An Off Broadway Model Comes To Broadway (It’s About Time)

I arrived in New York City during the Golden Age of Off-Broadway. Forever Plaid, Nunsense, And The World Goes Round, Cryptogram, Family Secrets, and more, were a few of the shows running in theaters under 499 seats . . . in commercial productions! And many actually recouped!  

When I started creating and producing commercial theater, I started Off-Broadway. I wasn’t ready to raise $10mm for Broadway shows (which is what they were then . . . compared to the $15-20mm they are now). I wanted to be a Lead Producer and didn’t have the decision-making experience yet. And, well, the ideas I had come up with were Off-Broadway ideas (my first three shows were The Awesome 80s Prom, Altar Boyz and My First Time).

So that’s where I started. 

No one told me that in the fifteen years since I arrived in NYC, the Off-Broadway model changed. And trying to run and recoup an Off-Broadway show was . . . ahem . . . challenging.  (And is even more so now.)

In other words, Commercial Off-Broadway was in a crisis.

So, I pivoted. And so did everyone else in the community. (This is when the Off Broadway Alliance was born . . . and I’m proud to say I was at that very first meeting!)

We asked ourselves . . . what were the out-of-the-black-box ideas that could help restore commercial Off-Broadway to what it was before and beyond?

One of the ideas that was born in this era was the idea of two, three or more shows, sharing a theater. We termed it “bunk-bedding”. It required simple sets, similar lighting plots and a whole lot of cooperation between companies (especially when the Producers were NOT the same people) . . .but it worked. My First Time ran at least an extra year because it was a “top bunk.”

It reduced costs, of course, but also reduced the # of performances in a week that each show could perform. And that was an advantage! Since there wasn’t demand for 8 shows for 99% of commercial Off-Broadway shows, bunk-bedding filled up fewer performances, increasing ticket scarcity. Almost the same # of tickets were sold for fewer shows as opposed to 8. And those fewer shows were filled, creating a much better experience for the audience. 

Need a case study? Of the three productions mentioned above that started my career? The ones with less than 8 performances did better financially. 

Flash forward, and Broadway (and the theater industry) is in a bit of a crisis as we stage our comeback from a pandemic.

Again, Producers face a question . . . how do we decrease risk, but still produce great theater?

Yesterday, a group of creative and bustin’-the-box thinkers, Dori Berinstein, Sally Horchow and Matt Ross, proposed a solution.

Using “bunk-bed” theory, these first-into-the-Broadway-battle-post-covid Producers are bringing TWO shows to Broadway . . . at the same time . . . to the same theater.

The plays, Dana H and Is This A Room, are transfers from The Vineyard, and they begin performances in late September at Broadway’s Lyceum.

As this article describes, these two shows are being done for the price of a touch-more-than one.

And most importantly, to quote Dori Berinstein (The Prom) . . .

 “It gives us an opportunity to bring great theater that might not otherwise make it to Broadway to Broadway.”

What could be better than that!?!?!

No one wanted this crisis. But one of the blessings (it’s hard to find them, but they are there), is that NOW is the time for artpreneurial Producers, Writers and all TheaterMakers to challenge our precedents and come up with new ways to make theater..

Because the theater is too important to NOT give everything a go.  

Oh, and when you’re looking for ideas? Sometimes, big businesses like Broadway should look to smaller businesses like Off-Broadway, to see what worked for them.

 

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Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for The Hot Wing King

In case you missed the news last week, there was indeed a winner this year for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama!

(There have been several years where the award was not given – and in a year where there wasn’t a lot of theater as we usually know it – there was some worry that it’d get skipped again.)

But nope.  We have a winner!

Katori Hall’s play The Hot Wing King, “the story of two gay black men in Memphis, Tennessee navigating love, life, and family” picked up one of the most coveted awards in the world, the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The show opened at Signature Theater Company in February 2020 before being postponed, but was still granted eligibility for this year’s prize.

(Hall has had a busy couple of years – penning the book (and getting a Tony nomination) for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.  And she was the Executive Producer and Showrunner for P-Valley on Starz, based on her play.  Oh, and she also appeared on my livestream – click here to watch that video).

Another interesting tid bit about this year’s awards was that one of the finalists was a “streamed” production – Patrick Foley and Michael Breslin’s Circle Jerk. 

So yes, my theatermakin’ friends and theatermakin’ fans, streaming is here to stay.

Congrats to Katori, and all the finalists . . . and, well, anyone that got their play off the ground in the past 12 months.  You all deserve awards, just for making it happen.

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Watch my interview with Katori Hall here.

Take The 30 Day Script Challenge. Imagine what could happen if you succeed?

My mission is to get more theater out into the world.

Because I believe the world is a better place if there is more theater in it.

One of the most successful tools in this initiative is our 30 Day Script challenge.  At least 100 scripts have come out of this sucker!  From people who hadn’t even written a page before they started!

So, at the beginning of the pandemic, if you said, “I’m going to take this time and get that script out of my head and onto a page,” now is the time.

