GUEST BLOG: So, What Does a General Manager Do, Anyway?: Part One by Peter Bogyo

As a general manager of Broadway and Off Broadway shows for over 15 years, I have continually been dismayed by my close friends’ inability to remember what I do (“he’s a stage manager”; NOT) or what it entails. How could they? My job title is completely opaque. What is that mysterious thing that I manage, generally? Finally, out of frustration and self-defense, I wrote a book and cleverly called it ‘Broadway General Manager”, to clue them in.  Then, in sympathy for their confusion, I subtitled it “Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business” to give them hope.

So, what the heck does a GM, as they are commonly referred to, do? I’ve been told I have approximately 750 words to explain this to you, and my book is 240 pages long, so please understand I’ll be talking in broad strokes. Very broad strokes.

In a nutshell, a general manager oversees all the financial and business concerns of a show. Even more, they are the lynchpin of the entire production, through which every aspect of the show must pass. Part of what makes the job so exciting is that the GM interacts with people at every level of the production and is expected to be available to the show’s producer 24/7.

Traditionally, the first thing a producer wants a GM to do is prepare two different sets of budgets — a Production Budget, which tells the producer how much money he or she needs to raise to mount the show and get it to the first paid public performance, and an Operating Budget, which details the costs to run the show on a weekly basis and provides various scenarios for recouping (earning back) the show’s production costs.

I go into great detail in my book analyzing actual Production and Operating budgets line by line, but I can’t do that here today. All you really need to know is that a Production budget tells the producer how much money he needs to raise to get the show to its first paid public performance, at which point one needs an Operating budget to know how much it will cost to operate the show on a weekly basis.

After calculating these two sets of budgets, my next major responsibility is normally negotiating all the contracts for the cast, crew, creatives and staff involved in the production.

A negotiation is a kind of dance, with each party maneuvering and strategizing to win as much as possible for his side. The best negotiation is one in which, at the end, both parties feel they have won several important points, but have not gotten everything they had hoped for. It’s important to remember that an agent has to try to win something for his client in order to justify his existence (not to mention his 10% commission!)

In resolving differences, I always strive to protect the show at breakeven, or close thereto, for as long as possible. A show can run forever as long as it can cover its expenses and not show a loss.

In my book, I have separate chapters containing actual contracts I have negotiated for “star” Broadway personnel– for a famous actor, a top director, an award-winning designer and a general manager. Again, I don’t have the space to go into that detail here, but you can find it in my book.

Beyond negotiating contracts, a GM is involved with helping to establish the production entity, providing critical information for the programming of the show’s box office, obtaining a payroll account for the company, and making sure the appropriate insurance policies get bound.  But their most vital, ongoing function has yet to be discussed – so be sure to tune in to next week’s blog for Part 2!

For more information about Peter or his book, visit broadwaygeneralmanager.com.
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PETER BOGYO is a theatrical General Manager, Executive Producer, Producer of Special Events, and an Author.

On Broadway, he served as General Manager of LOVE LETTERS, starring Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen; THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, starring Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.; STICK FLY,  starring Dulé Hill, directed by Kenny Leon, TIME STANDS STILL, starring Laura Linney, directed by Daniel Sullivan, AMERICAN BUFFALO, starring John Leguizamo, directed by Robert Falls, A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, starring Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, directed by Howard Davies, THE BLONDE IN THE THUNDERBIRD, starring Suzanne Somers; SLY FOX, starring Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Arthur Penn; FORTUNE’S FOOL, starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella, directed by Arthur Penn, and VOICES IN THE DARK, starring Judith Ivey, directed by Christopher Ashley.

Off-Broadway, his general manager credits include A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER, AND A GUN with Olympia Dukakis; Elaine May’s ADULT ENTERTAINMENT, directed by Stanley Donen; Jerry Herman’s musical revue SHOWTUNE; MR. GOLDWYN, starring Alan King, directed by Gene Saks; MADAME MELVILLE starring Macaulay Culkin and Joely Richardson; and THE UNEXPECTED MAN, starring Alan Bates and Eileen Atkins, directed by Matthew Warchus.

He has served as Executive Producer for the sold-out Carnegie Hall concert PIAF! THE SHOW, and for FIGARO 90210 at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street.

