Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXVII: Why the Book of Mormon authors think theater ain’t going anywhere.

The Authors of The Book of Mormon were featured in a NY Times article a few weeks ago.  If you only read Arts and Leisure then you probably missed it because this 1000 worder was in the Media and Advertising pages of the Biz section.

Oooh, and you all know how much it gets my motor going when Broadway gets a mention away from the arts pages.

It was an article about Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the auteurs of The Book of Mormon (along with their musical muse, Bobby Lopez), and the recent announcement about the formation of their $300mm production company.

These two have had quite a ride, especially when you look at what launched them in the first place:  a two dimensional, simply drawn . . . cartoon.  No avatarish-technology, no pixary Imax 8D . . . just a simple cartoon . . . that just happened to be amazingly funny . . . and incredibly unique.

When asked how they managed to cut through the modern-mass-media noise with what they create, and stay current with new distribution channels, etc., Mr. Stone had this to say . . .

Disruption is overrated.  If you tell good stories, the platforms are sort of beside the point.  We made the most analog thing you can think of, a play at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, and it worked out as well as anything we have ever done.

Did you hear that?  Here’s what I took away:

1 – Tell good stories that people want to hear and it doesn’t matter where/how you present them.

2 – And the The Book of Mormon is just as successful for them as “anything they’ve ever done.”

So the next time someone tells you that the theater is dying, or that it’s not a place you can make money, or reach an audience, take a cue from Cartman, and tell them to #$@ off.

 

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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXVI: A funny man who isn’t going to be funny.

The cinematic auteur responsible for some of the biggest on screen belly laughs of the last decade is writing a play.

Yep, everyone’s favorite 40 Year Old Virgin, Judd Apatow, could be the next Neil Simon.  But, that’s not what he has in mind.  When asked about the play and what it was about, this is what Judd had to say:

I am excited to write something which has a social conscience.

And you know what?  I found that funny.

In Judd’s mind, plays seem to be important.  And movies seem to be silly.  He’s got an important idea, and for him, that means the screen is not the best medium for its expression, but the stage is.  We should be honored at the respect he’s showing what we do.  And I commend him for writing outside his comfort zone both in terms of material and in genre.

At the same time . . . I want to see what would happen if he wrote what we know he’s so good at writing for the stage.  He really could be the next Neil Simon, or certainly another Yasmina Reza, no?

I can’t wait to see it either way, because I think he’s as talented as Steve Carrell as a virgin.  But Judd, don’t think you have to write something important just because the tickets are $135.

The most expensive musical right now has more in common with Knocked Up then it does with West Side Story.

 

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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXV: A Republican’s Thoughts on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, readers.

This important national holiday celebrates the incredible contributions that workers of all different trades and skills have made to the development of this country.

In an industry like the theater, our “workers” (what a crap name) are essential to the development of our art form, as the skill, passion, and ingenuity of actors, stagehands, designers, etc. are what help us to push the boundaries of our medium, and keep thrilling audiences year after year.  They are the fuel of the theatrical industry.  Without them, we would go nowhere.

Labor and organized labor specifically often get a bad clichéd rap (don’t feel bad, unions, Producers get one, too).  But on days like this, it’s important to remember that this country was built on a system of checks and balances . . . and that goes for our industries as well.

And as this Republican (!) once said . . .

If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other.
– Abraham Lincoln

Over the last twelve months, I’ve had a lot of people working with me on a variety of projects all over the world, as well as in my office . . . some in unions, some not.  But all are passionate about the theater.

And to each and every one of them I say thank you. Thank you for helping me to continue to pursue my dreams as you pursue yours.  Hopefully, together, we will make all of those dreams come true.

Happy Labor Day.

 

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Favorite Quotes Volume XXXIV: The difference between movies and theatre.

Some people think Michael Riedel is only good for gossip.

Not so, not so!

Last week, Riedel’s column about the soon-to-be-made-for-walking Kinky Boots featured a gem of a quote from Harvey Fierstein that should be featured in every musical theater writing textbook there is (which is probably only about two (I love this one on the subject, btw)).

This is what the award-winning book writer of La Cage and the more recent Newsies had to say about the difference between movies and the theatre:

There’s a huge difference between movies and theater.  Movies are about story.  Theater is about ideas. You’ve got the story going, but you have to have something more to keep people in their seats for 2 1/2 hours.  You have to have something bigger to say than, ‘Oh, we have a shoe factory, let’s make it a hit shoe factory!’  That ain’t really a reason to go to a musical.

Musicals and plays require grander themes or big ideas.  Simple stories don’t usually work.  We need French Revolution type stuff, or squatters living in the East Village and living with AIDS.  We need Producers who try to produce the biggest flop on the planet about Adolph Hitler, or an entire village of people leaving their village and their ‘tradition’ behind.

I’ve often said that movies are about action, and the theater is about characters.

But as Harvey sums up above, you need big stakes if you want your show to succeed on a stage.

 

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Favorite Quotes Volume XXXIII: Andy Warhol on the business of Art.

In case you missed the news, Andy Warhol’s classic “Double Elvis” painting fetched a whopping $37 million smackaroonies at Sotheby’s on Wednesday.  I know, I know . . . if you only knew they were auctioning it off you would have bid $38 million!

Well, unfortunately for you, this one is gone (interesting tidbit – there are actually 22 versions of this piece).

$37mm!  You could produce three big budget musicals for that!  Or 1/2 a Spider-Man!

Warhol is an artist’s artist, right?  I mean, it doesn’t get much more modern art guru than good ol’ Andy, which is why I was fascinated when I read this quote on the business of what he did . . . and how he felt about art and commerce combining.

Here’s what he said:

“Making money is art and working is art, and good business is the best art.”

Andy Warhol was an artistic pioneer.  He drew, sculpted, and painted what he wanted to . . . and introduced the world to a whole new perspective.  And he turned those creative impulses into a financially successful enterprise that is flourishing decades after his death.

Making money and running a business were obviously never Warhol’s primary objectives . . . Cash can never be a motivator for anyone who wants to make great art, great theater, or even great hamburgers, really.

He focused on the product, which created the business . . . which is how art and commerce are best coupled.

 

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