10 Things this Broadway Producer is thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The business of Broadway has been called a lot of things: The Great White Way, The Fabulous Invalid . . . and my favorite, which is what I overheard a fellow Broadway Producer of mine say recently when he was three vodka tonics deep, “A fickle b#tch.”

Despite how, ahem, challenging Broadway and the theater can be as a way to make a living or even just as a way to make some fun, letls face it, there are still so many things to be thankful for.  And it’s important that we remember how lucky we are to even be in a place where we can do theater . . . any kind of theater . . . whenever we want.

So here are ten things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1.  JOBS is a go!

The final piece of the JOBS Act puzzle was finally put in place just a few weeks ago, which means, after years of waiting, for-profit crowdfunding is a go.  Let this allow small businesses and small theaters everywhere to raise money with ease.

2.  My Guests de Podcast.

I started my podcast last year on a lark.  “Let me see who will agree to do it,” I remember saying.  And everyone I asked has said yes, from Jordan Roth to Tim Rice to Ben Brantley (!), it has been such a thrill to interview and learn from them all.  The fact that these super busy peeps have shared their time and wisdom with me and all of us is a reminder of how generous theater people are, and how dedicated they are to passing on their knowledge to the next generation of artists and business people.  So thanks to you all.  And to the ones coming.

3.  Hamilton‘s a Super Hit

While everyone who works in the theater has a little Hamiltonian-envy, we’re all thankful for this massive hit.  First and foremost, because a rising tide does raise all shows.  When there is this big a hit, people come running to Broadway, and hopefully will see other shows after they see this one (or instead of, since you can’t get a ticket to Hamilton until 2039).  Secondly, I’m super thankful that it’s a hit . . . and has no stars.  It’s a reminder to all of us that the key to a mega hit is making the show the star.

4.  O-ho, BroadwayCon is a comin’!

Another lark of mine was this post way back in 2011, when I dreamed about a BroadwayCon.  And lo and behold it was announced this year and it is now just two months away!  And news flash – I’ll be speaking on a panel or two at BroadwayCon, so I’ll see you there.  Fun times.  (It’s being held 1/22 – 1/24, which is the weekend that Spring Awakening closes – so come see two birds with a few stones).

5.  Deaf West Theatre

Producing Spring Awakening has been one of the most important things I’ve done in my life professionally and personally.  Not only has it pushed Broadway’s boundaries, but it has pushed my own.  I’m thankful that Deaf West Theatre has labored away for so long, doing this great and important work, so people like me could take notice and help show it to the rest of the world.

6.  Stream, stream, stream.

Oh we’re getting so close to breaking through the barriers of “video theater.”  This year, BroadwayHD announced a way to stream a whole bunch of shows Netflix-style, and Lincoln Center/Playbill is showcasing certain concerts and events online as well.  The fear Producers had of distributing their content via video is waning.  Now we just have to convince the unions that this isn’t a way to put lots of money in our pocket.  But this is a way to develop a new audience.  And it’s going to happen.  And, a little birdie told me that there’s going to be another big live-streaming announcement in the next seven days, so stay tuned.  And that little birdie just might work in my office.  And it might be me.

7.  My Co-Producers and Investors

Investing in the theater is always a risk.  But this year, I brought my investors some even riskier productions.  And they jumped at the chance.  Producers can only produce if they have people behind them, going along for the ride, which will without a doubt include ups and downs.  I couldn’t produce without the men and women who put their money where their passion is and support Broadway, knowing that the odds say they won’t get their money back.  But they believe in the art, and they believe in me, and I’ll always be so thankful for that.  And to those investors, I know I’ll have a Hamilton-like hit someday.  I just don’t know when.

8.  The Tony Voters vote with their hearts and their heads, not their wallets.

For years there has been talk about “the road vote,” and how so many voters check off certain ballot boxes because of what will make them the most money when that show comes to town.  Well, when Fun Home took the Best Musical Tony Award this year, that old theory was put to bed.  The truth is, those votes are precious to the Tony Voters, and they vote for what they think is best.  Period.  And I’m thankful for their artistic ethics.

9.  My Hard-Working Super Staff.

It was supposed to be a quiet summer.  Then, I saw Spring Awakening and we moved it to Broadway in 86 days.  Oh, and we opened Daddy Long Legs the very next day.  And those two shows are only about 20% of what my office works on.  Without my staff, my company wouldn’t function . . . and it also wouldn’t be any fun.  So thanks to each and every one of them.  Don’t know them?  Click here to learn more about ’em.

