Podcast Episode 170 – Literary Agent, Max Grossman

Agents get a bad rap.  They’re like lawyers and IRS agents.

But they’re nothing like those folks.

I can’t imagine that an IRS agent gets into this business because he or she loves taxes.

But agents, especially those in the theater, are all here for the same reason you and I are here . . . they love the theater.

Max Grossman, an agent for writers and designers at the powerful but still boutique Abrams Artists Agency, is a perfect example.  He grew up going to the theater, flirted with sports, and came back to the good side of the force.

We haven’t had many agents on this podcast (just this one so far – who happens to represent me!), partly because some of the agents I asked couldn’t get permission from their higher-ups (which says a lot, don’t you think?).

But when I asked Max, he was happy to sit down and talk about what an agent does as well as . . .

  • How he finds new writers.
  • That awkward but important moment when he has to tell a client he doesn’t love something the client wrote.
  • The art of negotiating as an agent.
  • Why some theater writers succeed in transitioning to film & TV and others don’t… and a tip or two for you if this is something YOU want to do.
  • What he’d tell all Broadway Producers if he had them in a room at once.

Enjoy this convo with Max and let it remind you that even when we’re on “different sides” in this business, we’re still on the same team.

Click here for my podcast with Max!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

My 5 Friday Finds: Cash isn’t king.

It’s Friday y’all.  Celebrate with these Friday Finds.

  1. Being “Fit” is not just about looking good, it’s about getting ahead.

Two years ago, I made a pretty big lifestyle change and left Coca-cola, McDonald’s and sugary Frappucinos behind.  Add some meditation and other mindfulness practices to that, plus an early morning wake-up call, and I got a crap ton more done.  And I’m not passing out at my desk.

I can’t believe in my search for a more “fit,” lifestyle I hadn’t run across FitForBroadway.com before.  I don’t want you to miss it either.  Check it out here.  And listen to what super smart founder and art-trepreneur, Jane Jourdan, has to say.  She just wants to help you succeed.

  1. Who needs cash anyway?

I did it again.  I’m now 10 out of 10.  During my last TEN trips to international destinations, I have refused to exchange any currency.  And I didn’t need it.  I paid with apple pay, credit cards, and apps.  With no problem.  How long before cash disappears?  (It’s why I invested in a  “cashless currency”  stock – that is the only stock in my portfolio that is currently up, amidst this big pullback this week).

  1. Torch Song Announces A Quicker Than Expect Closing.

That’s four Broadway shows now . . . including my own Once on this Island that are closing in the next 30 days.  And School of Rock follows, and Kinky Boots in the spring and even long Off-Broadway runner Marvelous Wonderettes.  Yes, shows always close this time of year . . . but something feels different.

And I hear rumors that at least a couple more announcements are coming.

  1. Finish your shopping yet?

Need some ideas for the theater lover in your life?  Or do want to send someone a few hints on what to get you?  Click here for some great Broadway gift ideas.  There may be 18 days until Christmas, but you really only have about 14 shopping days left.

  1. Simple solutions make millions.

It was cold this week. So I put these on.  And I thought, “Wow, here’s something that I didn’t have when I was a kid.  And then someone saw a problem, and fixed it with a simple solution, and made a fortune.”  Takeaway?  Keep your eyes open for problems that others or YOU are having . . . and hack a solution.  Then sell it.  Then take the millions you make and produce shows.  🙂

Enjoy the weekend. Go see a show!

GUEST BLOG: Tips for Finding the Perfect Venue for Your Project by Britt Lafield

So you have raised all the capital for your production, you have your cast, you have your crew and marketing team. Great! Now you need a theater. In many ways, your theater is as important as the script, the director, and the cast. It is a physical extension of your production, and finding the right one is a major step in producing a success.

Having been a theatrical producer for many years and the General Manager of several theaters in the metropolitan New York area, I have seen shows that looked like their set was meant to be in a space and sets that have been shoe-horned in. I have dealt with shows that started out thinking the theater was totally wrong for their production, only to get creative and change the space to fit their needs, making their productions even more memorable in the process. Finding a theater is like buying a house. It is not something to be done on a whim without careful forethought.

To continue the house simile:  if you were looking to buy a house would you just look at the color of the walls? Likely not.  So here are some things to keep in mind while shopping for a theater.

