Now let’s see how revivals are trending! Part II

Yesterday we refuted the notion that the number of new plays and new musicals were on a precipitous decline over the last thirty years.

Today we’ve got a couple more graphs for you, but this time we’re looking to find the revival trend line.  Are they increasing?  Decreasing?

Before you scroll down to find out the answer, take a guess.  Revivals of musicals?  Upward trend?  Downward?  Plays?

Ok, once you’ve placed your internal bet with yourself take a look below.

Here is a graph of the number of Revivals of Musicals over the last three decades:

revival musical

What do you see?  Well, I see a little lift off since around, oh, 1997.  The average for the entire thirty years is 3.6, whereas since ’97, it’s over 4.

If you remember correctly, that’s exactly when the trend for new musicals seemed to increase as well.  Coincidence? I think not.  What exactly happened then?  Not sure . . . but I’ll do some digging.  You have any thoughts?

Let’s move on to plays.  Here’s the chart:

revival play

Not surprisingly, revivals of plays do look like they are on their way up (thank you limited-run-star-driven-revival, and this trend seemed to have started in around 90-91, earlier then other increases.)

So what do today’s and yesterday’s graphs show us?  Well, the idea that new plays are on the downswing is a bit of a mirage, actually.  They’re not, really.  BUT they are the only genre out of these four that are remaining flat.  We’re seeing some amount of increase in the number of new musicals, and revivals of both plays and musicals.  But new plays are just kind of sitting there.

So how do we throw some gas on the new play graph?  Reduce risks for new plays on Broadway (should all parties, from Authors to GMs to Lighting Companies to Theater Owners get lower rates on new plays versus old, convince stars to do more new plays as opposed to revivals (separate Tonys for acting in new plays?),  lower prices for audiences of new plays?).

But the easiest answer is perhaps the hardest to accomplish.  We need great plays.

And that means we need great writers.

If you want to see more new plays on Broadway then do what you can, support new and emerging writers.  See more off-off Broadway shows.  Donate to a kick-starter.  Or if you’re a theatre pro, lend a developmental ear to someone that’s passionate about writing for the theater.

Because great artists are the best way to change the course of any graph.

 

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Are new plays and new musicals really on the downswing? Part I

I read a quote recently which lamented the fact that there weren’t as many new plays on Broadway anymore.

At first, my head started a-nodding in agreement.  It’s easy to jump on the ol’ “things aren’t so good” whine-wagon.  But then I wondered, “Is that really the case?”  I know it seems like that, and maybe it is, but before I just start joining the pessimists club, let’s take a look at the statistics shall we?  Maybe the picture ain’t as gloomy as we think?

So, my trusty intern Kate and I, went into the season archives of IBDB, and simply counted the number of new plays and new musicals over the last three decades to see if we could find some kind of trend line, good or gloomy.

Here’s a chart of the number of new plays on Broadway since the 1982-83 season through today:

new plays 2

Well?  What do you think?

Seems to me that the sweet spot of new plays is between 10 and 15 (average of the 30 years is 12.77), and actually there isn’t much of a swing in either direction, or a downward trend line.  Although we don’t jump over that 15 mark much, and we have sunk below the 10 line a few times, it seems to be that we’re sort of consistent.  (Note to self:  if ever I see a season where there is more than 15 new plays being produced – see if there’s another season when I can do my show.)

So in the modern theatrical era (what I call the 80s to now), we’re not doing drastically less new plays.

Now, let’s check out the same stats for new musicals:

new musicals

To quote an Xmas Carol, “Do you see what I see?”

After a downward trend in the first part of the decade, there’s actually a slight upward slant since 1997 (average of the entire three decades is 9 and since 1996, the average is almost 10 .  No coincidence that this is also when Broadway grosses started an upward trend as well.)

So, the picture ain’t so bad after all.  And that means, Pessimist club?  You’ve got one less member.

While sure, it’d be great if we could produce more new plays and more new musicals, we actually have a real estate issue (see this blog) and a audience development issue (our attendance has been relatively flat – see this blog).  But the good news is, we’re not producing less.

Tomorrow I’ll look at the trend for revivals.  More Graphs!  #GraphNerdAlert

 

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Why I’m producing Macbeth on Broadway.

Remember when I tweeted this?

If you saw last night’s late NY Times or Playbill announcement, then you’ve prob put two and two together and realized that the “#NewShowThisSpring” I was talking about was the National Theatre of Scotland‘s production of Macbeth starring Alan Cumming that I’m producing on Broadway this spring.

So what’s the story behind it?  The Times alluded to it . . . but let me give you a few of the details . . . because isn’t that what this blog is about?

Yes, it’s true, I did get a call about my interest in producing this one-man interpretation directed by John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg that played to sold out crowds at NTS and last summer’s Lincoln Center Festival.

And when I hung up the phone to think about it, it took me, oh, about 37 seconds to pick the phone back up, and say, “I’m in.”

Why did I decide to do it so fast?

The funny thing was . . . as I told Mr. Healy from the Times . . . I didn’t see it when it was at the festival.  I was out of town and frankly, it was hard to score a seat.

But I wanted to see it.  Badly.