Peter is also a leading producer of benefit concerts and has raised close to a million dollars in the fight against AIDS.  For GMHC he produced the celebrated concert versions of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ ANYONE CAN WHISTLE and Cole Porter and Moss Hart’s JUBILEE, both at Carnegie Hall, and SHOWSTOPPERS!: a Salute to the Best of Broadway, at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.  He also produced FIRST LADIES OF SONG at Alice Tully Hall for the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, which featured Rosemary Clooney, Marilyn Horne, Judy Collins, Barbara Cook, Lena Horne, Joanne Woodward, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He has unveiled three monuments for the City of New York, honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, Duke Ellington, and Antonin Dvorak, produced a memorial tribute to Herbert Ross, and oversaw the international entertainment for philanthropist George Soros’s 75th birthday party.

Peter is a member of The Broadway League and ATPAM, a Tony Award voter, and a graduate of Yale College and of the Commercial Theater Institute.  His book, “Broadway General Manager: Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business” is published by Allworth Press, and received critical acclaim.

Peter lives in Manhattan and upstate New York with his wife Ahna and their Scottish terrier Dickens.  www.peterbogyo.com

GUEST BLOG: For the Love of Theatre by Alexander Libby

At the age of seventeen I started a theatre company and called it “For the Love of Theatre.” I converted an old carriage house that my father had built into a theater venue, and even cut trap doors in the floor through which stairs would rise to give the illusion of a two-story set. My friends and I cranked a manual genie lift in hundreds (perhaps thousands) of rotations every time the stairs needed to go up or down. It was exhausting…and a blast!

But we still needed a cast, and so everywhere I went I solicited actors. At the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, I approached total strangers and asked, “Have you ever acted?” Regardless of their answer, I beamed. “You would be PERFECT for a role in my new show!” That’s how my cast was assembled.

Prior to opening night, I contacted the state of Maine’s local newspaper and suggested that if they had a slow news day, perhaps they’d be interested in a 17-year-old kid who’d started a theatre company. Luckily for me, news slowed long enough for the paper to feature my story on the front page of the Arts section. Thanks to that coverage, both weekends of performances sold out. Each night, people from the community lined up around the ‘block’ and crowded into our converted 99-seat theater. Carriage House was a hit.

At the time I didn’t know that one of the actors in the show — a woman I’d found in a dress shop downtown, who had never acted before — happened to work with Maine State Music Theater, a very well known professional summer stock theatre 20 minutes away from my house. That is how I started working in theatre professionally.

The funny thing is, I didn’t whip up The Carriage House Theater because I thought it would be my ticket to working on Broadway. I just wanted to put on a show. In hindsight, I’m not sure that I would have become a Broadway Stage Manager or ultimately started my tech company ProductionPro without The Carriage House Theatre in Freeport, Maine.

At the heart of every invention — in music, in mechanics, in filmmaking — lies an idea. A big one. Turning an idea into a palpable thing and connecting with an audience generally comes with deliberate, painstaking attention to one question:

“Why?”

Why this story, in this form, at this time?

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of creating stories for the stage and screen. The consistent answer to my “Why?” is and has always been: “Because I want to make and help people make shows of all kinds.” To that end, in my newest venture, I’ve joined the startup tech scene. Never in my wildest dreams did I set out to run a tech company, but opportunity knocked. When I realized I had an idea that would enable Show People to see and share the most up-to-date version of their films, plays, television shows, and live events, at any given moment throughout development, I knew in my gut that I had to follow through.

So if you have a big idea and your answer to the question, “Why?” is, “Because I need to, because, as poet Pablo Neruda writes, ‘I know no other way’, then listen to your gut.” The intention is there. Now’s the time to make something of it.
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Alexander is Founder and CEO of ProductionPro, a Digital Production Notebook for directors, choreographers, designers and their teams.  It automatically pulls together all the scripts, designs, reference videos, and charts into one very simple place that enables cast and crew replacements, and remounting of the production. Learn More about Alexander Libby

GUEST BLOG: Three Tips to Improve Your Music Notation by Peter Flom

In creating music notation for the stage, our goal is to empower successful performances. Sometimes our unintentional bad habits throw up barriers to this success. Today we’ll identify some of these habits as well as quick ways to correct them.

 

Beaming, Rests and the Invisible Barline

Beaming and rest choices are often ignored by the lazy copyist, but a little extra effort here will lead to better performances.

