One of the (many) great tragedies of yesterday was this.

I don’t write about politics on this blog.

But what happened at The Capitol yesterday wasn’t politics.

It was a riot.  It was an insurrection.  It was a criminal act.

And yes, the fuse was lit by an ego-filled, selfish, “I-don’t-even-care-for-the-futures-of-the-people-who-follow me,” “leader.”

There were so many tragedies.

A woman died.  Lawyers who hid under desks will be haunted by that fear for a long time to come.  Leaders around there world were laughing at us.

And for me, there was another great loss over the course of this election battle that we will never, ever get back.

Time.

Several elected officials from one faction of one party, followed the drumbeat of a despot.  They pursued fraudulent claims (for their own personal gain) that were refuted over and over again, included by the highest court in the land.

To them, I say this . . .

Folks, this thing was over.  Done.  You literally had your day in court.  And you lost.

But no . . . you kept going.  When you knew what the outcome would be.  Yes, my non-friends, the definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results.  And this was insane . . . as evident from what you witnessed personally yesterday.

Now, when someone who is not a politician pursues something a bit bonkers in their own life, I don’t care so much.  It’s their life.

But you are congresspeople.  Your job is to help better the country.

And there was so much more you could have done with the countless hours you spent pursuing something that had been refuted 147 times, that you knew you would never win.

But you wasted everyone’s time anyway.  For what?

Imagine for a moment . . . how much good could have been done if instead of wasting your own time, money, and resources fighting baseless claims and therefore wasted the time, money, and resources of those who had to refute those claims, you had used that time, money and resources on something that actually could make the lives of the people of this country better???

  • What if all that time was spent working on better ideas for vaccine distribution?
  • What if all that time was spent on brainstorming solutions to the issues of systemic racism in this country?
  • What if all that time was spent at an effin’ soup kitchen?

As I said on Tuesday if there is one thing this pandemic has taught us is that life is short.  Life is so short.

And if we want better lives, we must make use of the time we have.

Every member of Congress has an obligation to use the resources they have to better their district . . . and therefore their state . . . and therefore their country . . . and therefore the world.  Those who waste time not only don’t help, they hurt devastate.

Oh, and at the same time, they can also incite violence.

They won’t go to jail.  But those who stormed the Capitol will.  Good job, folks.  Way to help your people.

Now, what can you do about it?

Two things . . .

  1.  Vote for those who take advantage of the short time we have to make the world a better place.  (Need an example of a Politician, Leader, Hero who wastes NO time?  Stacey Abrams.)
  2. Take advantage of the short time you have in this life to work on things that can have the biggest impact on your life.  Life. Is. Short.

There.  End of rant.

Ratatouille Musical review tomorrow.

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Speaking of time, take our “Take Charge of your ‘2021’ Theatermakers challenge and learn how some of the most successful in our business and making this their best year yet . . . despite what happens in Washington!

 

 

What I love about the new Stimulus package (and what I HATE about it).

What I love about the new Stimulus package (and what I HATE about it).
 
Yesterday I tossed up a confetti-laden tweet praising the passing of the stimulus package in Congress.
 
And it’s true. I’m thrilled.
 
Because it supplements unemployment (and we all know what sector is exceptionally unemployed right now). It extends the freelancer (or gig worker) unemployment provision. And it provides for one-time stimulus checks.
 
Our struggling TheaterMakers along with so many other unemployed folks got handed a bandaid.
 
The bill also included the Save Our Stages provision which puts billions into the hands of arts venues around the country. And that will put even more TheaterMakers to work.
 
But there is a part of the new Stimulus package I hate.
 
I hate that it took this @#$%ing long.
 
There was no need. Absolutely no need.
 
While the politicians played their “game,” artists left the city waiting for more help. Theaters closed waiting for more help. People gave up.
 
In almost the same time as Congress has been negotiating this deal, companies developed, tested, produced, got approved and shipped not one, but MULTIPLE vaccines!
 
I mean, really? Congress couldn’t negotiate a law to help people, while doctors broke scientific records to help people?
 
I had hoped that something as serious as a pandemic would put an end to the bipartisan bull@#$% that we’ve seen over the last decade or so.
 
But no.
 
But no, not even the biggest calamity of the last . . . lifetime . . . could speed up our political “process.”
 
It has never been more clear that the goal of too many of our politicians in this country is to “win” a negotiation, rather than think about the people losing all around them. (I would name names of the specific party that has been more responsible for this attitude than the other, but I don’t think I have to.)
 
