Forget Broadway shows, what about Broadway readings, workshops, and more?

Over the last several months (!), the #1 question for the professionals working on Broadway and the avid fans of the best spectator art on the planet has been . . . “When can we see a show in a theater again?”

But there is another important question to be asked and it isn’t about what will be on Broadway when the lights go back on . . . rather what might fill Broadway theaters in the months and years after!

The best business people I know don’t focus only on what’s happening today . . . but they think about what is going to happen tomorrow.  That’s their job.  This is why stocks of companies that are losing millions of dollars can have exceptionally high values, because investors are betting on what WILL happen, not what is going to happen.

That’s why a company or industry’s health isn’t only measured on what product is being “produced” today (whether that’s diapers, drugs, or Broadway musicals), but what new product(s) are in the pipeline.

Broadway has had a pipeline so full over the last few years that it has been clogged with product.  I heard a rumor that before this whole corona-bologna happened, there were more than 30 (!) plays and musicals looking for a theater on Broadway this spring alone!

Will there be the same log jam now?  Will more theaters be available?

And if there are . . . my question is . . . will there be new plays and musicals ready to fill them?

See, Broadway shows aren’t the only things that are shut down.  So are readings, workshops, labs, and all the development work that goes into the creation of a new piece of theater.  I had four musicals that were set to debut in the next 18 months in February.  I still have four musicals set to debut . . . but they’ve all been pushed back. Not only because we can’t produce theater right now . . . but also because we can’t develop theater.

So the question so many Producers have been asking is . . . where will readings and workshops fit in the phased-reopening of New York City?

I keep thinking that a rehearsal of a reasonably sized musical would be similar to a medium-sized office reopening.  So will we be able to come back when mid-sized companies do?  Then again, there’s often singing involved in our readings.  And also . . . what if we wanted to bring in an audience?  That seems like a no-no.  I guess we could socially distance a reading.  Or work with smaller cast sizes (just work with principals, etc.).

Zoom readings and online development work can only go so far in a medium like the theater.  So while we certainly can’t commence this work tomorrow, I’m hoping that development can find a safe way to come back before our productions do.

Otherwise, we might have an empty pipeline . . . which would mean empty theaters.

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Want to hear about what’s in our pipeline?  Click here to learn about the shows we’re developing.

P.S. And if you’re looking to hear directly from people in our industry share what they’re doing to keep creating during this time, tune into my Facebook page every night at 8pm EDT. Tonight, I’m going LIVE with Tony Award-winning Director, Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, Ain’t Too Proud).

 

 

Why The Grease Sing-along Instead Of The Tony Awards.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about what CBS might air on Tony Sunday instead of the actual, aborted, Tonys.

I heard about Best Ofs, Tributes, and a whole host of other ideas (including some with some pretty big celebrity hosts).

And at the end of the play, CBS chose Grease.

Ok, ok, I’m not giving them full credit.

They chose a Grease sing-along.

A wop baba loo bop a wop BS.

This was a hard one for us Broadway avids to take.   The Tonys is our Super Bowl, our Masters, our Christmas, and Hannukah rolled into one for some!

And now that night will consist of four chords and three jokes.

Now listen – I actually love me some Grease.  Those four chords and three jokes are some of the most brilliant around when you calculate how many people this show/movie/classic has kept smiling over the past 50+ years (not to mention how much money it has made).

So, I apologize for knocking it.  It’s just I love the Tonys that much.

What happened to all those other ideas?  The Best Ofs and so on?

What happened is what usually happened . . . someone added up the cost of a revised “Tonys” (as well as the time and logistics involved in making it) and compared it to the cost of showing Grease.  Guess what won?

See, it’s not so easy to just pull old Tony Awards footage out of a vault and show it . . . like you can pull an old movie out of a vault and show it.  The Tony Awards telecasts weren’t set up for replays.  And it’s just too expensive to do it.  So our sister-in-show-biz, the movie industry, has a leg up on us here.

But hopefully, this will teach us that we need a mechanism in place for situations like this (as I wrote about here), and our lack of flexibility with what we can do with our content is causing us to lose the battle.

We’ll win the war.  Because nothing replaces live.

And in the meantime, on Sunday, June 7th, I’ll just watch Netflix instead.

– – – – –

If you want something to stream, check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD.  You can get it for free for 30 days now with the code DLLBHD.

