What I learned at the Meet and Greets for It’s Only A Play AND Kinky Boots.

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.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Need to raise money for your show?  Get Raise It!  My just released and guaranteed how-to guide.  Click here.

– Come to our 10 Minute Play Festival!  Click here to get tix.

-Win two VIP passes to FringeNYC! Click here.

Why you should read the Broadway Chat Boards.

I like to cruise by the Broadway chat boards every once in awhile.  Why?

First and foremost, the folks that frequent the boards, and the folks that post on the boards are our avids.  They are so filled with passion for Broadway and for the theater in general that when they can’t see a show, they want to talk about shows, and when they can’t find anyone who can talk about them, they search for other folks just like them online.  So it’s important to see what is making these groups happy, and pee-ing them off.  (I’ve even been known to post every once in awhile.)

The second reason I do drive-bys on the boards is because . . . well, back in the day, I was one of those avids.

The year was 1990 (hello!), horse drawn carriages clip-clopped down cobble stone streets, and there wasn’t much of an internet.  My mom wouldn’t buy me CompuServe because she was afraid I was going to turn into Matthew Broderick in my favorite movie of all time, Wargameshack into the government’s computer system and start World War III.  So when I went off to Johns Hopkins University for my freshman year, I spent a lot of time in the computer lab.  Was I writing papers?  Solving calculus problems?  Nope, I was on ol’ fashioned bulletin boards.

Yep, I was one of the early posters in the newsgroup, rec.arts.theatre.musicals.  (I actually met Avenue Q creator Jeff Marx on that board, but that’s another story.)  Gosh, it was fun.  I remember getting in such a flame-fight with an Andrew Lloyd Webber hater over Aspects of Love.  Hehe.

So flash forward almost 25 years later, and the boards are still around.  They just look a little different now, and you don’t need a computer lab or dial-up to access ’em.  But they aren’t even that much more technologically complicated now.  Just take a look at the classic, AllThatChat, for example.

That’s where I was last week, cruisin’ through comments about closing shows and Alan Cumming in Cabaret . . . when I stumbled upon a post from an audience member, explaining why he made a purchase to an up-and-coming show featured in NYMF.  The post was so simple, and so direct, and from an actual ticket buyer, that I had to post it here.

Here’s what it said, verbatim:

I chose to see CLONED!, in spite of the potentially cliche subject, because the songs they posted online were competently written and produced.

I count at least three lessons for all the Producers and Writers out there with “emerging” shows from this 23 word post:

  1. Your show better have a website.  (And even if you have an idea for a show, you better do this one thing first).
  2. You better have songs on that website.  Remember my blog about samplin‘?  Well, it’s hard to do it live, so you at least better have something recorded.
  3. Make sure they are “competently produced.”  No scratch composer demos from your bathroom.  No bad sound board recordings from bad live shows.  It doesn’t take much these days, get a friend who knows Garage Band and do it up right.

Oh, and one other bonus lesson from this simple post . . . listen to what the super fans are saying.  I know it’s hard sometimes, because they can get a little upset, and throw electronic-tomatoes at you every once in awhile.  Just remember it’s from a great place.  They love what we do.  More than I loved Aspects of Love.  Show them the respect they deserve and just listen.

Because it’s amazing what you might learn.

Gotta go.  I think there’s an FBI agent at my door who wants to talk to me about what I did with the WOPR.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Need to raise money for your show?  Get Raise It!  My just released and guaranteed how-to guide.  Click here.

– Come to our 10 Minute Play Festival!  Click here to get tix.

– Win two VIP passes to FringeNYC! Click here.

From Their Own Mouths: The Ghostlight Awards Acceptance Speeches.

The reason we held the first annual Ghostlight Awards was to shine the spotlight on the people in the wings, in the pits and working front of house at the forty Broadway theaters in town.

And based on the massive number of votes we received, it worked.

But then I realized, announcing the winners was only half of our job.  And my step-dad used to say, “Never do anything half-assed.”

Giving them some attention wasn’t enough.  We also had to give them a voice.

So, I sent an intern or three around to the theaters to shoot acceptance speeches of all of the winners!  And we’ve posted ’em online for you to see and hear (ironic that some of the Tony Award winners speeches weren’t heard this year, but we’ve got the Best Usher speech right here!)

So that’s enough talking from me, let’s let the winners do the talking.

Oh, except let me say one thing before they do . . . I want to thank THEM for what they do.  We can’t all be Idina Menzel or Jerry Mitchell or David Rockwell.  But Idina and Jerry and David couldn’t be Idina and Jerry and David without the thousands of people who staff their shows and help make them a success.

