About Ben Brantley: Something I Never Thought I’d See or Say.

Producers, Actors, Directors have been whispering about it for years . . .
 
When will Ben Brantley give up his post?
 
Some have asked it with urgent desperation, as if a new Times critic would be the end to their theatrical drought. (It’s so easy to blame critics when things don’t go your way – but negative reviews and/or positive reviews are never what decides your fate.)
 
I asked Ben the same question when he appeared on my podcast. Even back then, he had already occupied his important theater seat longer than most.
 
“How long will you keep doing this?”
 
His answer? He told me he was going to keep doing it and saw no reason to stop.
 
And I remember thinking . . . “Good.”
 
I know, I know, that response surprised even me, but keep reading.
 
Last week, Ben finally saw a reason to stop. On Friday, the Times announced he was stepping down from his post as the Chief Drama Critic for the New York Times. Another casualty of the pandemic.
 
Ben was a tough critic, no question. But I’m going to miss him, something I never thought I’d even think, never mind say.
 
Because I learned something on that podcast he did with me. We had something in common. We both loved theater more than anything.
 
It’s common to think critics hate the theater, since they wake up in the morning and 50% of the time (or more), their duty is to be negative.
 
And for some, it’s obvious that the love of tearing people down gets them out of bed.
 
But for Ben, it was clear that what drove him to rant or rave was because he loved the theater so @#$%ing much. He celebrated when a show got the fanboy in him to jump up and down. And he sliced a show to shreds when he wanted more for the art. (And he was often right! Including on some of my shows!) It was tough love. I often saw his negative reviews like a conversation with a boss or parent or friend who was critiquing you only because they knew you could do better. And he SO wanted that!
 
And when he loved something – boy oh boy could you see the joy on his face . . . just by reading what he wrote! (And even if you weren’t a fan of his taste, no one can argue what a writer he was. He turned a phrase as well as any dramatist I know.)
 
My love and respect for what he did inspired me to create a website all around him! (Which I sold years ago because I couldn’t take any more calls from Producers asking me to change the thumbs up/thumbs down rating the website staff came up with.)
 
So yes, I’m going to miss his stuff. And I’m going to miss him.
Because regardless of whether I agreed with him or not, I always enjoyed reading his “drama.” And I always knew that he did what he did out of a love and passion shared by all who work in the theater.
 
– – – –
 
P.S. The only good news about the curtain coming down on the Brantley era is that the Times has an opportunity. One of the most important seats in the entire world of theater is open. It’s a position of influence. It can change the art form. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fill this theater seat with the voice of someone from a community who hasn’t had the chance to use their voice? (To be Ben Brantley-like clear – I’m saying that the NY Times should take a cue from Joe Biden. The new Co-Chief Theater Critic should be a female person of color. Period. Yes, the future should be DidSheLikeIt.com.)
 
 

I should have known this was coming. Because all the cool kids are doing it.

Want a quick tip on how to tell what’s next in all things online?

Watch what the kids are doing.

Especially when it comes to social media.

Because here’s what happens:

  1. Kids find the latest and greatest social media platform.
  2. After some time, the parents of the kids find the same social media platform.
  3. When the moms and dads join, the kids jump to the next social media platform, like fleas to a new dog.

This process has repeated itself over and over again, since Friendster and MySpace.

Once moms got on MySpace, the kids jumped to Facebook, which was originally built ONLY for kids. Then came Twitter. Then Insta. And now, of course, TikTok.

And lately, the kids have been up to something else which is a precursor of what’s to come to the mainstream audience (and has been accelerated because of the pandemic).

If you watched my livestream with Jordan Fisher, you know what I’m talking about.

In the early part of the video, Jordan schooled me on Twitch – the YouTube-like streaming platform populated mostly by gamers who stream the video games they play (sometimes all day), and kids watch.

But there is something else the kids do.

They pay for the privilege of watching their idols do their stuff.

They subscribe. They give tips. They give gifts.

And the most popular streamers? They make a very good living.  In fact, the top streamer in the world earns an estimated $400k-800k+ . . . PER MONTH. Others earn $100k per month! Yeah, over $1m a year!  From playing video games! (And being unique personalities, of course.)

Ok, ok, those are the top streamers, but even the “average pro” on Twitch earns $5000 per month . . . just by doing what they love to do. (And remember – all that money is coming from subscribers whose average age is 21!)

If you go back and watch Jordan tell me all about this world, you can literally see my eyes widen because, in this one livestream, I saw tomorrow. And it’s because of what the kids are doing today.

The takeaway?

People are willing to pay for streamed content.

And not just filmed productions like Hamilton or my Daddy Long Legs.

And yes, if kids are doing it, then it’s going to tip into a massive new market for all sorts of artists and content creators.  (I’m already hearing some amazing success stories of musicians and TheaterMakers experimenting with paid streams – and having surprising success.)

