acts like a concierge and gives honest advice about restaurants, shopping, and yes, even other shows, you’re more likely to gain trust and then sales.  Remember, most people are in the city for more than 24 hours.  My street teams constantly bring back stories of repeat visitors who buy from them on the second day, not the first.

3.  Appearance matters.

Keep your street team clean, neat, etc.  The choice of branded clothing is up to you (some argue that too much branding scares the poor tourist, and a subtle, “let me help you and not hard sell you” is better, but it depends on your show), but one thing that is a must for every street team member to wear?  Remember what Annie said?  You’re never fully dressed without a s-m-i-l-e.

4.  Be active, not passive.

I laughed out loud yesterday while strolling through Times Square and saw two street-teamers leaning against a wall, with their hands out holding a flyer . . . expecting someone to run up to them, grab the flyer and thank them for their generosity.  Did those two think they were holding on to gold?  Diamonds?  Book of Mormon tickets?  Does a fisherman hold their hook above the water?  No.  Dive in.  Swim with the fishes (in the good way).  Talk to people.  Find out where they are from.  How long they are staying in town.  What they’ve done so far.  What they want to do.  Recommend something non-theater related, and then, when they know you, when they like you, when they trust you, sell ’em your show.

5.  Snuggle up to the other Street Teams.

They may seem like your competition, but they can also be your greatest ally.  You’re all out there doing the same thing, right?  And at the end of the day if someone wants to see a tragic play, and you’re selling a happy musical, well, you’re never going to convert them.  Send them over to your buddy who is hawking something Shakespearean, and you just might get a return favor soon enough.

 

All these tips can help lead to more sales for your show, but you know what the most significant thing you can do to increase your Times Square sales is?  Go to Times Square.  So many people I know avoid walking through the area because of the traffic.  I actually take every chance I can to walk through the grid, because every time I do, I learn something.  Watch pedestrian traffic patterns.  See what billboards they are looking at.  Notice which street performers attract the most interest.  As the Music Man said, “You gotta know the territory.”

And when your territory is Times Square . . . you better know it well, if you’ve got tickets to sell.

 

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My advice to graduating seniors pursuing a career in the theater.

It’s that time . . . caps and gowns and commencement addresses.

And millions of young adults entering the work force.

And thousands of those millions are looking for a career in the arts.

I got an email from an about-to-graduate-young-lady last week who asked for my advice in how to go about starting her career in the theater.

Of course I could have given her a lot of specifics, like where to send her resume, and what bars to hang out in, etc.  Instead, for some reason, I was reminded of the 1980’s campaign to stop drug use . . . “Just Say No.”

(I know, just give me a second, it’ll make sense . . . I think.)

While saying no to drugs and a whole lot of other things when you’re young is the best thing you can do, for your career, you actually want to do the exact opposite.

Yep.

Just Say Yes.

You’re going to get a lot of opportunities when you’re starting out, in a lot of different areas in the arts.  Some of those opportunities may not be what you ever considered doing in a zillion years.  So what?  Just Say Yes.

Never thought about working in a press office?  Just Say Yes.  Agent?  Costume Assistant?

Just Say Yes for awhile.

You’ve got time on your side.  You may not be able to Just Say Yes in 10 years.  But now, it’s an essential part of your growth and exploration.

And you never know where the Yes is going to take you.  You never know what opportunity that you never even knew existed will end up being what you want to devote your life to.

But there’s only one way to find out . . . by saying Yes.

In 1993, I was a junior Acting Major at Tisch at NYU.  And for some reason, to this day I don’t know why, one of my professors recommended me to be a Production Assistant on the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady.

Honestly?  I didn’t even know what being a Production Assistant actually meant.

But I Just Said Yes.

And I wouldn’t be typing this today if I hadn’t.

(By the way, being a Production Assistant means getting fresh-off-the-bone roasted turkey sandwiches, walking dogs in a blizzard and being paid in lunch and subway “tokens” . . . and it was the most awesome thing you could ever imagine.)

 

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How to Pick a Producing Partner for your Show.

It’s pretty rare to see a guy or gal take a Broadway show all the way to the end zone all by themselves these days.  Producing Broadway shows can be pretty dang hard.  So, like life, it can be a heck of a lot easier, and a heck of a lot more fun, when you’ve got a partner by your side . . . picking you up when you are down and handling some of the things you can’t.

But picking a partner can be tricky, and unfortunately there’s no Match.com or OKCupid to help us out.  And let me tell you, there are a lot of seductive potential partners out there.  And they can look pretty damn hot from a distance, but once you get . . . (throat clear) .  . . into “bed” with them . . . you might find out that there may not be as much there as you had hoped.