 

 

THIS WEEK ON THE LIVESTREAM: Mara Isaacs, Daddy Long Legs Reunion, Michael Greif, and more!

This week, we’re celebrating the big 5-0. 50 episodes since the shutdown. Are you caught up?

If you missed any, here are a few replays from last week to catch up on!

  • Santino Fontana shared his infamous “baby blowouts” stories and his best Andrew Cuomo impersonation.
  • James Snyder unpacked his first professional role . . . as Luke Skywalker in Stars Wars the Musical.
  • Dominique Morisseau announced she submitted her script for the upcoming SoulTrain musical.
  • Lorin Latarro disclosed her exciting plans for June . . . including Broadway choreographers and ensemblists dancing on the streets of Broadway.
  • Stephanie Klemons talked about how being a double major in Genetics & Microbio Research and Modern Dance helped her on her journey of being the Supervising Choreographer for Hamilton: An American Musical.

You can see all of the episodes here.

AND HERE IS WHO IS ON THE LIVE STREAM THIS WEEK:

Monday, May 18th – Mara Isaacs (Producer – Hadestown)

Tuesday, May 19th – Jamil Jude (Artistic Director & Director, True Colors Theatre – Paradise Blue) and Special Guest Mary Neely

Wednesday, May 20th – Michael Greif (Director – Dear Evan Hansen, Next To Normal, RENT)

Thursday, May 21st – Daddy Long Legs Reunion 

Friday, May 22nd – Des McAnuff (Director – Ain’t Too Proud, Jersey Boys, The Who’s Tommy)

 

We are going LIVE every night at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT). Follow me on Facebook to get notified as soon as we hit the “GO LIVE” button.

Don’t have Facebook? You can also watch the livestream on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube channel.

To see who’s coming up next, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

[Rant Alert] We’d be better off right now if we had only done this.

WARNING:  What follows is somewhat of a rant.

But please know this rant is directed at me too.  For I believe the things that we don’t get in our lives are no one’s fault but our own.  Blame the person in the mirror.  Because that is the only person you can control.

So here’s the thing . . .

Right now there are thousands of Actors, Stagehands, Writers, Designers, and all disciplines of TheaterMakers out of work.  They’ve got no money coming in.  Zero.

And with yesterday’s announcement that Broadway is out for another . . . well . . .  several months at the very least . . . things are going to get tough for a lot of those artists and fast.  My biggest fear is that many will have to give up on their careers in the theater.  It’s already hard enough to get a job . . . but what if there are fewer jobs?

I’ve got the same worry about our TheaterGoers too . . . just in a different way.  As I wrote last week (in what has become one of my most read posts EVER), the theatergoing “habit” for our audience has been broken . . . so we run the risk of our audience retiring as well.

Scary times, right?

But it could have been less scary.

See, the challenge for the economic model on Broadway is that its revenue streams are limited.  We’re all about getting butts in seats and the best price.  And that’s just about it.  And shoot, even when we can get audiences to show up, there are few ancillary forms of revenue (we don’t get any of that bar revenue, or ticketing fees, etc.).

The most successful businesses have multiple streams of income . . . not only does this generate higher profits when things are good, but when there is a crisis, you’re not solely reliant on one source of revenue.

Like we are now.

Ok, here comes the rant part.

One of the biggest, ‘virtually’ untapped resource for an additional revenue stream for Actors, Designers, Investors, Stagehands, and everyone who works on a show . . . is, well, a literal revenue stream.

Streaming.

This is a big “duh,” now . . . since there are bazillion Broadway streaming events going on every single night during the crisis.  We’ve got livestreams like mine, virtual Mother’s Day concerts, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows, and so many more a whole website was created to curate them!

But no one is paying their rent or their groceries because of ’em.

When Broadway was shut down I got about 147 emails from folks saying, “Ken!  What can we do to stream Broadway shows?!?!?”

That’s when I knew we @#$%ed up.  And big time.

This is when I really point this rant at myself.  Because I should have known that streaming wasn’t only important to our industry, but that one day it would become necessary.

See, I livestreamed Daddy Long Legs, back in 2015 and got over 150k people from 135 countries to tune in . . . with zero marketing . . . and NOT during a pandemic.  (You can see it now, here, by the way.)