In fact, with the way this pandemic is going, you’re running out of time!

Give it a shot with our 30 Day Script challenge!  It’s free.

So what’s the worst thing that could happen . . . you still don’t write it? You end up exactly where you are now?

Now, ask yourself . . . what’s the best thing that could happen?  Seriously. What could happen when you finish the script?

Take a moment . . . and imagine what COULD happen.

A produced play.  A licensed musical.  A great review.  An agent.  A Tony Award?

Yep, yep, yep . . . and who knows . . . until you FINISH THE SCRIPT.

So go for it. It’s free. It’s fun. And it works.

The 30 Day Script Challenge starts today, on June 1st, so sign up now.  And just think – by July 1st, you’ll have a completed first draft.

Take the Challenge here.

May 14, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From even more Broadway reopening dates and why Broadway is waiting to reopen until the fall to Indie Venues finally receiving their “Save our Stages” money and more . . . here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked will return to Broadway on Sept. 14

Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked are all set to return to Broadway this Fall! The “Big Three” were long-rumored to reopen the industry due to their popularity.

Read more: broadwaynews.com 

 

2 – EXPLAINER: Why Broadway is waiting until fall to reopen

The four-month long wait is explained. Producers and union leaders must reach agreements on all issues before shows open while also gauging their audiences back.

Read more: apnews.com

 

3- SBA Expects ‘Save Our Stages’ Money to Finally Reach Indie Venues Next Week.

Indie venues have been struggling to keep afloat since the pandemic began more than 14 months ago. They have received no aid thus far, news states the payments will begin starting next week.

Read more: variety.com 

 

4 – Hollywood Bowl reserves 85% of seats for vaccinated guests. Everything you need to know.

Want a seat at this year’s Hollywood Bowl? Get vaccinated! The remainder of the tickets will be reserved for those showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of a given performance and masks will be required for all patrons.

Read more: latimes.com

 

5 – Cut the intermission, please. Why I hope the pandemic ends a theatrical tradition.

It’s hard to believe after the lockdown, people will want to maximize their time indoors. Will this pose an issue on the theatrical tradition of a 10-15 minute intermission? Or will intermission be of that of the past, moving towards uninterrupted performances?

Read more: latimes.com 

 

Fun on a Friday:

If you’ve been following the Bridgerton Musical trend on TikTok, you may have seen this new cover with Darren Criss (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying).

@abigailbarlowwwSurprise!! @darrencriss  is on tiktok and we burn for him. #bridgertonmusical @emilythebear♬ original sound – Abigail Barlow

 

 

Want to be part of an (free) online community of #theatermakers? Join 750+ theatermakers here

April 16, 2021: What TheaterMakers Are Talking About This Week

From the announcement of the first show to open in NYC to top theatres acting to root out ‘system failure’ of racism to Lin Manuel Miranda and Mayor DiBlasio opening up a vaccination center in Times Square. . . here’s what TheaterMakers were talking about this week . . .

 

1 – PERFECT CRIME to Reopen as First Show with Equity-Approved Cast in New York

It has been officially approved and announced by the Actors’ Equity Association that Perfect Crime will reopen. The show is set to open beginning April 17th and will be the first show to open with an Equity-approved cast in New York City.

Read more: broadwayworld.com

 

2 – ‘The heat is on’: top theatres act to root out ‘system failure’ of racism

“The Young Vic and Royal Court theatres have entered into a process that aims to root out systemic racism from their venues. Both London institutions have signed a partnership with the social enterprise Sour Lemons that will interrogate the internal structures that uphold institutional racism, raise awareness and accountability, and listen to staff’s experiences of racism inside the buildings.”

Read more: theguardian.com

 

3 – ‘Bridgerton The Musical’ TikTok Creators Abigail Barlow & Emily Bear Sign With CAA

Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, creators of the viral TikTok smash Bridgerton The Musical, have signed with CAA and Kraft-Engel Management.” The duo first came into the spotlight because of their viral Bridgerton-inspired number in January. They’ve been documenting the journey on TikTok, with their songs and performances reaching more than 165 million views with fans all over the world.

Read More: deadline.com

 

4 – T. Fellowship to be renamed in honor of Hal Prince

The T. Fellowship has been renamed the Prince Fellowship in honor of its founder, the late Hal Prince. The 2021 Prince Fellowship, which will open up applications at the end of April, will run from September 2021 through August 2022. 

Read more: broadwaynews.com

 

5 – Lin-Manuel Miranda, de Blasio open Broadway vaccination site in Times Square

A vaccination center was opened on Monday in Times Square for all Broadway workers. Appointments will be reserved for the community of theatermakers living in NY and working on Broadway. The center will be staffed by fellow community members, including “Wicked” company manager Susan Sampliner.  

Read More: broadwaynews.com

 

Fun on a Friday: The Late Show spoofed Hamilton with a ‘My Shot’ vaccine parody

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