I’m not usually the biggest fan of seeing Shakespeare.  I love to read it.  I love to study it.  But seeing it is another matter.

But when I heard Alan Cumming was starring (who is arguably one of the greatest and most versatile actors we have – how many people do you know can go from winning a Tony in Cabaret to starring in Spy Kids to Threepenny Opera to a concert with Liza Minnelli to Emmy noms in “The Good Wife,” etc., etc.) . . . and when I heard it was an hour and forty-five minute interpretation where he played all the roles . . . and it was directed by Black Watch and Once‘s brilliant John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg . . . and it was set in a psychiatric hospital . . . and it featured multimedia . . . and Alan didn’t use a microphone . . . and so on . . . I wanted to see it.  Badly.

And if I, someone who doesn’t usually love seeing Shakespeare, desperately wanted to see it, and was willing to pay more than full price, I was willing to bet that there’s a whole lot of theaterlovers like all of you that would love to see it as well.

So that’s what went through my mind during those 37 seconds it took me to say “I’m in.”

(Ok, so I also read some stellar freakin’ reviews and checked with a bunch of people who saw it who called Alan’s portrayal one of the most phenomenal performances they had ever seen.)

As you’ve also read in the Times article, because of the unbelievable physical and emotional demands of playing 30+ (!) roles, Alan can only do six performances a week, which means there are only 73 performances to see.

Commercially speaking, is that a risk?  Sure.

But you know what?  All of Broadway is a risk, I don’t care if you have 27 performances a week.

And as Terry Teachout said at Monday’s TEDxBroadway . . . if I’m going to take a risk, I’m going to roll the dice on something that I think is great. Truly great.  I’m going to gamble on excellence.  A performance and a piece that I think needs to be seen.

And Alan Cumming in a one-man Macbeth on Broadway directed by Tiffany/Goldberg sounds pretty great to me.

I hope you’ll think so too.

Get your Macbeth tickets here.  Truly, there are only 73 shows, and the great seats will go quick, as you can probably imagine.  And you’re going to want to be close to this one.  So don’t wait.  Get ’em today.

To learn more about the show, visit the brand new website here:  www.MacbethOnBroadway.com

(Big thanks to Neil Murray and everyone at The National Theatre of Scotland for birthing this production and putting all hands on deck to make this Broadway move happen faster than the Birnam Wood came to Dunsinane Hill.)

 

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It’s a Christmas miracle! An Off-Broadway show recouped.

Sound the bells.  Light the lights.  An Off-Broadway show is in the black!

Last week, Tribes, the Off-Broadway show by Nina Raine which has been running for only nine months at The Barrow Street Theatre downtown, announced that it recouped its entire capitalization.

And they said it couldn’t be done.

Normally this kind of news is something I would just tweet, but an Off-Broadway show recouping is as rare as a Broadway play without Hollywood stars, so I had to give it the full post attention it deserves.

How rare is this kind of announcement?

Well, by my rough count, there have only been 6-7 Off-Broadway shows that have recouped their investment in the last . . . oh . . . 15 years!  (I’m proud to say that three of those suckers are mine – but even those were several years ago now – Altar Boyz opened in 2005 – and it’s much, much harder now than it was then!).

Three cheers for the super smart Producers at the helm of this terrific drama . . . Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian and Tom Wirtshafter.  Congrats, guys, on a job amazingly done.  And of course, congrats to Ms. Raine and Director David Cromer and the cast.  For without the artists creating something that audiences want to see, there’s nothing to recoup in the first place.

We should all spend some time studying this show to see what it takes to recoup a show Off-Broadway in the 2010s.  Because it ain’t easy.  Let’s hope Tribes has broken the streak and that there are many more to follow.

Because Off-Broadway is too important of a training ground for actors, directors and yes, Producers, for it to not have a chance at financial success.

 

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A congratulations blog to a couple of new collaborators.

I get about 275 emails a day, so it takes a lot for one to jump out and slap me in the face and say, “Look at this!”

But recently I got one of those, and when I read it, I literally “whooped” with joy (If you don’t know what my whoop is, think of a Broadway version of the Arsensio Hall chant).

The email came from Donald Brenner, a Director in town.  And the story he told went something like this:

Donald came to our Director/Playwright speed date.

Donald met an upcoming Playwright named Mike Vogel.

Mike asked Donald to direct his new play, March Madness.

Mike submits March Madness to my reading series.

We produce the reading, with Donald at the helm.

The reading goes well . . . and . . . (drumroll please, for the big finale)

The Abingdon Theatre Company here in Manhattan puts it on their season, and it opens on October 26th!!!

Come on, whoop with me!

A big congrats to these guys who got the ball rolling on this project simply by showing up to that first speed date.  They proved once again that there are two key components to success in the theater:

  • Collaboration
  • Simply showing up

Sometimes it takes a lot to get out of the house/start working on a project, but shows can be like snowballs rolling down a hill.  All they need is a little bit of a push, and soon enough they take on enough energy and weight on their own that they’ll make it down the hill without much from you at all.

So we’ve all got two takeaway tasks today, including me . . .

  1. Get tickets to March Madness at Abingdon
  2. Show up for whatever project you’re working on and start your snowball rolling.

 

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