What theater festivals, grants, and awards can learn from college applications.

I talk to a lot of emerging writers who are eager to get their shows produced or to just get a Producer to read their script (I put a few tips on how to do that in my new “Whiteboard Workshop” series on Facebook this week – which you can watch here).

One of the tips I give to writers is to submit to festivals, enter contests (Jonathan Larson Award, Richard Rodgers Award), apply for grants, etc., because the good housekeeping seal of approval of one of these organizations (or any organization, really) is just another way for your script to stand out from the others.

And every advantage counts.

But this blog isn’t for the writers, it’s for the festivals and awards and anyone seeking scripts for the purpose of advancing our art form or shining a spotlight on undiscovered talent.

See, submitting to all these places is challenging for these artists. I know this because I just asked a whole bunch and they told me exactly that (my favorite question to ask any group I’m speaking is, “What are you struggling with” or “What keeps you up at night,” and then we try to overcome it).

There are a lot of these festivals and awards and such (we keep track of them for our writers in here) . . . and they all have different requirements for submission. That means it takes writers a huge chunk of their day to put together just one application, while most are struggling with their day job, never mind finding time to write. And these smart writers know that the more they apply to, the more chance they have of getting through the gatekeepers.

In the brainstorming session that I had with this group of next-gen writers, I couldn’t help but wonder . . . what if a whole bunch of these grants, festivals, and contests did what colleges did back in the day. In an effort to increase the number of applications (in the hopes of finding even better students), a group of schools agreed to accept a “Common Application,” a simple standardized app that one prospective student could submit to multiple colleges.

Making it easier for writers to submit gives these important artists more of a shot at success, and gives the organizations looking for them a better chance for higher quality and greater diversity.

So if you’re an organization seeking scripts, get together with some others and see if you can simplify the process for our writers. They could use the help.

And if your organization isn’t running a festival or a script competition . . . think about starting one.


Broadway Grosses w/e 10/21/2018: Fall Plays Open to Big Box Office

Overall grosses inched up this week to $34M. With the majority of shows posting slight increases over last week, some of the biggest signs of strength in the new season are coming from plays.

Opening this week were The Ferryman and The Lifespan of a Fact. Both held their numbers quite well despite likely heavy comping for press and opening nights. American Son, which is still in previews, (insert) has also been showing signs of heat, no doubt due to its star power.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name GrossGross  TotalAttn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
ALADDIN $1,316,897.70 13,390 96.92% $98.35
AMERICAN SON $551,577.92 5,006 80.85% $110.18
ANASTASIA $770,316.80 8,236 90.07% $93.53
BEAUTIFUL $828,343.00 7,747 94.38% $106.92
BERNHARDT/HAMLET $397,610.50 4,744 80.57% $83.81
CHICAGO $772,729.75 8,282 95.86% $93.30
COME FROM AWAY $1,150,466.00 8,533 101.97% $134.83
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,540,296.65 7,985 101.44% $192.90
FROZEN $1,590,249.10 12,659 93.97% $125.62
HAMILTON $3,248,164.00 10,756 101.78% $301.99
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $2,090,857.00 12,976 100.00% $161.13
HEAD OVER HEELS $251,815.00 3,848 49.95% $65.44
KING KONG $673,685.50 8,528 98.14% $79.00
KINKY BOOTS $765,558.10 8,268 72.58% $92.59
MEAN GIRLS $1,372,883.30 9,681 98.79% $141.81
MY FAIR LADY $1,165,869.00 7,616 89.06% $153.08
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND $433,460.90 4,966 89.19% $87.29
PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL $1,203,148.20 9,091 97.29% $132.34
SCHOOL OF ROCK $733,818.00 8,690 71.32% $84.44
SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY $2,414,700.00 4,740 100.00% $509.43
SUMMER $683,585.50 6,944 59.05% $98.44
THE BAND’S VISIT $907,794.78 7,927 95.37% $114.52
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,184,562.00 8,714 104.04% $135.94
THE FERRYMAN $682,369.10 7,985 97.95% $85.46
THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT $808,088.00 7,494 93.30% $107.83
THE LION KING $2,216,979.00 13,524 99.68% $163.93
THE NAP $210,366.20 3,558 69.17% $59.12
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,001,995.44 11,102 86.46% $90.25
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG $322,549.16 5,009 73.32% $64.39
THE WAVERLY GALLERY $393,429.50 6,076 96.51% $64.75
TORCH SONG $258,729.60 3,849 82.24% $67.22
WAITRESS $696,843.00 6,956 83.21% $100.18
WICKED $1,704,955.00 14,185 98.13% $120.19
TOTALS $34,344,692.70 269,065 89.17% $124.86
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON +$3,713,902.66      

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, General Manager for DTE Management. Find out more here!

