3 Things I Learned from The Presidential Debate

The race for the White House is one of the most “dramatic” events out there.  And if you think there are a lot of Producers on Broadway shows, imagine how many “Producers” there are of these two campaigns.  With those kinds of similarities to what we do, you can bet I tuned in to what was being said (and what was not being said) to see what I could learn from the two men that squared off on Wednesday night.

Here are three things I picked up from the Presidential debate:

1.  People Like A Fight

About 50 Million People tuned in to the debate.  I don’t have the stats, but I’d bet that a large chunk of that 50 mill has already made up their mind on who they are going to vote for (which is why the statistics say that debates don’t affect the outcome of elections) . . . but they tune in anyway.  Why?  They want to watch the good guy (whoever that is to that person) fight the bad guy.  It’s classic dramatic structure . . . protagonist versus antagonist.  A reminder to the dramatists out there to clearly define your characters, and also that mano-a-mano verbal sparring can be thrilling, even when we don’t understand half of what the characters are saying.  As long as we are rooting for them to beat the bad guy, we’re along for the ride.

2.  Take a Spinning Class

The greatest debaters are the ones that know how to morph the answer to the posed question into whatever talking point they want to push that day.  There is nothing more awkward than a bad spin.  But watching a politician do it well, is like listening to Patti LuPone sing “Meadowlark.”  You just say to yourself, “How do they do that!?”  Or better yet, you don’t even know they do it all.  As a Producer and a Marketer, getting the message you want out both in marketing but more importantly in the Press, takes master spinners.  And boy were both boys spinning hay into gold on Wednesday.

3.  You gotta know when to Break the Rules.

The first three minutes of every debate I’ve ever watched included a prologue by the (dry) moderator  who talked about the very strict format including how much time each candidate will have for their statements, and how these rules and regs were “agreed upon by both parties” in question.  And then I watched both candidates break those rules all night long.  And you know what?  If they’re not annoying about it, if it’s not egregious, it can be effective.  Getting ahead in business, especially when facing steep competition, is knowing when you have to color outside the lines.
There are two more Presidential Debates and one more for the VPs.  You can bet your deficit I’ll be tuning in . . . not only to watch the next leader of our nation, but also to pick up some tips on how I can lead my next production.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXXV: A Republican’s Thoughts on Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, readers.

This important national holiday celebrates the incredible contributions that workers of all different trades and skills have made to the development of this country.

In an industry like the theater, our “workers” (what a crap name) are essential to the development of our art form, as the skill, passion, and ingenuity of actors, stagehands, designers, etc. are what help us to push the boundaries of our medium, and keep thrilling audiences year after year.  They are the fuel of the theatrical industry.  Without them, we would go nowhere.

Labor and organized labor specifically often get a bad clichéd rap (don’t feel bad, unions, Producers get one, too).  But on days like this, it’s important to remember that this country was built on a system of checks and balances . . . and that goes for our industries as well.

And as this Republican (!) once said . . .

If a man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. There is no America without labor, and to fleece the one is to rob the other.
– Abraham Lincoln

Over the last twelve months, I’ve had a lot of people working with me on a variety of projects all over the world, as well as in my office . . . some in unions, some not.  But all are passionate about the theater.

And to each and every one of them I say thank you. Thank you for helping me to continue to pursue my dreams as you pursue yours.  Hopefully, together, we will make all of those dreams come true.

Happy Labor Day.


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Crowdfunding gets one step closer . . .

When I first started my plans for Godspell, I could have only dreamed that there might one day be legislation that would make it easier for startups from all different industries to have easier ways to access capital to get their shows/businesses off the ground.

If you’ve been following the blog, then you know I’ve been following this issue very closely.  In December, I reported that the House of Representatives approved a bill that would actually make crowdfunding possible, without making the entrepreneur jump through too many regulatory hoops and without paying unnecessary legal fees (that just waste valuable startup resources that could be spent on, you know, things like marketing that could actually keep the business running longer and therefore keep more people employed.)

