Podcast Episode 47 – Gregg Barnes

 

I’ve worn a lot of hats since I started working in the theater.  And I’ve loved just about every job I’ve ever had, because it was in the theater.

Except one . . . when I worked in a costume shop.

Yep, I wasn’t so fond of that.  And why?  Because I sucked at it.

Not only could I not thread a needle, I couldn’t understand which color went with which, and what the heck is a spat for anyway?

Ugh.  Just thinking about costumes and design makes my head hurt.  Which is why I have so much respect for those that do it . . . and do it better than anyone else.

One of those someones is none other than today’s podcast guest, the Tony Award-winning Costume Designer, Gregg Barnes.  Kinky Boots, Something Rotten!, Aladdin, and The Drowsy Chaperone are just a few of the shows that feature Barnes originals.  And a little known secret – I first met Gregg when he taught a costume class at NYU.  (I’m sure I sucked at it then too.  Sorry, Gregg.)

I had so much to learn from Gregg, and thankfully he schooled me up on everything wardrobe related and more, like:

  • What social media site is his new favorite design tool.
  • Why Broadway costumes are so darn expensive.
  • How to calculate the right costume budget.
  • His first step when designing any new show.
  • When he likes to be hired on a show, and who MUST be hired before him.

Just having this frank fashion convo with Gregg made me finally feel like I don’t suck as much anymore.

But I still can’t thread a #@$%ing needle.

Enjoy Gregg!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

Podcast Episode 46 – Susan Stroman

 

This is one of my favorite podcasts.

Maybe that’s because of all the elements in the theater, dance and what makes a great Choreographer great is one of the areas of what we do that I understand the least.  And well, who better to help me “get it” than five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman?

“Stro” started her career as a Choreographer of shows like Show Boat and Crazy for You, before following in the steps of Fosse and Bennett and becoming a Director/Choreographer.  The Music Man, The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and The Scottsboro Boys are just a few of the titles on her long resume.

That transition from Broadway dancer to Broadway Choreographer to Broadway Director-Choreographer is just one of the things we discussed in her podcast, along with:

  • How she convinced Kander & Ebb to let her and some friends create the (fantastic) revue that started her Choreographic career.
  • Her first step when she’s creating “steps.”
  • Why she doesn’t have a style, but how she does have a signature (and hear my mind get blown as I realize what she’s talking about).
  • Why Choreographers make great Directors.
  • How to work with titans of the entertainment industry like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.

Oh, and, in this podcast, you’ll hear the debut of my brand new James Lipton-like question, which I’m calling “The Smithsonian.”

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and that you learn as much as I did.

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

 

Podcast Episode 45 – Ted Chapin

 

Ted Chapin’s official title is the President of R&H.

Frankly, I think we should just call him the President of Theater.  That’s how smart and insightful this guy is about our art and about our biz.  It’s no wonder he was handpicked by the industry’s most powerful creative family to oversee its priceless treasures of material.  Seriously, the equivalent of being the President of R&H is like someone saying, “Hey, you . . . stand outside Fort Knox.  You decide who goes in and what goes out.”

I was thrilled when Ted accepted my invite to appear on my podcast, because I knew he’d drop some wisdom bombs for all of us to learn from, and boy did he.  Tune in and listen to Ted talk about all things theater, R&H and more, including . . .

  • His secret trick to pronouncing Hammerstein the correct way (and hear me get it right, then wrong, then right again . . . oh boy).
  • What happens when the copyrights on the R&H classics expire?
  • Would Oklahoma! be a hit if it were produced today?
  • What the @#&$ is the Tony Administration Committee and what does it do anyway?
  • How he decides what can be done and can’t be done in new R&H productions (and hear how he almost had to shut one down – and why it was a tougher decision than you’d think).

Ted has lectured on the theater at the world’s greatest universities, and I’m so thankful he gave us a little sample of his vast knowledge.

Oh, and by the way, Ted started in the biz as a Production Assistant (just like I did) . . . on the original Broadway company of Follies.  He chronicled that experience in the book Everything Was Possible, which I strongly recommend.  Get it here.

Enjoy the podcast!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

Podcast Episode 44 – David Henry Hwang

 

David Henry Hwang can write anything.

Actually, let me amend that statement.

David Henry Hwang can write anything . . . exceptionally well.

A Tony Award winner for his breakout play M. Butterfly (which just may be ready for a revival, as you’ll hear him say), David has written plays, musicals, television, opera and more.  He’s terrific proof that if you’re a master story teller, you can adapt that skill to any medium (focus on the fundamentals, kids).

David shared what it takes to work in all those different mediums and a whole bunch of other stories about working in our biz like:

  • What it was like to have his first play premiere at The Public.
  • How the first time he heard M. Butterfly read out loud was at the first rehearsal for the Broadway production!
  • What we can do better to encourage more diversity on and off our stages.
  • Why there wasn’t an opening night party for M. Butterfly.
  • How the development of new plays has changed . . . and whether that’s for the better.

There’s a whole lot more packed into this episode, including talk of Flower Drum Song and Chinglish and advice for writers looking for their big break, so listen in and learn from someone who has been called one of “America’s greatest living playwrights.”

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

Episode 43 – John Caird

 

John Caird told me to break the most important rule of auditioning.

When I was in college, I was always told never look the auditioners in the eye.  “Pick a spot over their head,” was the conventional wisdom.

But when I first met John Caird when he was guest lecturing during my junior year at NYU, he told us to eff that ol’ rule and look him straight in the eye.

Of course he said it in a soft British accent so it sounded so sweet.

John Caird is a guy who defies convention and at the same time has achieved incredible conventional success.  His credits include the epic The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Eyre, a ton of shows at the RSC, operas all over the world and oh yeah, that little show called Les Misérables.  

He’s also a writer as well, and his most recent credit happens to be Daddy Long Legs playing at my very own theater.

While we were in tech for DLL, I pulled John aside to hear what other advice he had for me and for all of you out there, including:

  • What he thought right after the heard the demo of Les Miz (his answer should be printed on a t-shirt and worn by artists everywhere).
  • Why he doesn’t read reviews.
  • Why he wouldn’t let Andrew Lloyd Webber change the title of Song & Dance.
  • Would the 8.5-hour Nicholas Nickleby get produced today?
  • With all these big shows and big operas, why he was so drawn to an intimate two-character musical like Daddy Long Legs (and why you should be too).

One of the reasons I wanted John on this podcast, is that I found myself gobsmacked every time we were in a notes session on Daddy Long Legs and he went on about character and plot and purpose and motivation and so on.  He knows his way around a play like you know your way around your hometown.  He just lives in the theater.

For a moment I thought he was brainwashing me with that soft British accent.

But then I realized, no, he just knows what the eff he’s talking about.

Enjoy John!

Click above to listen.

Listen to it on iTunes here.  (And give me a rating, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Click here to read the transcript.

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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