Ok, and now, a few words from the winners of The Ghostlight Awards:

 

Best Child Guardian:
Jill Valentine – Annie – Palace Theatre

Best Company Manager:
Susan Sampliner – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best Concessions/Bar Staff:
Jeremy Plyburn – The Book of Mormon – Eugene O’Neill Theatre

Best Dance Captain:
Brad Musgrove – Pippin – Music Box Theatre

Best Dresser:
Kathe Mull – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best House Manager:
Michael Composto – The Book of Mormon – Eugene O’Neill Theatre

Best Merchandise Seller:
Paul Moon – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best Musician:
Philip Fortenberry – Rocky – Winter Garden Theatre

Best Musical Director:
Brian Usifer – Kinky Boots – Al Hirschfeld Theatre

Best Stage Door Person:
Rose Alaio – Matilda – Shubert Theatre

Best Stagehand:
Jocelyn Smith – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – The Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Best Stage Manager:
Lisa Dawn Cave – Rocky – Winter Garden Theatre

Best Usher:
Sarah Pauley – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – The  Stephen Sondheim Theatre

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Want $500?  Enter our 10 Minute Play Contest!

– Got a script?  Want to make it better?  Submit it to our script coverage service.  We guarantee it’ll get better or your money back.  Click here.

– Win two NYMF Silver passes! Click here.

–  Vote in the 2014 Broadway Marketing Awards!  Vote today!

Three Things Broadway can learn from The World Cup.

Broadway World CupGooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!

Is it just me or has everyone gone World Cup Crazy?

It’s been four years since the last Cup, and I don’t remember the volume of the soccer conversation in this city ever being as loud as it is now, an obvious sign that the sport has achieved some serious market penetration, as opposed to four years ago.

It’s on the TV, it’s on the Interwebs, and it’s even on the streets (Three German dudes were passing a ball back and forth on Broadway and 48th street yesterday).

So what is it about the Cup that’s gotten everyone to literally kick up their heels?  And what can Broadway learn from it?

Here are three things that Broadway can learn from The World Cup:

1.  WE’RE INTERNATIONAL, BABY!

The Cup is like the Olympics.  It happens every four years, and it has a way of getting the attention of the entire world.  In fact, one year, the ratings for The Cup out did the ratings for The Olympics!  Countries from all over the world tune in and all talk one common language – soccer or rather, “football.”

While Broadway has only existed for about a hundred years, the theater goes back for thousands.  And plays are performed all over the world, in every language manageable.

While international tourists coming to Broadway has been on the rise in recent years (we welcomed 11 million international tourists in 2012), we’ve still got a tremendous amount of room to grow.

How could we grow the international market and unite our audiences like The World Cup unites theirs?

International stars in Broadway shows?  Ear piece delivered translations during the show?  Box Office treasurers who speak several languages?

The overall Broadway audience has been relatively flat for the last several years.  The international audience represents our greatest potential for growth.

2.  THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT.

Two opposing sides who are in direct conflict with each other.

That’s a soccer game.

And also a play.

Competitive sports are the perfect structure for any drama.  Take two characters.  Make one want something very, very badly.  And make the other one NOT want that character to get it.  (You probably remember that improv exercise if you ever took acting.)

This theory is why sports movies can be so successful (Rocky, Hoosiers, etc.) because they have a win/lose objective built in to their plot.

Want your audience jumping up and down?  Find a way to make your protagonists and antagonists wants as diametrically opposed as Brazil and England, competing in the finals.

3.  EVERYONE LOVES A CONTEST

The thing about the World Cup is that . . . there will be a winner.  Just like The Stanley Cup.  And the Super Bowl.  And The Westminster Dog Show.  And the local spelling bee, beauty pageant, and bake-off.

People are drawn to competitions.  They love to watch them and they love to participate in them.  And when you have contests, you actually fuel both sides of a specific business.  You draw so much attention to the subject at hand, that the audience expands, and, new “players” rush into the game as well.  (That’s one of the reasons we do our 10 Minute Play Contest – to encourage more people to write, knowing that a competition, with a cash prize, will be a good motivator).

And since “players” eventually become audience members or supporters, contests like The Cup become a double whammy marketing lightning rod for the growth of an industry.

We’ve got a good set of awards here with The Tonys, Drama Desks and Outer Critics.  And there’s the Oliviers in London.  But I’m still wondering if there could be some more global competition involving the theater.  Remember, way back  in 2008 (!), in the humble beginnings of this blog, when I wrote about The World Championship of Theater?  Not sure if that idea is entirely possible, but there has to be something that we can do on a global scale.  Heck if they can have a World Champion BBQ Cooking Contest, there’s gotta be something we can do, right?

 

The World Cup and Broadway have a lot in common.  People love ’em, but they don’t necessarily pay enough attention to them all year ’round.  They’re like that friend you see once a year that you love hanging out with, but then you forget about ’em until next year.  And when you do see ’em again, you say, “Why do I only see you once a year?”