The meter of a measure must always inform the notation. Every time signature implies a grouping of beats, which determine beaming and rest choices. Take the following excerpt as an example. Which is clearer?

Most working musicians could play the first example correctly after some practice time, but ideally we’d like these charts to be sight-read, as is typical on the gig. By contrast, the second example clearly defines the halfway point in the measure, which is a great aid to readers. This is a concept known as the “Invisible Barline,” and is vital to writing in an even meter.

Additionally, notice how the beaming has been changed to outline each beat in the measure. This practice makes it easier to subdivide rhythms while reading the piece. Proper beaming technique is especially important in complex meters:

The engraver’s rests must also support the performer by outlining the meter. I find each of the following measures to be very difficult to read: Here is the same example with appropriate rests and beaming:

Note that each syncopation is split into multiple rests. Again, this helps the performer subdivide rhythms more easily. When mixed rests are needed, always choose rests which outline the beat appropriately.

 

Writing Chords

Another challenge for many writers is using chord notation. While this is a large topic, here are some basic guidelines to remember when building parts for the rhythm section.

First and foremost, develop a system that works for your performers. If your musicians prefer to see a ø7 chord suffix instead of min7 b5, then you need to swallow your pride and write the chord they want – even if you believe it’s wrong. Never sacrifice a good performance in the name of being “right.”

Just make sure to stay consistent – don’t write “C-7” in one measure, “Cm7” in the next and “Cmin7” later.

 

Comping Notation

Suffixes aren’t the only important part of writing chords; you must also pay attention to notation in the staff. While the lazy copyist may not see the value in writing notation during a comping part, the performers often need it badly, and each member of the rhythm section expects different conventions.

When in doubt, keep the notation simple. Here are some of my rules of thumb for writing rhythm section parts.

  • If you know exactly what notes you want them to play: write the notes in the staff. (This should be rare.)

  • If you only have a few specific notes: write the rhythms in the staff and only the specific notes you want. (This is common for guitar players, who often remember voicings based on the top note of the chord.)

  • If you don’t care what voicing they use but you have a specific rhythm: write rhythmic slash notation. (Common in a score with ‘hits’ that the band plays together.)

  • If you want them to improvise a comping part: Use slash notation. (This is the most common and easiest way to notate chords, but your performer may not know exactly what to play.)

Being a guitarist, I wrote all of these examples for a guitar part. However, the same rules apply to other instruments. Typically, the bass part is written with a sample bassline and chord symbols – that way, the bass player has an idea of what groove to play, but they can freely ad lib fills when appropriate.

You can find part two of this post – where we look at placing notation on the page – as well as my other tips to improve music notation, on the Finale blog.
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Peter Flom is the production manager in the repertoire development department at MakeMusic. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Peter has previously worked at KMA Studios in New York City, and in MakeMusic’s Customer Success department. He now spends most of his days developing new content for Finale and SmartMusic, and has worked with many publishers along the way. He also is a freelance arranger and engraver, and plays a mean guitar when no one’s watching.

GUEST BLOG: Greening the Great White Way by Emily Harrington

10 years ago, more than 250 theatre professionals interested in making theatre more environmentally friendly gathered at a Town Hall organized by David Stone (producer of Wicked) and his team at the Gershwin Theatre. After an inspiring keynote speech from Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Wicked team and many participants discussed the need to make theatre greener and what they were doing to date.

 

Building on the Town Hall, The Broadway League formed an ad hoc committee, now known as the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), which was officially launched in November 2008 at an event with then­ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The BGA’s mission has always been to educate, motivate, and inspire the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices. Since 2008, the BGA has continued to grow; it is now also a fiscal program of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS and, along with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, a founding member of the International Green Theatre Alliance.

 

The BGA’s work is built on the recognition that environmental issues are caused by the cumulative effect of millions of small actions and that impactful change comes from each of us doing a bit better every day. BGA participants don’t claim to be “green,” but all work to be “greener” than they were. BGA members, actors, producers, designers, and other theatre professionals and fans, who have made greener choices each day, have produced remarkable results and inspired actions across the US and internationally.

 

Here are just a few of the ways that Broadway and theatre beyond have gotten greener in the past 10 years!

