What this Tracy Chapman song has to do with your show.

I wrote a letter to singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman in the mid-90s.  It was on early in my career and I was looking for popular artists who might have an idea for a musical.  And her 1988 hit, “Fast Car”, told me two things . . .

1 – She had a gift for melody.

2 – She wrote story songs.

Broadway wasn’t cool then, so my inquiry hit a wall (also known as a manager who couldn’t see that one day Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sara Bareilles, Sting, and more would have shows on Broadway).

Tracy had another hit song, that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as I’m crotch deep in the development of six new musicals.  The song?  “Talkin’ About A Revolution.”

Why?

The biggest hit that Broadway has ever seen and may ever see is about a revolution:  The American Revolution (If you don’t know the show I’m talking about, then you should get out more . . . or just read this blog more.)

One of the other biggest hits that Broadway and the world has ever seen is also about a revolution:  The French Revolution.

And there’s another musical that’s coming back to Broadway in 2021 (in a very buzzy all-female version directed by Diane Paulus) that’s also set in Revolutionary times.

What makes revolutions such good settings for shows?

Revolutions are started by groups of the super passionate people who are willing to put their lives on the line (literally) to achieve their goal of rewriting history.

Can the stakes be any higher?

Like medical dramas or legal eagle shows on TV, revolutions just make a writer’s job a little easier, since the setting already has the baked-in requirements of a successful musical (passionate heroes and high stakes).

Am I suggesting you find an actual revolution to write about or produce?

No.  (Although it wouldn’t hurt – I still think there’s a good Civil War story to be told on a stage.)

What I am suggesting is that you find the revolution IN your story.

Doesn’t Billy Elliot start a revolution inside his household and in his town when he wants to dance?

Belle’s relationship with the Beast has the townspeople picking up arms against her new furry friend.

West Side Story, The Lion King, Little Shop of Horrors, Beautiful, etc, etc. all have revolutionary characteristics if you look closely enough.

And the shows that I’m working on . . . Joy (a single mom who starts a revolution when she fights to get herself on QVC to sell her own invention, after it failed with someone else, and changes the face of retail for herself and for women worldwide), Harry Belafonte (a singer who used his popularity to work with MLK, JFK, RFK, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malcolm X, Mandela, and more and fight for equality in this country and the world), Ma Vie En Rose (an 8-year-old child born a boy, who is a girl, and fights against his family and community who deny who he really is), and Harmony (about a singing group fighting starting a revolution against a revolution), etc.

When you are looking for shows to adapt for the stage, find a revolution, and your job will be that much easier.

Oh, and Tracy, if you’re reading this, the offer still stands.  You’ve got a musical in you.  I know it.

– – – – –

If you want to hear what several Tony Award-winning writers look for when they adapt stories for the stage, click here.

 

It was all a Rave.

And just like that . . . we’ve wrapped up our first year of Rave.

Our brand new theater festival had its last performance of its inaugural year last night.

And I couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing went.

Let me do what I love to do, and give you some numbers:

  • 19 productions and 3 readings were produced for a total of 101 performances of brand-spankin’ new theater.
  • Over 4,500 audience members attended performances by these emerging TheaterMakers.  4,500!!!
  • Over 200 Artists helped make these shows happen, both on stage, off stage, in the wings, in the booths, and a bunch behind a desk.
  • There were thousands of social media mentions and reviews, resulting in hundreds of thousands of impressions for those Artists.
  • And there was one, very proud founder/Broadway Producer/Blogger.

I had the easy job for this festival.  Seven months ago I had an idea.  And I posed it to my staff, who looked at me a little bug-eyed and then said, “We’re in.”

See, like me, they believe the world is a better place if there’s more theater in it.  So when I said that we should make a festival happen as part of our 5000By2025 mission, to work they went in order to make this festival happen.

And there’s no way it would have happened without them.

Special thanks to Valerie Novakoff, Britt Lafield, Monica Hammond, Mary Dina, Erica Fallon, Emily McGill, Jenna Lazar, Parrish Salyers, and Kellie Williams for their passion and for taking my idea and executing it with excellence to the Nth degree

And to the Producers, Writers, Actors, Designers, Musicians, and all the Artprerenuers who made their shows happen . . . this thing was nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . without you.

Your passion is inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that you’ve inspired us to do this again.

Yep, Rave will return next summer.   Rave 2.0 in 2020.  🙂

So sign up here to be the first to know when we’re taking submissions and when the tickets for the next set of shows-to-be will go on sale.

Because if this season proved anything, it’s that there are a whole group of TheaterMakers out there who you may not know today . . . but you will tomorrow.


UPDATE ALERT!  We’ve just announced the winners of our Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Play, and many others:

Outstanding Production

Noirtown by Michael Bontatibus

Outstanding Musical

Just Laugh, with a book and lyrics by Lauren Gundrum and Brandon Lambert, the latter also contributing music.

Outstanding Play

Fancy Maids by Harold Hodge Jr.

Outstanding Performances

PJ Adzima in The Tycoons!
Madeline Grey DeFreece in Fancy Maids
Kayland Jordan in Fancy Maids
Julia Knitel in The Tycoons!
Terra Mackintosh in Back
Amy Penston in Big Shot
Arturo Luis Soria in Ni Mi Madre
Donna Vivino in Waiting For Johnny Depp

Outstanding Ensemble

The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Original Score

Mhairi Cameron, Oceanborn

Outstanding Book of a Musical

Joshua Turchin, The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Direction

Max Friedman, The Tycoons!

Outstanding Choreography

Sally Dashwood, Girls On Tap

Outstanding Design

Back with sound design by Andrew Fox, scenic design by Tim McMath, and lighting design by Greg Solomon

Outstanding Marketing

Oceanborn


Are you a Producer, Writer or other TheaterMaker?  Got a show?  Make it a goal of yours to submit your show for next year’s Rave!  Click here and sign up to know when we’re taking submissions.

