This kills more shows than anything.

No, it’s not the book.

No, it’s not if you’ve got a star or not.

It’s not even whether you’re a totally original show, or based on a blockbuster.

The one thing that kills more shows (and makes more shows) is something that we can’t control.

It’s . . . . uh . . t-t . . .  timing.

The challenge in the theater is that we can’t time the market.  The development of our product takes years, mostly due to the collaborative nature of the art form (a novelist can sit in his house and write, a painter can grab an easel and paint, but you need an army to put on a musical).  And more recently we’ve become more timing-challenged due to our lack of a guaranteed distribution method (that’s fancy talk for the lack of theater availability).  If you want to make a movie, you can do it on the phone in your pocket, and even find a way to get it distributed on your own.  Heck, it’s even possible to make your little indie Oscar eligible.  Not so much with Broadway and the Tony Awards.

Television, book publishing even, and other art forms can respond immediately to what consumers are buzzing about and get something out there to satisfy them.  But not so much in the theater.  If we notice a trend or an audience appetite and try to make a show for that moment, by the time we get to opening night, our audience would be on to something else.

What sucks, is that too often I’ve seen great shows, that today’s audiences just aren’t ready for.  They just don’t have the hunger for that style of show or that subject matter . . . yet.

It’s like trying to feed someone a hot, oven fresh roasted turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce . . . at 7:30 in the morning.

Blech.

Just doesn’t sound right, does it?

It’s not that the turkey isn’t good.  Or that the stuffing isn’t scrumptious.

It’s just not the right time for a lot of people to digest that kind of meal.

So for all you creators out there, it’s important to remember that in the theater, your show may not work, because it’s just not the right time for it.

Should you worry about that?  Why? You can’t control it, so just forget about it.

Because I find the only thing that conquers the challenge of timing, is continuing to do shows, time after time after time after time.

Eventually it’ll be your time.

– – – – –

Want to learn how to get your show from the page to the stage? Join my community of theater professionals on TheProducersPerspectivePRO, plus get instant access to 30+ hours of training, monthly newsletters and networking opportunities, producer contact lists, and so much more! To join TheProducersPerspectivePROclick here!

Podcast Episode 106 – Six Time-Tony Award Winning Lighting Designer, Natasha Katz

Natasha Katz won her 6th Tony this past season for A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

And when she gave her speech, beaming brighter than a Vari-Lite VL3000, you’d have thought it was her very first time.

I don’t know tons about lighting, but I do know when someone truly loves what they’re doing.

Natasha is one of the industry’s leading ‘painters of light’ (and not the Thomas Kinkade type).  She’s a true artist and has applied her electric brushes to like, 50 shows, including An American in Paris, Motown, School of Rock, A Chorus Line, a whole bunch of Disney shows, and the very first show I worked on, My Fair Lady.  

Listen to Natasha enlighten us all with her thoughts on design and the theater including:

  • How a simple internship unexpectedly lit the way to her career.
  • What she writes in scripts when she reads them for the first time.
  • Why she and all lighting designers have to be chameleons.
  • The difference between working for a corporation like Disney and an independent Producer like, oh, I don’t know . . . me.
  • What Producers and Authors need to know before hiring a designer.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Natasha a few times (including on Altar Boyz), and not only does she light the @#$% out of shows, she’s always just such a joy to be around.  Tune into this podcast, and you’ll not only want to work with her, you’ll just want to hang out with her too.

Click here to listen.

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

Download it here.

Sorry about the sound issues in this podcast. We found the bug and fixed it in later episodes. It gets better, I promise 🙂

– – – – –

WEBINAR ALERT: “The Art of Negotiating… In the Arts” THIS Wednesday, January 11th at 7PM ET. Click here to register.  Or get it for FREE when you join Pro.

 

 

What Harry Potter’s theater choice means for Independent Producers.

Whew.

That collective sigh of relief you heard last week was every single Independent Producer on Broadway reacting to the big news that Harry Potter, the one-show-that-could-out-gross-Hamilton, will set up its Hogwarts in the soon-to-be renovated Lyric Theatre.

In case you missed the news, the Cirque show currently in residence at the Lyric was the subject of a showus-disapperus spell, and was given about $20mm to make way for Harry.  And if that wasn’t enough of an investment from the theater owner, The Ambassador Theatre Group also promised the Producers of Potter that they’d reduce (!) the size of the theater from 1900 seats to 1500.

I for one am thrilled at ATG’s creativity in coming up with this deal and their aggression in going after Potter.

Why am I levitatus-on-airus about it?  And why are other Independent Producers too?

If you recall, I wrote a blog a few months ago about how Broadway was about to have an unheard of three mega-hits in less than three years. Hamilton, Harry Potter, and Frozen all have the right stuff to run for 10+ years for sure.

While that sounds great for the industry and great for the investors in those shows, it’s awful for the Independent Producers . . . because it means that three choice theaters will be unavailable for new shows.

Well, well, well, that all changed when Harry went to the Lyric, a venue that the independents don’t think too much about, as opposed to the sought-after Hirschfeld (where I heard they were going until ATG put their money where their balcony was) or the big bad Broadway.

