Katori Hall wins Pulitzer Prize for The Hot Wing King

In case you missed the news last week, there was indeed a winner this year for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama!

(There have been several years where the award was not given – and in a year where there wasn’t a lot of theater as we usually know it – there was some worry that it’d get skipped again.)

But nope.  We have a winner!

Katori Hall’s play The Hot Wing King, “the story of two gay black men in Memphis, Tennessee navigating love, life, and family” picked up one of the most coveted awards in the world, the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The show opened at Signature Theater Company in February 2020 before being postponed, but was still granted eligibility for this year’s prize.

(Hall has had a busy couple of years – penning the book (and getting a Tony nomination) for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.  And she was the Executive Producer and Showrunner for P-Valley on Starz, based on her play.  Oh, and she also appeared on my livestream – click here to watch that video).

Another interesting tid bit about this year’s awards was that one of the finalists was a “streamed” production – Patrick Foley and Michael Breslin’s Circle Jerk. 

So yes, my theatermakin’ friends and theatermakin’ fans, streaming is here to stay.

Congrats to Katori, and all the finalists . . . and, well, anyone that got their play off the ground in the past 12 months.  You all deserve awards, just for making it happen.

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Watch my interview with Katori Hall here.

What Broadway Shows Are Opening Back Up And When (So Far) (Updated 5/14/21)

On May 5, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that Broadway shows can return to performances with a full capacity as of September 14, 2021. Though we have not heard from the unions, theatre owners, and producers on their specific safety plans they’re putting into place, the following shows have announced their reopening dates (or for a few . . . their Opening Nights!).

 

SIX 

First Performance: September 17, 2021

Opening Night: October 3, 2021

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PHANTOM ON THE OPERA

First Performance: October 22, 2021

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AIN’T TOO PROUD

First Performance: October 16, 2021

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DIANA

First Performance: November 2, 2021

Opening Night: November 17, 2021

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JAGGED LITTLE PILL

First Performance: October 21, 2021

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CHICAGO

First Performance: September 14, 2021

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MRS. DOUBTFIRE

First Performance: Oct 21, 2021

Opening Night: December 5, 2021

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COME FROM AWAY

First Performance: September 21, 2021

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COMPANY

First Performance: December 20, 2021

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WICKED

First Performance: September 14, 2021

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THE LION KING

First Performance: September 14, 2021

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HAMILTON

First Performance: September 14, 2021

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CAROLINE, OR CHANGE

First Performance: October 8, 2021

Opening Night: October 27, 2021

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TINA

First Performance: October 8, 2021

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ALADDIN

First Performance: September 28, 2021

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MJ

First Performance: December 6, 2021

Opening Night: February 1, 2022

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MOULIN ROUGE

First Performance: September 24, 2021

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DEAR EVAN HANSEN

First Performance: December 11, 2021

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FLYING OVER SUNSET

First Performance: November 4, 2021

Opening Night: December 6, 2021

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Watch this space and my social for updates to this list as more Broadway shows announce their reopening dates.

Two Things YOU Can Do To Get Theater Back FASTER (and one thing Broadway can do).

Over the past 48 hours, there has been a rising tide of positive sentiment about the return of the theater.

From the announcement on the Six twitter page to Chris Jones’ enthusiastic article in the Chicago Tribune, it feels like the Fall return for Broadway is for reals.

But there are two things that you can do to help get Broadway and theater back even faster . . . and one BIG thing Broadway can do.

Here’s what you can do.

Ready?

1.  Get vaccinated.

2.  Tell everyone you know to get vaccinated.

Simple, I know, but keep reading.

See, it’s clear to me (and has been for months) that Broadway will not return until the majority of the audience, if not the country/world, is vaccinated.

While other industries (e.g. professional sports) and even cities (e.g. Las Vegas) may come back sooner, that’s not going to be us. We don’t have the resources, the appetite for new technology, or even the government urging to get back faster.

We’ve always been, and always will be a giant steamship of an industry.  Our engines are old. We have many different types of personnel that don’t agree on how to sail the ship. And that makes it hard for us to avoid icebergs.

But rather than have our steamship sit idle in the water, there is something every theater owner, Broadway show, Off-Broadway show, union, ticketing site, etc, should do and should do now.

Since we CAN’T market our return just yet (since that return date is still TBD), I WOULDN’T market our return.

Instead, I’d turn all our marketing to “getting out the vaccination.” (We encourage people to vote, why wouldn’t we do this?)

If I was running the marketing department for all of the theater (insert evil laugh here), I’d ask every show to email their subscribers to tell them to get vaccinated. I’d ask those shows to post about it on social media, telling their fans that their favorite show will be back when they get vaccinated. And to share that message with their friends.

I’d create a “Got your vaccination?” campaign like “Got milk?”

But shows aren’t the only entities that should do this.  I’d tell every theater around the country to do the same. In EVERY state (especially those where hesitancy is a thing). Big regional houses, small community theaters, high schools, etc.