 

  • All Broadway theatres participate in the BGA, and nearly all shows have a volunteer Green Captain, taking the lead in making their productions a little bit greener. Green Captains include members of both the cast and crew and share information about BGA initiatives while working to improve the practices of their productions. Past Green Captains included Tony Award winners Bryan Cranston (All the Way), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I), and Sophie Okonedo (A Raisin in the Sun), and many nominees, including Lauren Ambrose and Mark Rylance in 2018. On Earth Day 2018, this year’s Green Captains came together to share their #GreenResolutions. These “Green Resolutions” are commitments, like New Year’s resolutions, but they run from Earth Day 2018 to Earth Day 2019. You can watch their video here and find a list of current Broadway Green Captains here.

 

  • All theatres on Broadway now share information about green practices and have made many improvements. The most visible change is the upgrading of marquee and roof sign lights at Broadway theatres to energy­efficient LED and CFLs. This one change has saved energy, money, and over 700 tons of carbon a year. All Broadway theatres now have recycling programs and many use Energy Star appliances. Other improvements include using environmentally-­friendly cleaning products and dilution centers, using energy­-efficient indoor lighting, aggressively insulating heating pipes, installing bike racks, and coating roofs with reflective paint to reduce heat absorption.

 

  • Thirsty company members at many shows drink filtered water from reusable bottles, eliminating many thousands of plastic water bottles backstage.

 

  • Since Broadway began using microphones, productions have needed batteries. To be certain that microphones wouldn’t fail during a show, the standard Broadway practice had been to put new batteries into each microphone before every performance. Wicked switched to rechargeable batteries, reducing annual battery consumption from 15,000 batteries to 96, saving money and the environment without compromising performance. Many other productions around the world, including in Australia and in the West End, have also made this switch, often after hearing of the Wicked team’s success.

 

  • Recently, Jujamcyn committed to eliminating plastic straws from its theatres and now only offers compostable straws at all of its concession stands.

 

  • Touring shows participating in the Touring Green program have offset more than 25,000 tons of carbon emissions from moving their equipment. Participating shows have voluntarily invested 1.5 cents per mile in wind power, methane digester, and other projects offered through Native Energy.

 

  • The theatre community beyond Broadway has embraced this movement. The Off­-Broadway community is very active; there are Green Captains on college campuses across the country, touring shows and venues are adding Touring Green Captains, and BGA chapters have sprung up in Chicago and Philadelphia.

 

Most of these actions began with an individual or group trying something new, igniting similar action and improvements by others. The BGA helps make sure that the community learns of past and new innovations so that each success leads to others. Please let us know the small or large steps you take so we can share innovations with the thousands of professionals interested in greening theatre on the Great White Way and beyond. You can email us at Green@Broadway.org, visit our website BroadwayGreen.com, or follow us on Twitter @BroadwayGreen or Instagram @BroadwayGreenAlliance.

 

GUEST BLOG: The Art of Business: Or, How Real Estate Helped Me Put Up A Broadway Show By Sarah Saltzberg.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know all about Gettin’ The Band Back Together, the new musical comedy in its first week of previews at the Belasco Theater.  You know that it took nine years to get it to Broadway, and you also know that the engine behind the show is Ken Davenport, who is not only the writer but also the show’s producer.   I could easily make this a post about how much I admire Ken as an entrepreneur, disruptor, and trendsetter in the current theatrical landscape, which you probably know all about, too – and I’ll get to that.  But first, like any self-respecting person in the theater, I will find a way to make this about myself.

I first met Ken when I auditioned to be one of the improvisers that helped create Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  I knew Ken was the visionary behind The Awesome ’80s Prom, My First Time, and Altar Boyz, and I admired his commitment to creating new work.  I was particularly interested in collaborating with him because it seemed his process was very similar to mine.  As we started working together, I found that Ken and I shared not only a love of the theater, particularly new musicals, but also a love of business and how it relates to the arts.  Creating new shows takes not only passion and dedication, but also lots of problem-solving. . . . and money.  This was a lesson I learned when working on one of my first shows in New York, and it led me on a path that unexpectedly thrust me into the business world.