The Lyric is a tough one to book, because of its barn-like size, and requires a certain type of mega-show . . . as opposed to the types of shows independents like me produce.

So yeah, another theater went off the market and will be off this market for a decade at least if not Lion King-like longer.

But it’s one that was never on the Independent Producer’s shopping list anyway.

Although, in 20 or so years, when it’s an intimate 1,500 seater that has housed one of the biggest hits in the history of Broadway, right smack on 42nd St, it could be at the top of my list.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here  then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– WEBINAR ALERT: “The Art of Negotiating…In the Arts” Wednesday, January 11th at 7PM ETClick here to register.  Or get it for FREE when you join Pro.

 Listen to Podcast Episode 102 with Super-Powered Arts Administrator, Howard Sherman! Click here.

– Get everything you need to help get your show off the ground when you join TheProducersPerspectivePro for free.  Join the club today.

 

Podcast Episode 102 – Super-powered Arts Administrator Howard Sherman

And now it was my turn!

I first met Howard Sherman when he asked me on to appear on the American Theatre Wing’s “Producing Commercial Theater Off Broadway” and then subsequently on his podcast.

10 years (!) later, I was thrilled when agreed to appear on my podcast so I could turn the microphone around and ask this fearless arts advocate some questions of my own.

Howard has spent a few decades passionately working to making our industry and our art form stronger, whether that was when he was the Exec. Director of the American Theatre Wing or whether that’s in his current posts as the Senior Strategy Director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts (an org that was very helpful to us when we were launching Spring Awakening) and the Director of the new Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama, or whether that’s just on his widely read Twitter.

Howard doesn’t hold his opinions back, and he even took me to task in this podcast (I’ll let you listen to hear just how), as we discussed . . .

  • What NY Producers can learn from Regional Theaters (I loved this answer)
  • Why Movie Studios coming to Broadway may very well be a good, good thing.
  • He takes Broadway’s temperature on Diversity – and says how we’re doing.  And what we can do better.
  • Why social media isn’t for everyone . . . but why it is for him.
  • How he became the archivist for Hamilton’s “Ham-For-Ham” performances.

Talking to someone like Howard, I’m quickly reminded of how having passionate artists who appear on or write for our stages is not enough.  We need even more passionate people behind desks to make sure those passionate artists of all types have a stage to stand on in years to come.

Listen in to hear from one of the best administrative advocates we have.

Click here to listen.

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

Download it here.

Sorry about the sound issues in this podcast. We found the bug and fixed it in later episodes. It gets better, I promise 🙂

Click here to read the transcript!

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here  then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– WEBINAR ALERT: “Diving into Royalty Pools” this Wednesday, December 14th at 7PM ETClick here to register.  Or get it for FREE when you join Pro.

 Listen to Podcast Episode 101 with Tony Award Winning Director, and Diversity Advocate, Kenny Leon! Click here.

– Get everything you need to help get your show off the ground when you join TheProducersPerspectivePro for free.  Join the club today.

 

Should you do a full reading of your show to raise money?

One of the first steps of every show’s developmental process is the reading.  Put a director in a room with some cast members, give ’em a few hours of rehearsal and then bam . . . put ’em up in front of a bunch of people and pray they give you money, right?

Wrong.

Of course, we all hope that whenever you present your material to an audience, someone is going to raise their hand (and their checkbook) and say . . . “I’m in!”

And it does happen.

But honestly, I don’t think that should be a Producer’s primary intention of producing a reading.

The primary reason for a reading should always be to assess how the show is working creatively.  That’s why you present the full production . . . to see how it flows from beginning to end, and to get feedback from your peers and fellow artists (who, according to this great book, are much better at predicting success than any focus group).

So what do you do if you want/need to raise money?

Of course, you still need to present your material to potential investors.  There’s no doubt that when people experience your product, they are more likely to invest in that product.

So you do have to show it to them.

But maybe, a 2.5 hour reading, under fluorescent lights, in a plain-jane rehearsal room, with no costumes, on folding chairs, in the middle of the afternoon ain’t the best way to get people to write a check . . . especially if your show is still in its awkward phase (as most shows are when they’re being “read”).

But what about a teaser . . . what about 45 minutes of your best material?  Or 30 minutes.  Maybe even 20?

You’re not going to get the full flow of the show, but I’ve got this feeling that a whole bunch of audience members may be thankful that they can see what you got, and get themselves back to their office before half the day is gone.

And since your show probably isn’t perfect yet, why show people the lumps?

We know that audiences are demanding more efficient entertainment (which is a fancy way of saying shorter).

Attendees of readings are no different.

And the best way to hook them may be to take a lesson from Gypsy herself.  Don’t show them everything.  Tease them until they’re begging for more.

I’m doing a 45-minute presentation in a few weeks.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here  then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

Want to learn how to get your show from the page to the stage? Join my community of theater professionals on TheProducersPerspectivePRO, plus get instant access to 30+ hours of training, monthly newsletters and networking opportunities, producer contact lists, and so much more! To join TheProducersPerspectivePROclick here!

 

 

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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