Favorite Quotes Vol. 42: What is entrepreneurship?

You think a career in the theater is tough?  You should try stand-up comedy.

It’s just you on that stage.  Nothing else.  No sets.  No costumes.  Just you.  And an audience drunker than the one at The Awesome 80s Prom (and that is saying a lot).

It takes a certain breed of artist-epreneur (which is my new term for all of us who pursue a life in an artistic profession) to pursue a career in comedy.

But that didn’t stop Kevin Hart, who was raised in North Philly, whose father was a cocaine addict, and who was booed so badly at his first couple of shows, someone actually threw a piece of chicken at him.

He kept at it.  And slowly but surely, he got good at it.  (That’s what usually happens when you keep practicing something anything).  And then he developed his own purple style, and got great at it.

And like the artist-epreneur he is, he didn’t stop at comedy, but released an app, developed a kick a$$ (dollar signs intentional) vid game and that’s just the start, I’m sure.

When asked about entrepreneurship, this is what Kev had to say:

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

Well said, don’t you think?

So when you’re facing a battle of a day (like the one I had yesterday, actually), remember that whatever slog you’re in, no matter where you are in your career, it will be worth it as long as you keep at it and keep practicing.  There is a reward on the other side.  And fortune, fame . . . that’s not even what I’m talking about.

The reward is seeing your project, your play, your dreams . . . happening right before your eyes.

And it could be worse.  You could be a stand-up comedian.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. 41: Last minute Christmas Gift suggestions.

Broadway Kid on ChristmasHere’s a quote to put under your tree today:

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
– Oren Arnold

Those are gifts I’d like to remember to give all year round.  Imagine how much better a place our business world would be.

Wishing you and yours “all good gifts” this holiday season.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. 40: What M.A.S.H. and a Great Musical have in common.

Broadway hot dogIf you’re a Broadway Producer, a Broadway playwright or a Broadway chef, it’s important to have a focused vision on the type of work you want to produce/write/cook.

People ask me what Broadway show I would have loved to produce, or what type of show I am looking to produce.  I usually give a long-winded waxing-poetic answer (shocking) about moving audience members through the range of emotions . . .  and I’m assuming I’ve put you to sleep already.  Wake up!  Wipe the drool off your keyboard!  No more waxing anything from now on, I promise!

I stumbled on this quote from M.A.S.H. star (and over 10 time Broadway vet) Alan Alda, who was asked why the heck M.A.S.H. episodes were so dang popular.  Alan said . . .

What they do is give viewers a great-tasting hot dog but that nourishes them like broccoli.

And that’s when I realized I never had to explain an audiences range of emotions when asked about the type of musicals I’d like to produce, or describe the Aristotelian structure of Les Miz or Rent.  I just had to channel my inner Alda.

IMHO, great musicals, great paintings, and great art are both appealing to the senses, and appealing to the mind.  It thrills and teaches.  It moves the mind so the audience will try and move the world (to paraphrase a lyric from Kinky Boots, a perfect example of this phenomenon).

Many producers and writers feel the need to force feed their audience their vegetables.  No one wants to eat vegetables.  I’m convinced Vegetarians don’t even want to eat vegetables!  They just know it’s good for them.

People go to the theater first and foremost to be entertained.  So don’t be afraid to give your audience the juiciest of hot dogs, with ketchup and sauerkraut and onions and anything else that looks like it could cause a heart attack on the spot.  Just make sure it’s chock full of the best vitamins on the inside.

Need a great example?  Take a cue from Alan and watch M.A.S.H.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXIX: Everybody makes ’em. Not everyone learns from them.

Rufus Norris BroadwaySo imagine if you were the President of the United States . . . right after Abe Lincoln.  Or JFK.

Or imagine if you had to take over Hugh Jackman’s role in Steady Rain, or Boy From Oz , or anything.

Well, that’s exactly how Rufus Norris must feel.

Who’s Rufus?  Glad you asked.

Well, contrary to what you might think based on the photo in this blog, he is not Robert Sean Leonard’s long lost British brother.

He’s the new Artistic Director at London’s National Theatre, taking over for the should-be-canonized-by-the-theater-pope Nicholas Hytner, who made the National one of the most important theaters in the . . . world.

Big shoes.  Big shoes.

But even though he has yet to pick a season, or direct a new show, and get something transferred to this side of the pond, Rufus is off to a great start in my opinion, and it’s because of quotes like the one below.

See, Mr. Norris, like so many, has had a flop or two on Broadway, including his 2006 production of Festen.  In this article in the NY Times announcing his appointment, he talks about that, and what he thinks went wrong.  And when pushed about this “failure,” the article says . . .

He said he made “several basic mistakes” but did not regret the production “because I learned more from that one experience than anything else I’ve done.

Admitting mistakes.  And learning from them.   That’s how he do.

It’d be easy to stew on a failure for years, and let it stew, and bitterize you.  It takes a very powerful spirit to spin that sucker around into some positivity.  And that’s why he is now leading one of the most important theaters in the  . . . yep, gonna say it again . . . world.

Best of luck to you, Mr. Norris.  I think you’re going to crush it.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXVIII: Honesty is the best press policy.

Remember that time Mamma Mia announced they were moving down the block (and it caused that big traffic jam for those producers out there hunting for theaters?)

Well we now know that the muscle behind the move was Rocky, the new musical, which has been training in Germany for the last six months, and is ready for its Broadway Heavyweight fight next spring.

It had been gossiped about for weeks, but the show was officially announced just the other day in this article in the NY Times, and a full page ad in this past Sunday’s Times (even without tickets on sale – now that’s an announcement). Here’s the quote from Stage Entertainment CEO, Bill Taylor:

I’m aware that Rocky might be perceived as an odd choice for a musical, and there will be some raised eyebrows, but I think what people see will not be what they are expecting.

So, the thing is, Bill took the words out of my mouth.  When I heard Rocky was going to be a musical, I admit it, I thought it was an “odd” idea.  I didn’t quite get it.  And maybe, I even chuckled at the thought.

But now?  After that quote? When the Chief Producing Officer admitted that it was an “odd” idea? All of a sudden, I think this idea is cool.

There’s something amazing to be said about admitting what you have, and how it may look to those on the outside. You’re being honest, and you’re getting on the same page as your audience, whether that be ticket buyers, or even investors (I tell every single investor of mine that Broadway investing is super risky, before they have a chance to tell me themselves . . . and then I usually say that “it’s the riskiest investment you’ll ever love to make.”)

Getting people to drink the Kool-Aid may work in the short run, but we all know what’s in that Kool-Aid by now, don’t we?  Show people you’re not stupid . . . that you see what they see, and they’ll respect you for it, and be more likely to take the ride with you.

Oh – and you know what else Joop Van de Ende, Bill and the Stage Entertainment crew did that was brill-brill when putting their team for this “odd” idea together?  They counteracted any potential snickers from an industry crowd by getting super-cool and hip director Alex Timbers to helm the show, along with the not-heard-from-enough-considering-how-awesome-they-are- songwriting team of Ahrens and Flaherty (I would produce anything they wrote, even if it was Rocky . . . and Bullwinkle), and one of the best book writers living today in Tom Meehan.

There’s a lot of lessons in this one press release . . . but simply put, honesty and a killer creative team, makes any idea look like a heavyweight contender.


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