So how do you pick the best partner for you and your show?  Here are three tips that I use when I’m evaluating who I’m going to hook-up with:

1.  Don’t Pick Yourself As a Partner

Having things in common is great, but you want more of a Wonder Twins Partner, rather than an Identical Twin Partner.  When you take the form of a tiger, you want them assuming an ice cage, not a lion.  Know what I mean?  (Gosh, I hope you guys watched the Wonder Twins when you were kids or you are going to be really confused.)  In non-superhero terms, if you’re a labor expert but lack creative development experience, find a great dramaturgical partner that could benefit from your negotiating and contract expertise.

2.  Is That Money In Your Pocket Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

I don’t know too many people that like to raise money, so, it’s easy to get turned on when a potential producing mate approaches you with a big . . . (double throat clear) . . . wallet.  But big wallets, big purses, or big anythings should never be the reason you jump into a relationship with anyone.  Sure, you may get your show up on the boards faster if you partner with an Oil Heiress from Dubai, but that doesn’t mean your show will be successful.  Make sure your partner can put sweat into your show as well as cash.  Because sweat can make cash, but not vice-versa.

 3.  There’s Only One Person That Should Love Your Show More Than You.

And that’s a potential partner.  Relationships fizzle if there’s no passion.  Make sure your partner is someone who will answer the phone at 3 AM just to talk about a new idea for Act II.  Make sure your partner is someone who will go up to Madonna in a restaurant just to say that you have a role that is perfect for her in your new musical.  In short, make sure your partner will fight you when they truly believe they are right.  Yes, sometimes fights are good!  Because they show how passionate a person can be.  And without passion, you’ll never go the distance.

 

Producing partnerships can last a lot longer than marriages, so it’s important not to jump into the sack for the wrong reasons.  Do your homework, got on lots of dates, and when the time is right, conquer the theatrical world . . . together.

Wonder Twin powers . . . Activate!

 

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CTI is doing a case study on one of my shows.

The Commercial Theater Institute is like the astronaut training program at NASA.  There’s only one like it.  And it could just launch your career.

I’ve spoken at CTI a few times, and have always been a huge fan of all of their programs (especially as they’ve expanded under the leadership of The League and Jed Bernstein), their books, and their overall desire to put more producers on the streets armed with the knowledge of what it takes to produce shows responsibly.

So you can bet that I was pretty honored when they called me and said that this year, they were shaking up the structure for their most popular program, the 3-Day Intensive Weekend, and were going to do a case-study on one show in particular.  The show they wanted to do?

Godspell.

Over three days (4/20 – 4/22), CTI participants will hear from the Godspell lawyers, Advertising and Marketing team, General Manager, Designers, Press Agents, and even Stephen Schwartz himself.  And yeah, I’ll be doing a couple of sessions and a talkback at a Godspell matinee for conference attendees as well.

Click here to get more info, and if you want to come, I think there are a few more slots available.  And well, just like that astronaut training program, it should be a blast.  🙂

 

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10 MORE Audition Tips for Actors (Updated 2020).

One of the most popular posts in Producer Perspective history was my “10 Audition Tips for Actors” from back in aught eight.  So, following the old Hollywood axiom that says, “when people like something, give ’em a sequel”, I decided to post a follow-up (unfortunately, that sequel thing doesn’t work so well on Broadway . . . read this post about that unfortunate subject).

Four years later, after watching hundreds and hundreds of very talented folks strut their stuff in hopes of a big break on Broadway, I’ve come up with 10 more tips to help tune up your audition skills and help you land the job you’ve been dreaming about.

And if you’re not an actor . . . well, I think you might find that some of these tips, as well as the originals, apply to interviewing for any type of job, even if a high A and a time step isn’t required.

Here we go!

1.  Be a Boy Scout.  Be prepared.

Remember, an audition for a show, isn’t just an audition for that show.  You’re making an impression on that Director, Casting Director, Producer, etc. that could apply to other projects that they are working on now or in the future.  So even if you’re not right for that part, you could find yourself getting a callback for something else down the line (on Godspell, I watched a whole bunch of people who weren’t right for our show get put in a Wicked pile.)  And that’s why you always have to be on your game . . . which means doing your homework.  Because we know when you don’t.  And see, the thing is, it cuts both ways.  I’ve watched people come in that have been so unprepared that Casting Directors et al have written them off for that show and others as well.  Make the most out of every chance you have in front of a decision maker.  This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.  It just means that you’ve got to treat that five minutes with respect, and be familiar with the material.

2.  Research who is in the room.

Blind dates are nerve-racking . . . blind auditions are worse.  Always try to find out from your agent or the casting director, or even the monitor, who is in the room sitting behind the table.  Is the composer there?  The playwright?  The casting director?  Assistant?  You do this for two reasons . . . 1 – so you can tailor your material, your conversation, and your questions accordingly, and 2 – it’s totally appropriate to drop a personalized follow up note to the folks that you auditioned for . . . but you gotta know who they were.