And while yes, to make a lot of money artists are going to need to have a following. But Chris Anderson’s Long Tail theory will apply . . . meaning that any artist of any kind WILL be able to find an audience . . . the size of that audience will just vary.

Once again, the kids are showing us the way. And it’s coming at the perfect time, because our TheaterMakers need another way to earn a living until the live stage comes roaring back.

This transition from the free to paid model is not going to happen overnight, but the quicker we start introducing paid streaming opportunities, the quicker we train our audiences that art online (even if that’s a unique personality playing a video game) ain’t free.

Don’t believe me that we can make the transition?

Remember when people only listened to music for free from Napster and Limewire?  And then came iTunes?  And you think Spotify, Pandora or AmazonMusic exist because of the free versions? People pay for it.  Who probably thought they would never pay for music . . . ever.

So yes, paid streaming of all different shapes and sizes is coming.

And if you’re a TheaterMaker you’re at a very unique time in history . . . because there’s an opportunity to be seized.  Like being offered to buy stock in Amazon in 1998. (I was – I passed – never a-effin’-gain.)

So what can you do to get in on this?

Well first, if you’re a TheaterGoer and you see a TheaterMaker doing something with a price tag attached (and it’ll be much less than a live ticket – because they have to be), considering paying.  You’ll be helping a TheaterMaker.  And TheaterMakers?  Help your peers.  Attend their shows.  Support and you’ll be supported.

But if you want more specifics, then here are my three giant takeaways for TheaterMakers that you MUST do to get on the ground floor of the paid streaming revolution that is coming.

  1.  Build a following. You need your own tribe, your own fans, your own community to have a successful career in streaming your art. (That tribe can be any size, but you need to know where they are and be able to communicate with them daily – and yes, social media is great, but nothing beats email.
  2. Stream something. Anything. Start experimenting. Plays. Concerts. One person shows. Try to make it a unique experience for the streaming market so it feels created for it.
  3. Repeat.  Keep doing different things until you find what works for YOU. And after a while you will find something that supports your live stage work. Wouldn’t that be nice?

As you can tell, I’m bullish about this. And you’re going to see me experimenting with a lot of different streaming stuff over the next six months. Some will work. Much of it won’t. But I will learn. Because I need to. We all do.

And if you want to learn more about how to stream successfully, whether that’s a Zoom reading, a filmed production or more, check out this resource we pulled together.  It’ll answer all your questions and get you started fast.

Click here.

UPDATED 9/10/20 @ 6:52 PM!

Breaking news . . . the Pulitzer Prize committee just announced that virtual shows will be eligible for the Pulitzer!!!  I mean, I told you I was on to something.  🙂  Yet  another reason to learn how to stream your show.  It has arrived.

Click here to learn how to stream your show now.

 

Tonight on the Livestream: The Choreographer of Moulin Rouge and More, Sonya Tayeh

Tell me if you’ve been here before . . .

You’re watching a show (ok, ok, I know it’s been a while, but think back) . . . and while you’re watching you become so amazed at what you’re seeing that you just can’t wait until the number is over so you can flip pages through your Playbill to find out just who is responsible for what you just saw.

That was me. During Moulin Rouge. Watching the bursting-off-the-stage choreography.

The answer to my question (“Who the @#$% choreographed this awesomeness”) was of course, Sonya Tayeh.

The next question I asked after reading her ridiculously long bio was, “Where have I been hiding that I didn’t know this person before?”

I’m making up for that now as Sonya will be appearing on my livestream tonight!

Dance is one of the elements of musical theater I know the least about so I’m excited to learn from Sonya . . . and to see what she’s been up to since Corona came to town.

Join me and her and a very special “Something To Make You Smile!”

Here’s how:

You can watch on my Facebook, on my Twitter, on Broadway Podcast Network’s Youtube Channel, and on Broadway on Demand.

– – – – –

You can catch me every TUESDAY at 8pm EDT (7pm CDT/ 6pm MDT/ 5pm PDT).

To learn more about our guests and to support The Actors Fund, visit www.TheProducersPerspective.com/LIVE.

[In Memoriam] Broadway Comes Together in Song For Nick Cordero.

This has been a tough time for Broadway.  We lost shows.  We lost jobs.

And sadly, we lost some of our “great ones,” including Nick Cordero.

Nick’s story broke hearts all over Broadway and all over the world.  As I wrote here, I didn’t know him that well.  I met him only a few times at an industry function or two.

But I do remember feeling his “live your life” spirit in his handshake and thinking, “This is a guy I’d like to get to know better.”

That is one of the reasons he was on the shortlist for a show of mine about nine months ago.

That is one of the reasons I was cheering him on from here in what would be the fight of his life against this b@#$% of a virus.