My 5 Friday Finds: Guess what show is immersive now?

Happy Fall Friday and welcome to my 5 Friday Finds of the week! Here is what was on my radar this week, and what I think should be on yours.

  1. Immersive Theater Coming to a Car Dealership Near You.

The short-lived but well-reviewed musical Hands on a Hardbody (based on this fascinating documentary about a car dealership that gives away a truck as part of a promotion) will get a new production at an actual car dealership. There are three things to pick up from this:

1. A unique presentation of lesser known material will always get attention.
2. The immersive revolution is only expanding.
3. The barrier to entry for theater companies and writers is getting lower because theater rental costs are typically the biggest line item on a budget.

  1. Fringe is back, baby!

After a year off, the NYC Fringe festival is back, in a much different format and at a different time of year. One thing that remains the same? The crazy titles and adventuresome productions like James Franco and Me: An Unauthorized Satire and Simple Math: Solving for the Neurobiology of AssaultCheck out all the shows here.

  1. Hamilton Charges a Hamilton for Halloween.

One of the worst nights of the year for Broadway shows, and all live entertainment, restaurants, etc. is Halloween. While I’m sure Hamilton would have been just fine, they’re choosing to take this box office-spooking holiday and offer a $10 ticket promotion. Learn how to pick up that treat by clicking here.

  1. Real Estate in NYC is . . . down.

Last quarter, real estate sales were off in NYC over 11% from a year ago. Seems odd for me to be talking real estate, but since everyone assumes real estate in NYC always goes up, this article that mentioned the “correction” jumped out at me. Whenever something so rock solid shows a crack, something has to be up. How does that affect us on Broadway? And is it a coincidence that the stock market took a couple of nosedives this month as well, including yesterday?

  1. We’re getting younger.

The Broadway league demographic study for last year was released this week and once again, we saw an increase in our guests under 18. Obviously, this is a result of our increase in family fare on Broadway, from Mean Girls to Spongebob, and it means wonderful things for those of us who will be in the business 25 years from now because those kids are more likely to be theatergoers and theater patrons in the future. I did hear a cynic say at a meeting the other day that when they heard we had more teens and tweens, “Told you we were becoming more like a theme park.”

Enjoy your weekend and comment below if anything jumped out at YOU this week!

What a Theater Subscription should have in common with Netflix, Audible, Amazon Music and more.

I’m gonna make a bet.

I’d bet that on your monthly credit card statement in 2018, you have more recurring monthly charges than you did in 2013. Back then you might have had a gym membership. Maybe a Netflix account for DVDs (remember that?). But that was probably about it.

Now, maybe it’s Apple Music, or Blue Apron, Stitch Fix, Microsoft Office, Postmates unlimited plan, or any of the thousand other apps or services that have changed their economic model from large one-time purchase to smaller monthly charges, or what they call MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue).

The theory is that by taking a big fee and dividing it up into a series of smaller charges on a monthly basis, conversion rates increase, and the cost looks smaller to the consumer and just becomes an accepted part of the credit card statement. And the service continues until canceled, so the company doesn’t have to resell their product to that customer a year later like they would for the one-time larger purchase. The charges just keep going and going and going.

Get the idea? Sure you do. Because you’re probably a part of a few of these models . . . and you probably like it! It makes it more affordable. You don’t have to think about it. And your product gets automatically updated. As long as you use the service, it’s a win-win.

And by the #s of billion-dollar companies that have transitioned to MRR in 2018 as opposed to five years ago, I’m willing to bet it’s working for the companies and the consumer.

Which got me to thinking.

I was talking to a big regional theater lately and inquired about their subscription payment plan (see where I’m going with this?). Of course, they sold a one-time purchase subscription and they also gave their subscribers an option to break their sub up into three or so payments.