Let me again be clear and say how important I think certain amounts of regulation are in order to protect potential investors . . . but, well, to put it simplistically, it has always seemed a little crazy to me that as casinos pop-up all over creation, any individual, no matter how much money they make, or where they live, can gamble away their life savings without a question . . . but if your Uncle wanted to raise money for a restaurant, you might be restricted from investing in that restaurant.  If that’s not an example of more power to the 1%, I don’t know what is.

You can read that December update here, but the upshot was that the bill passed through the House faster than Producers make it to the podium when they win Best Musical.

Flash forward to this week, and . . . well, the bill has been renamed the JOBS Act, and has been approved by the Senate (with a couple of amendments) and went back to the House, where it was also reapproved . . . and now, gulp, gulp, is on its way to the White House for signature.

And, well, I’d bet the capitalization of Spider-Man that Obams is going to sign this thing faster than . . . well faster than Producers make it to the podium when they win Best Musical. (I tried to think of another analogy, but frankly, there is just nothing faster than Producers racing to the podium when they win Best Musical.)

It’s a little premature to predict the effects this law will have on our industry (capital limits will restrict most of us from being able to use the structure), but the effects on entrepreneurship will be awesome.

You can read the update from the Times here, which includes this awesome quote from the House Majority Leader:

“The bipartisan JOBS Act represents an increasingly rare legislative victory in Washington where both sides seized the opportunity to work together, improved the bill and passed it with strong bipartisan support.”

Bipartisan support.  How often do you hear that lately?

I’ll be sure to let you know when this sucker is a law.


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Broadway and Politics have a lot in common when it comes to social media.

Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about how to produce shows are from watching how other high risk industries deal with similar issues.  Airlines and perishable inventory.  Sports and VIP experiences.  Restaurants and customer retention.  Etc.

I’ve written about Producers and Politicians before in this post, and I’m sure with only T-minus 8 months and counting before the big contest in November, I’ll write about them again.

But until then, you’ve got to watch this video about the resistance to social media in the political space.  I swear, you could just overdub the words “politicians” with “producers” or “politics” with “Broadway” and the video would be absolutely relevant to our biz.

Any of this sound familiar . . .

“I don’t know what that is, quit using it.”

“That’s not how (we) do it.”

“(Politics) is such a lagging issue when it comes to technology.”

“They are very reluctant to try anything that is untested. They want to stick with the things that have been working for the last 30 years.”

Watch the video.  It’s pretty hysterical how similar we are.

Now, in their defense and in ours, social media and new technology are still a young(er) person’s game (and when I say young, I mean under 40, because I still haven’t crossed the 4-0 threshold yet, so I’m holding on to young as long as I can).  And the fact is that younger voters do not make up the majority of our voters.  That puts more of the decision in the older folks’ hands (and when I say older, I mean 65 plus, which gives me another quarter century).  Same with theater.  The majority of our buyers aren’t tweeting up a storm or figurin’ out foursquare.


But they will be tomorrow, so it’s important all of us invest in it today.  Because other industries are.

What’s going to change our resistance to technology?  Well, we need a lot of passionate people, just like bow-tie wearing Wesley, who is the first person to speak in the vid, who almost falls out of his chair with his desire to get politics into the 21st century.

We need more of those guys in our biz too.

I’m betting that if you’re reading this, you could be one of them.

So do us all a favor, fall out of your chair.  But forget about the bowtie.  That was so me in 1988.
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Potential presidents can teach us something.

The Presidency of the United States could be one of the most valuable things in the world, which is why millions and millions and billions of dollars are spent on advertising and marketing, trying to win YOUR vote.

And when you’ve got such a prized possession on the line, that advertising and marketing better be damn good.

I watch presidential politics very closely . . . 1, because I care where our country is headed, and 2, because I learn so much from watching the candidates’ every move.

Here’s my marketing tip of the day.

Sign up to receive President Obama’s email newsletter, and Mitt’s and even Newt’s.  See what they are doing to get you involved . . . and get you to give money.  Check out the subject lines in their emails.  Check out how they get you to tell your friends to get involved.  Check out how they involve you in online activities and offline activities.

Presidential politicians are all some of the best salesmen and women in the world . . . because what they are competing for is so unbelievably valuable.

And the marketing lessons we can learn from them are even more valuable.

Because let’s face it . . . most of what they’re selling is bullsh*t . . . and they actually get people to buy it.


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