And in the modern era, there’s just no time for it. No need for it. And I don’t think any of us should stand for it. BS negotiating tactics and pure selfishness in politics (or in any business) is not gonna fly anymore.
 
Because @#$% is too serious right now.
 
Unfortunately, I can’t change how they do things in Washington (because I will never run for anything, that’s for dang sure.) But I can change how I do business.
 
And I’ll admit . . . there have been many times where I’ve negotiated a contract and could have given more, but I wanted to ‘win.’ It’s hard to check yourself during the process, especially when you’re dealing with a difficult party. But for those of you who found yourself in one of those negotiations with me, I’m sorry.
 
But I’m committing to changing the way I do business from this day forward. My negotiations are going to be much faster. No congress-like BS from me.
 
I’m going to cut to it. Because we’ve got to get shows going and get them going fast. I’m going to be responsible to my investors and at the same time fair to the people who join my teams.
 
And if people try some of the tactics that they’ve tried with me in the past, and try to bait me to want to win . . . well, sorry, but that won’t work with me anymore. I’ll just find someone else.
 
And as Congress begins to bicker over the next set of stimulus talks, and as our own industry gets set to start talking about how we restart, I urge us all to remember that we are on the same side.
 
Harmonious negotiations leads to harmonious working conditions.
 
And boy are we in need some harmony right about now.
 
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FIVE Things I Learned About Playwriting from The Presidential Election.

Watching the last few days of our recent Presidential election was as dramatic as any event I’ve seen in my life.  It kept me riveted to my seats for days!  It was like sitting through Les Miz, both parts of Angels in America AND The Inheritance over and over for a week!  And I didn’t even want to get up to pee!
 
In between waiting for ballots to come in and binging Krispy Kremes and Kit Kats, I couldn’t help but wonder what I could learn from all this drama.
So I asked myself “What about THIS ELECTION put me so on-the-edge-of-my-seat?  And how can I put that into all of my shows?”
 
Here are FIVE things I came up with that are now a part of my “Edge-Of-Your-Seat” checklist on every single one of my shows (and ACTION ITEMS for you to help you with YOUR shows):
 
1. A super specific SIMILAR objective for BOTH the protagonist and antagonist.
 
One candidate wanted to win the election. The other candidate wanted to win the election. Boom. You can’t get clearer than that.
The “want” for EACH character wasn’t, “To improve his understanding of the word,” or “To gain self-confidence.”  Those may be good objectives but it’s hard to show an audience if your hero has achieved them.
An election is a win/lose. It’s like a boxing match or a basketball game (now you know why Rocky and Hoosiers are so easy to get into). Or a court case (Law and Order, To Kill a Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, etc.).
 
And when both your protagonist and antagonist have the same goal, the conflict or “counter-objective” is super clear. Because both characters want the same thing, they also want to prevent the other “party” from getting the same thing.
 
ACTION ITEM: What does your protagonist want? Can you make it more specific . . . and if it’s a “internal want,” (e.g. to be a better father), who can you symbolize it with something specific. And what does your antagonist want? Can it be the same thing? Or at the very least, can you make it to prevent the protagonist from getting what he or she wants?
 
2. High stakes? Make them even higher.
 
What was at stake in this last election?
 
Not much. Just a pandemic. The economy. Democracy. Or in simpler terms . . . people’s lives, people’s livelihoods, and the entire country.
 
I mean, can you get bigger stakes?
 
Your story may not be as big as an election, but however high your stakes are, ratchet ’em up as high as you can go.
 
I like to think of my stakes as the bar a pole vaulter (i.e. my protagonist) has to leap over. When I do my SECOND draft, I look at where I set the bar in the first draft. . . and then I raise it up a few more inches. And so on with the third draft, fourth, and on.
 
ACTION ITEM: Write out the answer to this question:  “What will happen to your hero if he or she does NOT get what they want?” Like this:  “If my hero fails, he or she will . . . ” Then make it worse.
 
3. Have a bad guy? Make him badder.
 
However nasty your antagonist may be, make him nastier. Be careful about mustache-twirling cliches (you avoid this by having them do things that you’d never expect – just like what happened in this election and AFTER this election).
 
We know that our audience must feel empathy for our protagonist. One way to accomplish this is by making the antagonist, the person preventing our hero from getting what they want, even more of an a-hole. When we dislike someone, we are more likely to want the other to succeed.
(Oh, I will leave it to you to decide who the bad guy was in this election.)
 
ACTION ITEM: On a scale of 1-10, how much of a bad guy is your bad guy? Add something to your story that he or she does or has done to make him or her worse.
 