Our job as Producers and FIFA’s job (with their 2.6 billion in profit) is to find a way to be the best friend that you can’t live without.

(Truth time – I wrote this blog last night and after I finished, I remembered I wrote a similar one FOUR years ago after the last World Cup!  So if you want to read five MORE things (albeit a little bit dated) that we can learn from The Cup, click here.  It’s crazy that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to repeat myself about events that happen every four years.)

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Want to know how to invest in a Broadway show AND make money?   Broadway Investing 101 Seminar THIS SATURDAY.  Only three spots left.  Register today.

– Win two tickets to see Black Stars of the Great White Way.  Click here.

– Want $500?  Enter our 10 Minute Play Contest!  You could win!

Why I’m going to start producing movies.

In case you missed it, a show closed recently without ever having opened.

Back before all the Tony Award hoopla, the Broadway bound production of Titanic hit an iceberg.  (Ironically, the acclaimed production was crossing the Atlantic, having originally been produced at London’s Southwark Playhouse.)  It was supposed to play Toronto first – that terrific town that used to have as much impact on the commercial theater scene as Chicago, but just hasn’t been able to rebound since the glory days of the 90s.

The reason posted in the press for the cancellation of the Toronto run of Titanic, which then dominoed into the cancellation of the NY run?

No available Broadway house.

It costs a lot of money to do out-of-town productions, and since the producers of Titanic couldn’t get a guaranteed Broadway theater sometime in the coming season, they wisely pulled the plug.  They didn’t want their ship sitting in the harbor with nowhere to dock . . . and no guarantee that it would ever dock.

So once again, the greatest problem facing Producers in the 21st century ain’t raising money, it’s finding an available theater amidst the jungle of long-running hits that we’ve spent the last 2-3 decades producing.

I wrote about this at length in this post from last year after Tuck Everlasting similarly postponed their pre-Broadway tryout (in that post I break down the available theaters by the numbers, so check it out).

So what does this have to do with me and movies?

It’s pretty simple.  I want to produce Broadway shows.  And I’ve got a bunch of shows that are approaching the port of Broadway themselves.  And a few others that have land in sight.  But I’m obviously not the only one.  There are a lot of producers out there, and a lot of good shows, big stars, and such.  And if there are less and less docks available, that means, well, the odds of me getting a show on decreases.  And that means . . .  well, what the heck am I going to do?  I’m not a thumb-twiddler, that’s for sure.  And I need to produce like a woodpecker needs to peck.

So, I’m going to start producing things that don’t need a theater.  And that would be movies.  And web stuff.  And so on.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m not giving up on theater or Broadway at all.  For the love of George Gershwin, no.  But I’m a businessman.  And if the current theatrical climate restricts my ability to conduct business, then I’ve got to find some other businesses that fulfill what I want to do with my career.  (This kind of thing happens all the time in all sorts of industries, btw – the music biz, cell phone production, etc.  And it’s up to you to adapt to what’s happening around you.)

So I am going to start producing other things.  And I’m excited to say I’ve already got a napkin sketch of a slate of three non-theater projects.  Stay tuned for an official announcement in Q3 of this year.

This is a weird time for Producers.  I’m reminded of how people talk about losing writers to Hollywood because there are so few opportunities on the Great White Way for new and unknown playwrights.  And since it’s hard for them to earn a living writing for the theater anywhere else but on Broadway, they run out to H-town the first time someone offers them cash for a draft of American Pie 17.  I can’t help but wonder if the lack of theater availability now and in the coming years (it’s only going to get worse as we produce more long runners) will drive more Producers out West or to other careers.

Or maybe a couple of the remaining unrestored Broadway houses will reopen. Or maybe some new ones will be built. Or maybe non-traditional spaces will open up all over.  Or maybe Broadway will expand its radius (there are some sweet and huge spaces in Harlem).

I’m not so sure.  But I’m going to make sure I’m diversified just in case my ships have to drop anchor for longer than I want them to.

I’m super excited about the new stuff.  At the very least, I’ll learn a lot.  And I’ll have even more stuff to talk about on this blog.  And hopefully you’ll learn right along with me.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
– – – –
FUN STUFF:

-Want to improve your Audition game? Sign up for my upcoming How to Nail Your Audition Workshop on June 16. Click Here.

– Sign up to be the first to know when my new book, “Raise it!  How To Raise Millions For Your Show” will be released!  And save 10%. Click here.

– Win 2 Tickets to Our New Girl at The Atlantic Theater Company.  Click here.

– Take the Tony Awards Satisfaction Survey here!

– Enter our 10 Minute Play Contest!

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X