Don’t have a show yet?  Start working on one today!  One of the biggest hits of the festival was written AFTER we announced the festival.  12-year-old Joshua Turchin wrote his show just to submit it.  And then this happened.  It can happen to you too.  Click here.

 

3 Dramatic Ideas for the Movie Industry from a Broadway Producer.

Here’s something I never thought I’d say . . . thank God I don’t produce movies.

Why sure, sure, the theater ain’t no producin’ picnic, but . . . well, let me just ask you this . . . when was the last time YOU went to a movie?  Seriously, how many movies did you go to in the last 12 months?  And how many movies did you go to in a 12 month period 10 years ago?

That’s what I thought.

The very thing that makes movies so profitable – only having to “make it” once and then monetize it forever – has made it less rare and therefore, less valuable.  Anyone can make a movie . . . anyone can start a streaming platform . . . and with the high quality of TV technology . . . not to mention the high-quality free TV programs, is it any surprise that people stay home and pop their own popcorn?

This challenge led the NY Times to ask some of the top filmmakers if the movie industry can even survive the next ten years,  You can find their answers here.

Certainly, Hollywood will survive, it will just look a lot different than it does now. The same way the music industry had to reinvent itself fifteen years ago when Napster and Limewire disrupted the world (remember those platforms?).

But the movie industry is going to have to shake it up, not stir it up. . . so I thought I’d offer three ideas on how to bring audiences back to the movies.

  1. Release a film in one theater at a time. 

Do you know why Broadway is so hot right now?  Because when there’s a hit show, you can only get it in one place.  And that scarcity drives up prices.

So, why not try it with a film?  Put it in NYC.  Put it in Chicago.  LA.  And nowhere else.  Make it rare.  Which will make it valuable.

Now, studios, this is going to @#$% with your business model like crazy.  Because you can’t make a $100mm film this way . . . just like we can’t make a $100mm musical (as Spider-Man proved).  The answer is . . . DON’T make $100mm movies.  Slimming your business model will force you to slim your budgets, which have gotten out of control anyway.  And that’s coming from a Broadway producer who makes less when producing a show than most of my vendors!

  1. Give it away for free.

The current Hollywood model is all about trying to get the biggest gross on opening weekend as possible.  How’s that working out for you, folks?  Time to flip it on its head.  Try giving it away on opening or that first weekend to generate so much word of mouth it gets more people talking than any amount of advertising could.  And hey, make the theaters give you a deal for doing it this way . . . because they’re going to sell a @#$% ton more popcorn.

  1. Forget theaters.  Stream it on THIS.

No, I’m not going to say Netflix.  I’m not going to say Hulu.  Or Amazon.

Stream it on your OWN site.  That’s right, give it away, or charge a few bucks, but make people sign on to YOUR website to do it.  Get that data (which is worth bucket loads of $$$).  Get that contact info.  All of which will allow you to market your next film much more easily.

Movies, Broadway, and Book Publishing are similar industries.  Our “products” are all sold through 3rd party providers (Telecharge, Fandango, Amazon, etc.).  When we give our customers to another party, we lose massive amounts of power.

Maybe it’s time we all try to take it back.

The movie industry has already been disrupted . . . and it still hasn’t found its way through yet (except by licensing their IP to Broadway Producers).  And yeah, I’m predicting we’ll see a lot of empty movie theaters in the next ten years.

The good news?

Maybe we’ll be able to turn them into real theaters.

– – – – –

Are you interested in getting rights to a project from the movie studios?  I’ve got reps from all the biggies coming to the SuperConference to give you tips and tricks on how to do just that.  Click here and get your ticket now, before the price goes up on August 31st!

 

Another mission . . . and we’ve chosen to accept it.

I started this blog over 10 years ago to help demystify the producing process, and shine a spotlight on the business of Broadway . . . challenging some norms, accepting others, and attempting to amplify the conversation about the theater.

Because if more people talk about it, more people will want to see it.  And the more people that want to see it, the more people that will want to make it.

And I believe that if there is more theater in the world, the world will be a better place.

At our Davenport Theatrical company retreat a few weeks ago, we talked about doubling down on this message and finding new ways to help make more theater happen.

And like anything and everything we want to accomplish, it all starts with a goal.

So we made one.

And it’s a doozy.  In fact, it’s a BHAG.  But we’re going for it.

Our goal is to help get 5,000 shows produced by the year 2025.

Obviously, that isn’t going to be all of our own shows.  I’m a pretty prolific producer, but anything beyond 2-3 shows a year is too much to handle in my opinion (never mind the competing with yourself aspect).

So we’re going to do more to help you get your shows produced . . . whether that’s at a festival, a community theater, an Off Broadway theater, or yep, here on Broadway.

How will we do that?

Good question . . .

We’ve already started some of our new initiatives, including my new Whiteboard Workshop series that gives you a glimpse into what Broadway Producers actually do, and our brand new Writer’s Groups.

And we’ve got a ton of things planned, including guest blogs from other experts in our biz giving you insight on a subject that I may not have, more “Shut Up and Writes,” networking opportunities, partnerships with other companies like Final Draft, and of course a ton more resources on our PRO site.

I’m a lucky guy to do what I do.  And I remember what it was like to want to do what I do, but not know where to start.

Well, now, you can start here.

It’s not easy.  It can take awhile.

But we’re here to help.  #5000By2025

If you have ideas on how we can help you accomplish your theatrical goals, throw them in the comments below, and we will NOT take them to heart . . . we will take them to TASK.

Tell us how we can help!

 

P.S. Want to learn how to write a musical? Click here for all the tips, tools and training you need.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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