Yesterday was one of those pinch-me-I’m-a-Producer days.
It was the first day of rehearsal for two shows that I’m on, the star fest that is It’s Only A Play and the National Tour of Kinky Boots, the first offspring of the Best Musical Broadway Hit that’s still packin’ ’em in over at the Hirschfeld.
Yep, that’s right. Two Meet & Greets in one day. And they were in the same rehearsal studio, separated by two floors. I went to one, then popped down to the other. Now you understand the pinch me part.
We call ’em “Meet and Greets” in the biz, and it’s when just about everyone working on a show, cast, crew, designers, marketers, merch folks and more are all in one room for the first time. It’s like the First Day of School, except a M&G is probably the only time all those people are in the same room at the same time . . . except for several weeks later . . . on opening night.
As you can imagine, it’s often filled with hugs, cheers and “OMG I haven’t seen you since NAME OF SHOW!’ screams. But what’s great about Broadway Meet and Greets is that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to one before, it always feels like the first one. There’s this amazing feeling of incredible potential and possibility of what could be created by those artists. And maybe this is the show we’ve waited for? The positive energy in the room is always so palpable . . . it makes me want to force political leaders to hold summits in the middle of one, because there is no way they wouldn’t work it out.
For those of you who are still on your journey to be Broadway Producers or Writers or Actors . . . I can’t wait until you experience one for yourself (and you will).
Oh, and of course, the M&Gs always include opening remarks by a Producer and/or the Director (and in this case, a little Cyndi Lauper thrown in too).
And it was during these remarks of these totally different shows that I learned yet another great lesson in Producing Theatre.
At It’s Only A Play, Producer Tom Kirdahy talked about the lack-of-six degrees of separation between author Terrence McNally and his stars. Terrence has worked with Nathan a ton of times, obviously, in Lisbon Traviata, Love Valour, etc. But Terrence has also had a long history with Jack O’Brien, F. Murray Abraham, etc. and even star-to-be Micah Stock was in Terrence’s most recent play at the Pearl. The relationships were deep and long, and incredibly respectful. And without those relationships, there is no way all those incredible people would have been in the same room.
At Kinky Boots, where obviously a lot of the cast is just a wee bit younger (no offense, IOAP guys), Jerry Mitchell gave wise words of advice to his soon-to-be-getting-a-lot-of-frequent-flier-miles company: “Learn the names of the people you work with. Get to know them.” In other words, build relationships. Not just for this show. But for the rest of your personal and professional life.
I’ve admitted to this before on this blog, but by far one of the biggest mistakes I made in my early days in NYC was that I didn’t foster enough relationships with people that were looking to do exactly what I wanted to do.
Why sure, I was lucky enough to start working on Broadway shows when I was 20 years old, and learned the names of some amazing people back then (ironically – I was a Production Assistant on Grease in 1994 with Megan Mullally and now she’s in It’s Only A Play, and Jerry Mitchell was the Associate Choreographer!).
But what I didn’t do was look around at who else wanted to produce, who else wanted to write, and attach myself to them, so I had people to come up with together.
It’s something I still work on now.
And something you should too.
Artistry, Intelligence, and yep, even, Cash, are all important aspects to the building of any business.
But relationships trump them all. Why?
Odds are you don’t have all of those things I just listed above. But if you have strong relationships that last lifetimes, then you probably know someone that does.
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