And that is one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to produce the tribute video below along with my friends at Situation Interactive and . . . well . . . just about everyone in the Broadway community.

We knew we had to do something to show his family how much the community cared.  And this is what we came up with.

It premiered at Nick’s memorial service on Broadway On Demand earlier this evening, and now, we share it with you . . . because he shared so much of his talent, spirit and love, with all of us.

Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this, including Jeremy Kraus, David Holmes, Matt Yaeger, Stephanie Sciandra, Glenn Slater, Alan Menken, Chazz Palminteri, Doug Besterman, Ron Melrose, Meg Zervoulis, Scott Riesett and the incredible Cordero Choir (the long list of names is in the credits).

This one is for Nick.

And if this video touches you, please consider donating to Save The Music Foundation by texting ‘CORDERO’ to 41444, the charity chosen by Amanda Kloots for his memorial.

 

[WINNERS!] And the Dr. Kenny Scholarship Fund Recipients Are…

Because of the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to give my dad a proper farewell.  There was no funeral, no memorial, and no celebration of his life.

Someday in 2021, God willing, I will honor his wishes and travel to his home country of India and scatter his ashes in the Ganges River. (My prayers are with our relatives in Mumbai as their battle with the virus rages on.)

Until then, I’ve got the next best thing to a celebration of his life . . . because nothing, absolutely nothing, made my dad happier than encouraging young people.

That’s why I started the “Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund” and the “Dr. Kenny Scholarship”. I wanted my Dad’s spirit to continue to be able to say “GO FOR IT” to young people pursuing a career in the arts . . . especially when it’s more difficult than ever to get out of the gate.

I was overwhelmed by the number of high-quality applicants for our first year of this gift and boy oh boy, picking FINALISTS was harder than producing a Broadway show, never mind picking two winners!

But I did. And I am pleased to introduce them to you below.

Both of these Art-treprenurs will receive:

What they’ve agreed to do:

  • Ask questions along the way so we can help.
  • Keep us updated along their journey to success.
  • Honor my Dad’s name.
  • And kick some theatrical butt.

Please meet the inaugural recipients of the first annual Dr. Kenny Encouragement Fund Scholarship! Congrats both!  And know my dad is smiling HUGE today!

– – – – –

Marelisse Navarro-Sanabria
Student of the Arts

School: Cornish College of the Arts
Major: Theater with a Concentration in Acting
Year: Freshman

What makes her special as a theatermaker: Her teachers describe her as an energetic and enthusiastic leader who is a positive influence on those around her.

What are your long-term career goals/aspirations?:

“Only by telling our story do people see the real us. I have always considered acting to be storytelling and as an actor I recognize that I do serve as one of many bridges between the Hispanic community and American media. My goal as an actress is to accurately depict and share these stories in the best way I can. And to do that I must continue to strengthen and improve my acting skills. Education is fundamental.”

Quote:

“The entertainment industry is constantly evolving to portray all walks of life. As a woman of color this award aids in getting my story told and I’m more than thankful. This has been a difficult time for everyone but, there are two constants in life that calm me. One, time will carry on. Two, art will always persevere. Art illuminates the hope in times of pain and struggling. Art shows us we’re not alone. Art is humanity. So to every artist, keep persevering and don’t let anything stop your story from being told.”

 

Germono Toussaint
Composer, Playwright and Producer

Recent works include:
Surviving Together (short musical, 2019)
• Created with Music Theater Factory (MTF) and performed at MTF’s High Five Celebration
Sonny’s Song (full-length two-act play, 2018)
• Read as part of the National Black Theater’s Keep Soul Alive reading series
• Developed at the Sheen Center as part of an artist residency
• Developed with Rhymes Over Beats as part of an artist residency
Divine Retribution (short play, 2017)
• Performed as part of the NY Madness play festival

What makes him special as a theatermaker: Despite facing setbacks related to the effects of the pandemic, he is currently developing three complex and deeply personal new works rooted in his African American culture and heritage.

What are your long-term career goals/aspirations?:

“My long-term goal is to make a living doing what fulfills me creatively and to put all of my energy into what I was put on this earth to do. It is my hope that what fulfills me creatively will also educate, uplift, challenge, transform, and possibly even heal others. I want to make a living by creating plays, musicals, movies, and music. I also make a great effort to remain a person of character, live an authentic life, and to seek truth in all that I do.”

Quote:

“Three things I have learned as an independent artist in NYC:
1. Your gifts, your struggles, and your purpose, are all divinely connected.
2. What is for you, is for you.
3. You are here for a reason. The world needs what you have to give.”

– – – – – –

If you’d like to help with my Dad’s mission and support emerging artists and art-treprenuers, please click here, or email me.  The Fund’s 501c3 status is in process.

 

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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