But streaming that show was expensive and contractually cumbersome.  And every time I investigated doing the same things on other shows . . . especially big Broadway shows . . . the numbers just didn’t add up.  Producers were forced to spend way too much money upfront to have a realistic shot at recouping that cash.

And it’s hard for a show that’s struggling to build a NY audience to invest additional money in something that could be years away.  (It’s easy for Hamilton to do . . . . which obviously paid off.)

So I stopped pushing a new video-capture model for running shows.  And other folks in the biz stopped pushing it as well.  There were a few shows that popped up on a screen here or there, and there is, of course, BroadwayHD.  (But if you’ll notice – the majority of their titles are NOT Broadway titles – but London titles – where the rules and economics make more sense, or Off-Broadway, non-profits, or “others.”)

And the fact is . . . if I had pushed harder for a new model . . . had we all pushed harder . . . there could be dollars being earned by EVERYONE involved with Broadway shows over the past decade RIGHT NOW.

Shame on us.

See, you can’t wait for a crisis to come to have an epiphany.  You don’t start eating better when you have a heart attack.  You do it years before.

Instead, we just never thought we’d need this content.

So we didn’t do anything serious about it.

Bad on us.

Maybe we can now.

And it’s easy.

See, the problem with the model right now is that we pay an extraordinary amount of money to capture a production on video. . . even though filming that production may not require any additional work from everyone involved (they just do their usual show), and even though that content may never be monetized.  We’re paying a ton of money for an option to monetize it . . . and that monetization model is also extraordinarily high risk.

Why not allow all shows to be shot, and archived, for a minimum amount of money (if any), and then have the payments made if/when the shows are released.

Imagine what we could be giving to our TheaterGoers and our Artists right now.  (Hamilton is about to keep their buzz going big time when they release their movie on Disney+ in July.)

I call this the “Save The Stream For A Rainy Day” concept.

If the capture is used, the Producer pays.  If not, the Producer doesn’t.

And then . . . to fix the monetization of the content model, why not cut all the artists involved in a much bigger portion of profits rather than getting a flat payment, which would allow the unions and Authors to get “Bonanza Insurance” in case something really blows up online.  (Or give the Producer a choice – pay a high upfront fee on release or a bigger royalty cut.)

There is a way to figure it out and provide for another revenue stream that everyone in our industry desperately needed before all this happened.

And now?  Scheez.  I’m literally kicking myself.  K-I-C-K-I-N-G M-Y-S-E-L-F!

Ok, rant over . . . no more talking about what happened.

Now we just need to make something new happen.

– – – – –

You can see Daddy Long Legs for free here now, AND get this . . . I’m reuniting that cast on my livestream at 8 PM on May 21st!  Click here for more.

 

THIS WEEK ON THE LIVESTREAM: Santino Fontana, Dominique Morisseau, Lorin Latarro, and more!

We had a week of big laughs on last week’s Livestream, and not just because I can’t seem to get through an episode without screwing something up.  🙂

If you missed any, here are a few replays from last week to catch up on!

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez, the songwriting duo shared a cut song from Disney’s Frozen 2 especially for us!
  • Jordan Fisher taught me about the world of Twitch, and now I’m hooked and wondering how start Twitchin’ for the theater.
  • Rob McClure shared the inspiration for his Conductor Cam series on Instagram (which is a must-see)
  • Julie Halston described how important it was to wake up each morning and glam up!
  • Ashley Park and I reminisced about our Tony Nominee luncheon and who was at our table and more.

You can see all of the 43+ episodes here.

AND HERE IS WHO IS ON THE LIVE STREAM THIS WEEK:

Monday, May 11th – Santino Fontana (Tony Award-winning Actor – Tootsie, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Sunday In The Park With George)

Tuesday, May 12th – James Snyder (Actor – Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, If/Then)

Wednesday, May 13th – Dominique Morisseau (Playwright/Book Writer – Ain’t Too Proud, Pipeline)

Thursday, May 14th – Lorin Latarro (Choreographer – Mrs. Doubtfire, Waitress, American Idiot)

Friday, May 15th – Stephanie Klemons (Choreographer/Director – FLYHamilton, In The Heights, “Hunters” starring Al Pacino).

We are going LIVE every night at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT). Follow me on Facebook to get notified as soon as we hit the “GO LIVE” button.

Don’t have Facebook? You can also watch the livestream on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube channel.

To see who’s coming up next, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

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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