10.  You.  You.  You.

My wedding song was “You” by Chris Young.  But I asked my wife if I could loan our song to all of you.  She said yes, as long as she could get it back.  See, I love blogging.  I love writing about the theater.  I love the comments I get supporting what I have to say, and I even love the comments that hate what I have to say.  And while I’d probably still write even if I didn’t have one reader, I’m lucky enough to have all of you.  So thanks for reading, and for encouraging others to read as well.  The blog has grown a lot since we started together 8 years ago, and I’m excited to where it will go over the next 8 years.

 

What are you thankful for in the theater this year?  Let me know in the comments below.

And I wish you all a hearty and healthy Thanksgiving for you and your family.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

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– Only 68 performances left of Spring Awakening.  Get your tickets today!  Click here.

– Win two tickets to Sylvia on Broadway!  Click here.

 

Why you should drive like there’s someone behind you.

I bought a car two years ago.  It’s the first car I’ve owned since I was 16.

And ok, I didn’t buy it.  I leased it.  And, actually, I’ll be giving it up at the end of November and not getting another one for a while.

I’ll miss it, because I love driving.  I just hate drivers.

So much of NYC traffic is caused by selfish drivers.  There are the double parkers that could pull over into an empty space, but nooooo, because it’s five feet farther away from their stop.  There are the people who don’t use turn signals so you get stuck behind them when they surprise you as they try to turn right.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

These people drive like there is no one behind them.  Like they own the road.  They forget that their actions have a ripple effect on everyone that is following them.  And when they pull some selfish move, everyone behind them suffers.

Conscientious drivers, who think about the people behind them as well as the people in front of them, make the road a better and safer place for everyone.  And, we all get to our destinations faster.

And the same is true in business.

Too many people in all businesses pursue their goals selfishly . . . without thinking of the people coming up behind them.  They make deals that serve their purpose but set horrific precedents.  They treat potential partners with disrespect, turning them away from the industry as a whole.  This selfish approach to success makes it harder for the next generation of people pursuing the same goals.  And it makes it harder for the industry as a whole.

Pursue your goals, your dreams and your success with unwavering passion and perseverance.  You can even go a little bit over the speed limit down the highway of your career.  But never get too enamored with your destination that you start to forget that there are a lot of people behind you trying to get to the same place in their own time.

Oh, and use your turn signal.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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A simple savings game for your show, your business, and your life.

When it comes to spending money for shows, my philosophy is this . . . get the very best, for the very least.  Simple, right?  Get the best for the audience, and save the most for the investors – it’s the secret of coming in under budget and producing a great show.

Harder done than blogged, for sure.  So here’s a fun little game that I play every day on my shows, with my company, and even in my personal life.

It’s called “Save 10/Make 10”!  (Or as your budgets get bigger, “Save 100/Make 100,” and you keep adding zeros.)  Ready to play?

Here are the simple rules.

Every day you try to find a way to save $10 or make $10 that you wouldn’t have saved or made unless you thought about it.  So if this were your personal life, maybe it would be not going to Starbucks one day.  Or just ordering a tall instead of a venti.  There’s a couple bucks.  Maybe you walk to work instead of the subway.  And so forth.  You’ll save $10.  Do that every day and ch-ching.  You’ll save $3,650 a year.  At the same time, you look at seeing how you can make $10 a day.  Do you put something on eBay?  Do you ask your boss for an hour of OT?  What can you do to make just a few extra bucks?  If you can figure out a way to make $10 a day, then you’ll add $3,650 to your bottom line.

By saving and making, you’ve just changed your life to the tune of $7,300 a year.  Not bad, huh?

On a show, do you look at cheaper batteries for your microphones?  Print a program that’s a page less?  Check out cheaper dry cleaners?

And to make a few extra, is there a VIP ticket to add to your ticket menu?  A new piece of merch to sell?  Do you make some calls to potential group buyers yourself?

Doesn’t take much to add $73,000 to a show’s bottom line (“Save $100/Make $100″”).

You won’t always win this little savings/making game.  Some days you’ll save/make more than others.  But either way, it puts you in the right frame of mind every day to constantly be looking for the most efficient ways to run your shows, your business and your life.

Try it today.  It will work.  And it’s the perfect example of how setting a small, achievable goal in the short term and then repeating it can be much more effective than setting a larger goal for the long term.

Because it’s often a small change that can add up to a heck of a lot more than just spare change.

Good luck!