3.  Forget what our Mom says, skip lunch.

Ok, I don’t mean that you should skip eating lunch.  You should skip auditions that are around the lunch hour.  from about noon to two, auditioners get hungry and, if they’re having food shipped in for them to eat (in order to make sure they see as many auditionees as possible), you run the risk of doing your 16 bars while someone is munching on a pastrami on rye.  And, well, that might be a bit distracting for them and for you.  So try and work around those hours, if you have a choice.

4.  Dress like you’re on a date.

A first date that is.  You want to treat your audition like a professional experience (see tip #1), but you don’t want to overdo it either.  So dress to impress, but also make it look like you didn’t try too hard (see where the “first date” thing comes in?).  BONUS TIP:  When you get a callback, and you will, wear the same outfit you wore to the first audition.  They’ll remember you more.

5.  Singers, have all sorts of material.

Way back when, all that musical theater actors needed was an up-tempo and a ballad.  But as the music on Broadway has become more diverse, it’s important that you can show your diversity as well . . . and you never know what someone might ask you to sing.  You need a ballad, an up, a pop song, a classic, something funny, something serious, etc.  Think about it this way, auditions are like improv, you always want to be able to answer “Yes” when an auditioner asks you anything . . . including, “Do you have something in the style of R&H that shows range?”

6.  Having a bad day?  Act like you’re not.

Seems simple enough, but I can’t tell you how many people come in complaining about the weather or how many auditions they’ve been on that day.  People have bad days.  I get it.  But you’re an actor, so pretend that you’re having the best day ever . . . because no one wants to be around people that are sour-pusses.

7.  Burn all your monologue books.

Monologue books were made to make it easy for actors looking for monologues.  So, that means, a majority of people use them.  And that means you’re not going to stand out as being special if you’re the fifth person to do the monologue from Key Exchange that day.

8.  Read the whole play/screenplay/musical.

True story – an actor auditioned for me for a play years ago and was visibly shocked when the director said something about later in the story when the character they were auditioning for attempted suicide.  Umm, that might have affected some choices you might make, don’t you think?

9.  Your accompanist is your friend or your enemy.  You choose.

If there’s one person you really need on your side at a musical audition, it’s the guy or doll playing the piano.  Be nice, be thankful, be complimentary, and have music in the right key, in the right order, and in a book that is easy to read and easy to flip the pages. BONUS TIP:  No song books that you just bought from Colony Records.  Have you ever tried to get one of those things to stand up without falling over?  And do you want your accompaniment to just stop in the middle of “On The Street Where You Live?”

10.  Auditioning is like batting practice.

When I first made my varsity baseball team in high school, I was nervous about facing some of the faster pitchers in the league.  “It’s ok,” my coach said, “that’s what the batting cage is for.”  I stood in that thing every day, swinging away at everything until I got numb to 70, 80 and 90 mph fast balls and curve balls coming at me in all sorts of directions.  So, when I stepped up to the plate during a big game, I was so much better prepared to show my best.  You’ve gotta get numb to the questions, suggestions, and requests that will come at you in all sorts of directions when you audition.  So get in a cage.  Take a class, or better, audition as much as you can.  Auditioning is a special skill . . . and if you can master it, you’ll find yourself working a heck of a lot more.

(Want more audition tips?  Click the link to read the original 10 Audition Tips for Actors.  Or sign up for online acting classes to make sure you’re always at the top of your craft.  Great actors never stop studying, and online classes mean you can now learn from pros like Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman.)

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MY ACTOR NEWSLETTER!

From time to time I come across information specifically for actors, like actor networking events and audition tips, that I like to share.  Rather than take up a full blog entry, I’ve been sending emails with all this valuable stuff directly to a super secret actor list.

Just so you know, the emails are sporadic.  Certainly not every day, like my blog.  I send them maybe once a month at most, so don’t worry, you won’t be overwhelmed.

Remember, this list is actor-centric, so if learning about opportunities for actors and how to improve your acting is not something you’re interested in, then don’t sign up.

But if this is you . . . then sign up.

Click here to sign up for actor updates.

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Want to see the post that started it all? Head over to my most visited post and read about the original 10 Audition Tips for Actors. Looking for that extra boost of audition info to help you really ace your next audition? Then check out my post 10 Takeaways from A How to Audition Workshop to help you seal the deal the next time you’re in the audition room!

Get more knowledge about the industry, monthly newsletters and webinars, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you The TheaterMakers Studio HERE!

Want one-on-one coaching or an audition audit from American Idol and Broadway star Justin Guarini? Click here to work with Justin now to nail your next audition!

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