4. Think you know what’s going to happen?
 
This election took more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. And that’s how your story should unfold as well! On Tuesday night, it started out one way, then turned another (which kept people up watching late into the night). Then the next day it turned again when the mail-in vote started coming in. Then one network called Arizona. But others didn’t! And then . . . And then . . . and then!  
 
You have to surprise your audience with moments they can’t predict or EXPECT. Most successful stories follow similar structures. But what happens within that structure to keep your audience engaged is fair game.
 
ACTION ITEM: Count the twists and turns in your story. Then add another one.
 
5. Stretch it out.
 
Yes, people want shorter content in 2020. But as this election shows (as well as Les Miz, Angels in America and The Inheritance), there are ways to keep people watching. If you can keep your audience twisting and turning (see #4), you’ll increase the tension, and be able to stretch your story just a touch more . . . which will give your audience an even bigger release when the curtain comes down.
 
There would have been celebrations of the winner of this election around the world regardless of when the race was called. But I guarantee you, the celebrations would NOT have been as big as they were if the race was called on election night.
 
ACTION ITEM: Where in your story does your hero get what they want? Can you add a “But wait,” moment to delay it a touch more? Be careful!  Make sure your audience truly doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, or they’ll get bored. But if you’ve done your twisting and turning right, this could get you an even bigger celebration at the end of your show.
 
Happy drafting!
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If you want more advice on how to create award-winning stories, don’t listen to me.  Listen to Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award winners, Tony Award winners, and more.  We have them all and 100 other speakers at this weekend’s TheaterMakersSummit in just TWO DAYS!  Get your ticket now. It only takes ONE change in your script to get the attention of a Producer.  Hear what you should do this weekend.  Click here.

There are TWO things you should do today.

It’s November 3rd.  Election Day.

It’s the climax of the biggest political drama of the century.

And today is THE day.

There are two things you should do.

First, the obvious one.  It rhymes with “schmote.”

Been there and done that?  Whether in person or by mail?

Great.  Or should I say, “Schmreat.”

Then on to the second one.

As I said, this is one of the biggest dramas we will see, played out on the biggest stage . . . REAL EFFIN’ LIFE.

So as you watch the results come in.  Think about why this is so dramatic.  What about the characters make you like them?  Hate them?  Root for them?

And as you think about all these things, then ask yourself, “How can I inject just a little bit of the drama from this real life “play” into my own show?”

Because if you can capture 10% of the drama of this Presidential election, you’d have your audiences riveted to their seats.

(Don’t forget to “Schmote!”)

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Curious how the winner of the election will impact making theater in the future?  You’re going to hear a lot about that in just 11 days!  Click here and make sure you don’t miss out on what will no doubt be one of the most interesting TheaterMakers Summits ever.

A few (choice) words from Governor Cuomo (that may sound familiar).

This will be brief.

And it will NOT be a trashy takedown of our Governor. Because he has done a fantastic job facing this monster of a crisis.

No, no. The choice words I have for him are his own

Let me explain . . .

After New York hit the apex, our Governor appealed for aid from the federal government.

And every day he expressed frustration at how Congress was talking about diving up the money.

His argument was simple . . . More money should go to the states that suffered the most.

He even got into Twitter fights about it.

And of course, he was right. The people who hurt the most should get the most help.

So, Governor (and Honorable Mayor de Blasio, as well), I hope that logic will apply to Broadway and the theater as well.

See, the theater is one of the hardest hit industries in our city, our state . . . and on the damn planet. There is no curbside pick-up for the theater. No take-out. No 50% occupancy.

It’s all or nothing. And for the foreseeable future, it’s nothing.

When you give the green light for New York to enter ‘Stage 4 on Monday’ (cross fingers), theater doors will remain shut.

And almost 100,000 actors, musicians, stagehands, and more will remain out of work.

Like New York state, these individuals suffer the most.

And, at the same time, these individual are part of an industry that has an economic impact of $14.7 billion a year.

So, using your logic, shouldn’t the industry that is suffering the most, yet providing the most, get the most?

Isn’t this the same as you telling the fed that New York should get the most, because it paid the most to federal coffers?

You know why this blog can be brief?

Because what you said makes so much sense.

And now it makes sense for us.

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Interested in hearing more about how Broadway and the theater comes back?  Last chance to join the 3 Part video series that started earlier this week.  But the 3rd video – about safety in the era of coronavirus – is still to come!  And when you sign up, you get access to the other vids as well.  Click here.

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