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Want to learn the ins and outs of Broadway Investing? Click here to sign up for my Broadway Investing seminar on 6/20.

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My favorite moment of the Mad Men series finale.

Spoiler alert!

I was a big fan of Mad Men for the first several seasons.  The series started with my favorite foundation for a story line for any drama (remember this, kiddos): show the viewers a world they’ve never seen before.  The average TV viewer doesn’t know what it’s like on the inside of a high-powered ad agency (never mind one from the 1960s), so instantly you’ve got ’em on the hook (it’s the same trick behind shows like The West Wing or any mob-based movie/play/TV show).

And for the first few years, the show balanced the drama in the conference room with the drama in the coitus room.  And then it jumped the shark, spent less time on the advertising stuff that separated it from all the other shows out there, and just became another Desperate Housewives.

So, did I like the series finale that aired on Sunday night?

Eh.

I did like the closure on all the characters.

And I did love the mixture of fact and fiction in the final fifteen seconds, knowing that Don would stop his whining, get his sh$t together, and create one of the best ads in the history of advertising (I just wish he didn’t have to spend so much of the episode in that weird commune with all that group therapy (therapy sessions are such a writer’s cheat, in my opinion – you can’t think of another way to get a character to talk about what he’s feeling?)).

But none of that was my favorite moment of the episode.

And it wasn’t the dripping Stan/Peggy phone call either.

Nope.

It was a throwaway line after Joan convinced Peggy to do a little moonlighting and write a commercial script for her.  It went something like this:

“Sorry, Joan, I don’t want to moonlight.”

“It pays $1,200.”

“Ok, I’ll do it.”

“Great . . . “

And here it comes . . .

“I’ll drop off the research.”

That’s right, even at a fictional ad agency with fictional copywriters and fictional clients, they knew that not one piece of copy should be written without doing and analyzing research on the product that was being sold.

Broadway shows are one of the few commercial industries on the planet that spend $10mm, $15mm or more building a product, but won’t spend $10k to research it before going to market.

I do some sort of research on every show I do, whether it’s quantitative studies done online, or qualitative in-person focus groups, or even dial-testing.  And often, I do all three!  (And yeah, I did it for the art for Daddy Long Legs, which I announced on Tuesday.)

Now, is the data you get from all this research meant to be taken as gospel?   No.  It’s not gospel, it’s a guide.  It’s a picture of what the market thinks about your show, and it gives you suggestions on how to get the market closer to making a purchase.  And in an industry like ours, with a high failure rate, and a high fast failure rightit’s imperative that you know your strengths and weakness right away.

So listen to Joan.  Do your research.  Know what you’re working with.

And then you can add your personal dash of creativity and get all Don Draper on it.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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If I was applying to college again, this is what I’d do . . .

I only applied to five colleges.

And ironically, I didn’t graduate from any of them.  I spent a year at Johns Hopkins University as a pre-law dude and ended up spending more time doing theater in the local dinner theater circuit than going to class, so I transferred to Tisch at NYU.

But if I had to do it all over again, I’d apply to fifteen schools.  Heck, maybe even fifty.

The more options you have as a high school senior, with so much of your life before you, the better.  Especially when you’re not going to get into every school you apply to, right?  So apply to many, and apply to a wide variety to make sure you have plenty to choose from when it comes down to D-day.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “When did TheProducersPerspective turn into TheCollegeAdmissionsPerspective?”

Options are good when applying to college, for sure, but also for writers applying to festivals, producers looking for stars, actors looking to audition, or even guys looking to pick up girls.  I talk to way too many people who say things like, “I must get so-and-so to star in this,” or “I must get so-and-so to produce this,” or “I must marry so-and-so or I’ll die.”  The one-or-none approach may feel super targeted and super passionate, but it’s also super naive.

Don’t be so narrow minded when you’re just starting out as a producer, an actor, a writer, a salesperson, or a girl-picker-upper.  Cast your net wide, create more options, and you’ll not only be able to make better decisions, but you’ll also feel a little more confident when you have several folks interested in what you have to offer.  Life, like sales, is a numbers game.  The more leads you have, the more you’ll sell.

But go after that one thing, and well, no, you won’t die.  But, most likely, your project sure will.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Enter my Tony Pool and you could win an Apple Watch!  Click here.

– Listen to Podcast Episode 19 with Oscar, Tony, and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Tim Rice!  Click here.

– Win two tickets to The Spoils at The New Group written by and starring Jesse Eisenberg! Click here.

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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