Here are the hard facts about looking for a regional theater for your out-of-town tryout in the teen 2000s:
- They are hard to get. Just like a lot of shows are waiting to land a Broadway house, even more shows are waiting for their close-up out-of-town. That means it’s getting even harder to secure one of the hotter tryout spots across the country thanks to the sheer volume of competition.
- You may have to wait for years. Regional theaters plan seasons well in advance, and from what I hear, they’re starting to do this further and further out, especially with their enhancement slots. That means even if you are lucky enough to snag a coveted spot, you might be waiting two or three years for it to happen. That means your option agreements may expire, your team may drift away, your cast may age out (!), etc.
- They are more expensive than ever. On my podcast, Des McAnuff, who helped build the whole idea of tryouts at regional theaters, called the current financial enhancement model around the country “dangerous.” That’s because so many theaters are relying on these supplemented shows to help balance their budget. And, like any smart business owner, as regional theaters have gotten more in-demand, their prices have gone up. Can’t blame them, but it doesn’t stop your budget from ballooning.
So that’s just the way it is, right?
We’re never satisfied here at TPP and you shouldn’t be either. The enhancement path was and still is, at times, a great one . . . but it may be time for a little innovation and a whole lotta disruption.
So, what do we do?
Here’s one idea.
Off Broadway is super challenging and unfortunately, much riskier than Broadway. But, since the price of a first-class Off Broadway musical can be as much as a regional theater enhancement . . . why not produce it Off Broadway?
You get the trial audience. You get the reviews. You get elements of the physical production you can take to the next step.
And it’s even easier for the Broadway theater owners to check you out if they’re interested.
And if it doesn’t work? Well, your show is much more likely to be licensed or even go on tour if it’s played New York, rather than just played an out-of-town tryout.
Here’s the bonus . . . you won’t owe a regional theater 1-1.5%.
So, for the same budget, you actually own more of the show. That makes it actually cheaper!
Downside? You expose it to the critics early . . . but you’d be doing the same thing if you were trying out at The Public or any of the city-based Non-Profits. And you’d take one of those if they came up, right?
With rising costs and a logjam of titles, producing your show in-town might be the only way to get your show up with a shot at Broadway, which makes it worth the risk in my book.
And it just might save Off Broadway in the process.