But three payments seems awkward to me. And inconsistent.

What if . . . regional theaters went to the MRR model and whacked their subscription up over the year in monthly chunks. The cost would be smaller (see above theory), the charges would be more regular and more likely to become part of the consumer’s expected routine . . . AND, you could just say their subscription was good until canceled . . . year after year after year.

Downside would be that you could lose some subscribers in the MIDDLE of the year. But I’d bet you’d pick up a heck of a lot more in the process.

Worth a shot by some theater out there as a case study, no? If I had a subscription model theater, I’d do it.

And I’d also do it if I were a subscriber.


GUEST BLOG: A Day in the Life of a Broadway Publicist by Emily McGill

Ok, the title is a bit misleading as no two days are alike for a Broadway publicist, but a general idea of how we spend our time can be really helpful when you’re working with your rep or looking to get the word out about your own project.

From the moment my eyes flash open in the morning, I’m checking emails and Google Alerts (I prefer Talkwalker, but either will do) and catching up on the news.  As someone who works with and around the media, it is vitally important to know what is happening in the news cycle, what stories are being told, and who is telling them. A lot of my time is spent reading – whether it is news stories, information on a new show or project, or emails (there are a LOT of emails).

If there is an opportunity to tastefully inject a client’s project into the current news cycle based on coverage that is trending, we have to jump on it. Suppose your show tells the story of a timely topic, you need to leverage that into conversations and possible opportunities.

A typical day always starts with catching up on news, sharing coverage with clients, and reviewing my to-do list. Then I move on to writing media pitches to share with contacts that might be interested in telling a story about my client or calling a writer/editor/producer/journalist to pitch them. I can’t stress enough how important relationships are in this aspect of the industry (or, let’s face it, ANY aspect of this industry!). It is vital to get to know the people that you’re asking to cover your story. When you know what they cover and how they work, you are more likely to get a response, even if that response is a no.

In order to effectively do our jobs, we spend a lot of time cultivating relationships and networking. From coffee or cocktails with a journalist to lunches with a segment booker or producer to conversations with prospective clients, relationship building is vital to a press rep doing their job well. Equally vital is managing expectations. Every writer or producer believes in their show, you have to in order to get it up!  But the expectations of those who are most passionate about a show are not always realistic and so it often falls to your press rep to temper those expectations with a dose of reality. There are ways to do this gently, but ultimately it comes down to awareness around who in the media (and that outlet’s audience) will connect with the story and what that outlet is able to do with that story for coverage purposes.

I also spend a lot of time connecting with existing clients over phone, email or in person. They need to know that I’m out there advocating for them with the media and working hard to help them tell their story. It is important to update clients about conversations that I’m having with writers, editors, producers and journalists, or with other press reps in the industry who might be working on something similar (you never know when an opportunity for a trend story could appear, and by working with other reps we can help journalists formulate those stories).

Of course the exciting things like television appearances and opening nights and awards season events are what have the most visibility, but you don’t see all of the hard work that goes into making them happen. There are countless phone calls and emails and booking cars and writing memos and handling logistics and juggling schedules.

Broadway press reps also have responsibilities that many folks don’t think about. Has it ever crossed your mind who built that Playbill in your hand? (Yup!) Or who scheduled the production photo shoot, selected and refined production photos, or produced a b-roll shoot? We all know that ultimately – like everything else in the theatre – it is a collaboration, but the heavy lifting of each of these falls to your press rep.

At the end of the day, communication is really what we do. We communicate the story that a client has to tell with the wider world, we communicate the status of conversations to clients, and we communicate with audiences to help tell stories.


Emily McGill is the founder of Press Play, a boutique public relations firm. Emily has represented the Tony Award-winning productions of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, Memphis, and Billy Elliot, as well as Disney’s The Lion King and Aladdin, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock and CATS, George Takei’s Allegiance, along with the Broadway productions of This Is Our YouthRock of AgesGhostElf, and First Date. Since her start in theatre, she’s expanded out to other forms of entertainment including music, live entertainment, film and television, and corporations. Clients have included companies of all sizes (from Disney, HBO and Fathom Events, to Abrams Artists Talent Agency and BroadwayHD), individuals, musical acts, and male strippers. Yes, male strippers.

For more information, visit PressPlayPro.Rocks.

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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