  • Be realistic about your sales potential. The majority of your weekly running costs will be your theater rental, and a smart choice in venue will allow you to absorb and ride out the lean, tough weeks (like previews), freeing up money to be spent on marketing and advertisement. We all want our shows to sell out their entire run and perform forever – but know your target audience and don’t get a theater larger then you think you can sell. If you realistically think you will sell 75 to 100 seats a night, there is no reason to get a 250-seat theater, even if it’s available and in a good location. Having a two-week run in a prestigious theater is not as impressive as running a year in a lesser known space. If you underestimate your sales and suddenly find yourself not having enough seats to get everyone in every night, well there are a lot worse problems then having a “SOLD OUT” notice on your ticketing site for days on end. And you can always transfer if that need becomes evident.
  • Know your needs and prioritize them. Like so many things in life, you will probably not find a venue that satisfies all your needs. Go into your search with a list of what is important, and put them in order of priority. Is the number of seats your greatest priority? Or is having an intimate space so the audience feels like they are in the room with your actors what you are looking for? Do you need wing space or is a stage that is fixed-wall to fixed-wall okay? What about grid height? Do you want your set to be a house with two stories or does the action take place in a trailer? Think of every aspect of your production and take them all into account when looking for a theater. Solving set or lighting problems before you even load into the theater will help your budget and your frame of mind.
  • Realize that different theaters will provide you with different amenities. Some spaces come with a lighting package in-house. Some have an amazing sound system. Some come with nothing and you have to rent it all (a “four wall” deal). Are you producing a musical with a lot of lighting effects or a kitchen sink drama that wants more practical light? Does your sound design want effects to be coming from every corner of the theater or is it an acapella musical? Theaters charge you for what they give you. So why get a space that charges you more for lighting or sound when you don’t need it (see Item 2)?
  • Think of the experience you want your audience to have. I am a firm believer that the show doesn’t start when the lights go down, but as soon as the audience member enters the space (even before that, if you can pull it off). Make the common spaces like the lobby reflect your production. If the set is a Victorian manor, make the lobby into another room in the house. If the location is a town’s Main Street, make your concessions area into the local bar. The more you make the show an all-around and immersive experience for the audience, the more they will remember it. It is perfectly fine to simply have your production in a beautiful theater, but in this age of massive digital influx, theatre (and your production) must find ways to make any theatrical experience a unique one.

As in every aspect of producing theatre there will be surprises when dealing with your venue, so anticipate them as best you can. The more prepared you are before you enter into your search, the more questions you already have an answer to, the better it will be for your overall production.


Britt Lafield is the General Manager of the Davenport Theatre and an independent theatrical producer with 20 years experience in New York and Regional Theater, having produced on every level in New York, short of Broadway. He was also the Festival Administrator for the New York International Fringe Festival from 2009- 2013, and is the creator and producer of the Fringe Encore Series that just celebrated is 11th Anniversary.

Podcast Episode 169 – The Tony Nominated Director of Natasha Pierre & Hadestown, Rachel Chavkin

“What about Rachel Chavkin?”

If you’ve asked someone for ideas on who should direct a project recently, I’d bet money that you’ve heard those four words.

Rachel is one of the hottest directors on the market today, thanks to the success of Natasha, Pierre, the upcoming Hadestown (which wasn’t even announced for Broadway when we recorded this podcast), and more.  Audiences, Critics and Producers alike all see something very special in her unique style and know good things are in store.

That’s why the other five words you hear in conversations about new projects and new directors are . . .

“Rachel Chavkin would be perfect.”

Rachel and I talked about being an in-demand director as well as . . .

  • How performing 10-minute pieces helped her find her directorial voice.
  • The difference between teching a show on Broadway and teching a show anywhere else.
  • Why she’s ok with a messy rehearsal process and how it helps.
  • Why she doesn’t like to give advice.
  • Her reaction to the immersive movement and her part in it.

After listening, I’d bet money that if someone asks you for a recommendation for a Director next week, guess what you say?


Click here for my podcast with Rachel!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

My 5 Friday Finds: Zoom a zoom zoom.

Here are my five favorite things that caught my eye this week, theater-related or not!

  1. Watch out Skype, there’s a new kid in town.

Have you Zoomed, yet?  If you’re tired of Skype updating itself every time you log on or just think it looks a bit like MySpace, check out Zoom.  I just changed all my video conferencing to this platform and I’m never going back.  In fact, I even paid for it. It’s a private company that I expect will get bought out or go public someday soon.  I’d invest, that’s how good of a product it is.

  1. I paid $125, for this book.

I went to a marketing conference recently and got such a strong word of mouth recommendation on this book that I bought it for $125.  And that’s not even on Amazon.  On Amazon, it’s going for this much! (Go ahead guess and then click.)  Why was I willing to pay that much?  First, the WOM was that good.  Second, $125 is less than the cost of one ticket.  Certainly, I will learn enough from the book to sell one more ticket.  Too often we don’t like at the potential ROI of something we purchase.  We just think, “It’s too expensive.”  But is something that costs $1,000 too expensive, if it could earn you $100k return?  I’m 10 pages into this book, and I feel it has already helped me sell 100 more tickets.

  1. We keep pulling Magicians out of our hat.

Another magician in residence was enough for the city this week.  I count about a half dozen in the last couple of years, not to mention The Illusionists, currently making buckets of money on Broadway (again).  This is no longer a phase, no longer a trend, and it’s not going to “disappear” anytime soon. Is it time for Copperfield to return?  Where is David Blaine when we need him?

  1. A lesson in inspiration and entrepreneurship from a Broadway Star.

I instagrammed these little note-card nuggets from Sierra Boggess this week, but they deserve another mention here.  Not only because I find them helpful, but also because I love when artists follow their passion and become entrepreneurs.  Get yours here.

  1. You’ve got 44 chances left.

Once on this Island, one of the most unique, exciting and theatrical Broadway shows I’ve ever seen, not only produced, has 44 performances left on Broadway before we close on January 6th.  Go see it.  We won a Tony over two GLORIOUS productions of other classic musicals.  There’s a reason.  Click here to get your tickets now.

Happy holiday shopping!