Like many actors that go to a conservatory for training, I came out of college with an incredible Irish accent, a killer drop down, and absolutely no idea on how to manage the business side of show business.  I became involved in C-R-E-P-E-S-C-U-L-E (the precursor to The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, which was developed through improvisation) as a creator and then as a producer, and quickly realized that if I wanted to fund my own art I would need something more lucrative than waiting tables.  I got my real estate license with the intention of using it only for a summer and reached out to my landlord about renting the units in my building.   He hung up on me.  Undeterred, I called him back, and I kept calling him back until he gave me a green light.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my landlord owned a portfolio of over a hundred buildings in Harlem, which eventually became my exclusive listings over the course of a year.  Let me stress that I had no real idea what I had gotten into, but using the tools I had as an actor I was able to find solutions to problems that might otherwise have been insurmountable.   Trying to open an apartment door that had accidentally been dead-bolted?  Sure, I could have just walked away.  Or I could improvise . . . . by climbing up the fire escape, jimmying open the window, and then opening the door for the clients from the inside.   Walking clients through a building while a very obvious drug deal is taking place, through a haze of marijuana smoke?  No problem.  Just tell the clients they won’t have to go very far if they want to get stoned.  I was joking . . . kind of.

I started not only enjoying the challenges of real estate, but also looking forward to them.  It was thrilling to watch a deal come together, to advise on the renovation plans of an apartment, and to meet and help clients. Most importantly though, I felt I was in control of my own destiny; being a full-time actor is a life of uncertainty, and I knew I was not cut out for that.  I loved that things were black and white in real estate; you were either closing a deal, or you weren’t.  It was a great balance to the creative world that I also loved.

Within three years, Spelling Bee was on Broadway, and I was playing Logainne, the character I created.  At this point, I no longer had to work in real estate; for the first time, I was making enough money as an actor to not have another job.  But I knew that Spelling Bee wouldn’t be forever and more than that, I really LOVED working in real estate.  I found it empowering, and with the money I was making I started to think of other shows I wanted to bring to life.

I had started recruiting my friends to become real estate agents, and we became a team that specialized in Upper Manhattan.  One of my clients, Jon Goodell, got his license and we shortly thereafter became partners, managing a team of almost twenty agents.  In 2012, we decided to open our own Harlem firm, Bohemia Realty Group – branding ourselves as uptown specialists with a creative edge. In 2016, we opened a second office in Washington Heights and now have over 120 agents and 18 staff members.  Almost all of our agents have a background in the arts and are attracted by the flexible schedule and autonomy the job offers.  They also like that they are surrounded by others like themselves – one of our agents calls Bohemia “the green room of real estate.”

Performers are empathetic, good listeners, take rejection well, and are creative problem solvers; these skills translate very well into the real estate world.  Like me, though, most have never taken a business class – and so for actors that become sales agents, real estate becomes that education, teaching us everything from how to negotiate, how to communicate effectively, and most importantly, how to become financially empowered.  Many of our agents have followed my trajectory and have self produced albums and shows of their own, which in turn inspires me to continue to do what I do.

This past week, we started previews for Gettin’ The Band Back Together.  During the day, I’m at the Bohemia offices; in the evenings, I go to the theater to watch the show and work with Ken on changes during this crucial time.  These are long days, but there is no one who understands this balancing act this quite like Ken – someone with a hand in both business and art, who uses his incredible talents in these areas to achieve the nearly impossible (like getting a brand new show to Broadway.)  Working with him has made me a better artist, a better business person, and a better friend.  And while I’m so excited that Gettin’ The Band Back Together is on the final leg of its journey, it’s also bittersweet to let it go.  I suppose I could enjoy the free time.

Or, I can think about another idea for a show and start all over . . . and maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get to work with Ken again.

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Sarah Saltzberg  was part of the original creative cast for Gettin’ the Band Back Together, and is thrilled that the show has made it to Broadway. Career highlights include: a creator and original cast member of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a creator/actor of off-Broadway’s Don’t Quit Your Night Job; and a writer of off-Broadway’s Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage (also with Ken Davenport.)   Sarah is also the co-owner of Bohemia Realty Group, a boutique firm specializing in properties north of 96th Street, where the majority of agents have a background in the performing arts.

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Bohemia Realty Group is a dynamic team of dedicated real estate professionals that focus on residential rentals and sales in Upper Manhattan. Our mission is a three-pronged approach to improving quality of life: to service clients in an efficient, friendly way; to create a positive work environment for our agents and employees; and to enrich the community above 96th Street.  From pre-war walk up rentals to new development condos, we firmly believe that it’s possible for all New Yorkers to have light, space, and a renovated bathroom. . . and not have to give up dinner in order to afford it.

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