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.
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