Podcast Episode 143 – Catherine Zuber


If there was a ranking of what I know about each element of the theater, costume design would come in last.

I lasted about 4 hours in my costume shop rotation during my internship at Maine State Music Theatre (I spent those 4 hours trying to thread one needle and then they let me go work on a computer), and my wife will tell you how I spend minutes staring at the stuff in my closet trying to figure out what goes with what.

That’s why I was so excited to talk to one of the best Costume Designers on Broadway on the planet.  Catherine has six Tony Awards on her mantle for shows like Coast of Utopia, South Pacific, Light in the Piazza and more.  (By the way, when your list of shows you won Tonys for is longer than most people’s entire resume, you are doing pretty well.)

During our Saturday morning chat, Catherine and I did NOT talk about threading needles, but we did talk about:

  • How she was terrible at sewing when she started . . . and that did NOT impact her ability to design.
  • Why her favorite costumes aren’t the most beautiful.
  • Technology’s impact on costume design . . . for better, but also for worse!
  • Why costumes for the theater are so much different than costumes for film.
  • How 21st-century playwrights are changing how designers must create clothes.

Listen in to Ms. Zuber school me on costume design, and I promise, no matter where costume design ranks on your list of “Theater Things You Know,” it’ll go up after this thirty-five minute Tony winner’s master class.

Click here for the link to my podcast with Catherine!

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

Download it here.

Podcast Episode 142 – Jerry Zaks


When Jerry walked into my office to record his podcast at 9 AM last Tuesday, the smile on his face was so bright, you’d think he was a rookie director who had his first big hit.

In fact, Jerry has had fistfuls of hits over the years . . . including three on the boards right now:  Hello, Dolly!, Meteor Shower, and A Bronx Tale.  That’s right, three!  And two of them are in the million dollar club, and one in the multi-million dollar club!

But that smile he came dressed with wasn’t just about the $3mm grosses that Dolly was bringing in . . . (although that had to have something to do with it).  No, no . . . that was the smile from a man who just loves, loves, LOVES what he does for a living.

And so began one of my favorite podcasts to date.

My first Jerry Zaks experience was the 90s revival of Guys and Dolls, which shot Nathan Lane and Faith Prince into the stratosphere.  And let me tell you, I still remember some of the bits from that show, and they still make me laugh twenty-odd years later.

And he’s directed oodles since (and doctored some more – which we talk about).  He’s the go-to guy if you’ve got a musical that’s supposed to make people laugh. And we talked about what it takes to make people slap their knees, as well as . . .

  • How he agreed to direct a show even though he didn’t know what directing really was.
  • The best advice he ever got, which made him change his attitude overnight.
  • Why his rehearsal rooms are CLOSED to everyone but the actors.
  • How (and why) Guys and Dolls wasn’t working and what he and his choreographer did to fix it.
  • What a show has to do within its first ten minutes, or it’s sunk.

Here’s a little secret about Jerry that isn’t such a secret.  He loves a cigar.  And when he’s working on a show, you’ll see him outside the theater a lot, because that’s the only place he can smoke.

So the next time Jerry’s name is on a marquis, walk by the theater during the tech period . . . I bet you see him at some point.  And I bet he’ll be smokin’ a cigar . . . and smiling like a kid in a . . . well . . . a Broadway theater.

Click above to listen to my podcast with Jerry!

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

Download it here.

Podcast Episode 141 – Doug Hughes


Plays are delicate things.  And Directors have to treat them like priceless antiquities.

Doug Hughes has one of the smartest and most sensitive touches of any Director around, which is why he has directed dozens of dramas on Broadway, from the incredibly successful Doubt to Oleanna (which I produced) to this season’s highly anticipated Junk (which I have tickets to in just a few weeks!).

What surprised me about this podcast, was how Doug didn’t start off wanting to be a Director or even in the theater at all (despite the theatrical heritage he comes from) . . . and how coming about his career as a last resort helped him develop even greater skills than studying it from birth.

Listen in to this podcast to hear Doug talk about that, as well as:

  • Why his research for plays gets him a lot of frequent flyer miles.
  • How directing a play is like a lawyer trying a case.
  • What his biggest responsibility is when working with Actors.
  • How he gets feedback, and what he does with it, including sometimes ignoring it.
  • How being a scientist is like being a Director.

And more.

If you’re a writer, then you know that getting a Director is one of the most important parts of your developmental process.  Doug’s process for picking up a play is one of the greatest focus groups you could ever ask for . . . because it’s all about what really makes a play work.

And he reveals it all in this podcast.

So listen in.

Click above to listen to my podcast with Doug!

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

Download it here.

Podcast Episode 140 – Mark Hoebee



WARNING:  The story that Mark Hoebee tells on this podcast will make you sweat.

It’s about when Paper Mill Playhouse, which costs well over $10 million to run every year, had only $6k left in the bank.

Ugh.  My stomach did a backflip just typing that.

And it was just about then that Mark took over the wheel as the captain of the ship.  Imagine being promoted to take over the Titanic after you hit the iceberg!  Who wants that job?!?

Well, Mark looked at that iceberg in the rear-view mirror and trudged forward.  And thanks to him and the good people of the Paper Mill community, Paper Mill turned it around, won a Tony Award, and has put multiple shows on Broadway with a bunch more circling the runway.

Tune in to this week’s podcast to hear what it’s like to run one of the most powerful regional theaters within kick-ball-change distance of Broadway as well as . . .

  • What Broadway had to do with the Paper Mill’s recession.
  • How he looked at himself as an audience member, not an Artistic Director, in order to program his seasons.
  • Working with commercial producers on out-of-town tryouts.
  • Why Cameron Mackintosh started stumping for Paper Mill.
  • The difference between the relationship with the consumer on Broadway versus the consumer at a Regional Theater, and how we can learn from each other.

Musicals are becoming more dependent on regional theaters to help launch our shows.  Listen in to hear why Paper Mill, under Mark’s leadership, has become such a wonderful launching pad for new shows . . . maybe even yours.

Click above to listen to my podcast with Mark!

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

Download it here.

Episode 139 – Mike Rafael

10 years ago, Mike Rafael’s job didn’t exist.

And now, it could be one of the most important jobs on Broadway.

Since the arrival of variable pricing on Broadway, Producers have been scrambling to assign the role of determining not only what to charge per ticket, but more importantly, when to charge what per ticket.

Is it the GM’s responsibility?  The Advertising Agency’s?  Who does it?

Whenever something is this valuable (I’d credit variable pricing with what got Come From Away to recoupment so quickly), there’s an opening for a new job on Broadway . . . and thus the analyst was born.

And Mike Rafael, who has worked in the ticketing world for decades, was perfectly positioned to jump into the game, and help shows price up and down according to what the market demands.

Listen in to today’s podcast for Mike’s expert advice on how to price your shows as well as:

  • Why he learned what he knows from working Off-Broadway.
  • How the price of your ticket tells a story about your show.
  • The very first thing he does when he takes on a client.
  • What he thinks about papering during previews.
  • His idea of how we should work with the secondary market.

If I could only name ONE thing that has had the biggest impact on the financial picture of Broadway in the last ten years, it would be variable pricing.

And we’re just at the beginning.

Listen in, and learn, so you’re prepped for the future.

Click above to listen to my podcast with Mike!

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

Download it here.