We all have one thing in common . . . we all need an audience. And that audience needs to be vaccinated.

I’d ask Telecharge to do it to send out a message to their millions of ticket buyers. I’d ask Ticketmaster to do it.

I’d ask everyone to do it. (My Streaming Stage Company list is going to do it – so if you’re signed up for that, you’ll see it coming.)

And by pushing vaccinations, we’d earn a few brownie points with the federal, state, and local governments, who are desperately trying to get this message out.

Oh, and double bonus . . . in addition to helping get Broadway back faster?  We’d also save some lives.  So there’s that.

So . . . . ask yourself . . . how can you spread the word (so we don’t spread the virus!).

If you want a social graphic that you can share, visit my Instagram and steal it.  Just promise to share it.

We’re gonna come back. But we CAN come back faster, and with bigger audiences, the faster the world gets vaccinated.

The health of our industry depends on it.

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Need info about how to get vaxxed?  Click here for full resources.


 

Will Broadway come back to fewer shows per week?

If my blog were a person, he’d be feelin’ pretty old right now.

Because I’m about to go way back in time.
In 2007 (!), 14 years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “8 Shows A What” which questioned why the 8-show-a-week model even existed.

I wrote the blog because I was producing Off-Broadway at the time and it was painfully clear that there wasn’t enough demand for 8 shows a week. So using the Actors Equity “Per Performance” contract, we were able to keep shows running for a much longer period of time, and therefore keep people employed for a much longer period of time.

 And here’s some case study data for you:

The shows that did less than 8 shows a week were more commercially successful than the shows that did 8.

You can read the blog here.  Reminder, it is 14 years old.  I like to think I’m a better blogger now.  But you’ll tell me, I’m sure. 🙂

Why am I rubbing my blog’s age in his old face?

Because this past week, news broke (by Philip Boroff again) that one of the ideas on the table between Producers and the Unions is the concept of a pro-rated return.

 In other words, some shows might come back for 7 shows a week or 5 or. . . . whatever they can agree on.

 And yes, that’d mean a pro-rated salary as well.

 Fewer shows per week, allows you to reduce other expenses as well.  You don’t have to spend as much advertising to fill 5 shows as you do 8.  You shouldn’t (!) have to pay as much rent (this was what made the Off-Broadway model work).

 So, since we know that demand is going to be less when Broadway comes back (due to the fact that tourism won’t be at the levels we need to support 8 shows a week for so many shows – and locals are still not wanting to go out on a Tuesday night), I believe pro-rating is a “makes sense” solution for our first step back.

 Provided that everyone gets on the pro-rating page, of course.  This comeback means every party pitching in to make this work, from unions to producers to accountants and managers and . . . everyone.

 But if it worked, pro-rating could get MORE shows back and FASTER, because there will be less risk for returning or new shows. They will not only be exposed to less risk, but they’ll be more likely to fill a house, provided a better experience for the audience and those on stage as well.

Want more news like this? Join the TheaterMakers Facebook Group and connect with more theatermakers like you.

The answer I HOPE to hear when I ask ticket buyers what got them to buy a ticket.

As the theater comes crawling back to life, marketing is going to be more important than ever.

Every dollar we spend, and every dollar that comes back, is going to be 10x as important as it was. We’re all going to have a bunch of startups. And startups demand more attention to details than ever before.

I’m a big believer in audience research. I became obsessed when I attended a focus group about the Bernadette Peters revival of Gypsy I worked on in 2002. (Some of the people we talked to didn’t realize it was a different production from the Tyne Daly Gypsy from the early 90s!  It taught me that just because you eat, sleep and breathe your show and all of Broadway, doesn’t mean your audience does!)

The most important question to ask your audience is the following:

How did you hear about “INSERT NAME OF SHOW”?

That’s it. So if you WANT to do research but DON’T want to do complicated surveys or focus groups, you can learn a ton with JUST that one question.

Tracking the path your customers take to buying a ticket is how to understand . . .

1 – What is working . . . so you can double down on it

2 – What isn’t working . . . so you can turn it off.

So what’s the one answer I LOVE to get every time I ask this question?

When I started out and needed an ego boost, I LOVED hearing that the customer heard about my show through an advertising buy I authorized (a billboard, etc.), or through a marketing stunt I came up with.

But then I realized that my favorite answer was . . .

“I don’t know.”

This meant two things:

1. It meant that they most likely heard about it through word of mouth, which is the most important form of advertising.  It’s the most effective, and it’s the cheapest.  Getting WOM, especially in an industry with challenging economics like Broadway, is essential for the show to survive.

2. Not knowing what morsel of marketing got them to buy a ticket means your marketing is working under the radar.  And that’s the best form of marketing. It’s working without them knowing it’s working. It’s branding.

Now, unfortunately, there is no quick hack to getting this kind of response.

You have to do great work . . . and do it for a long time.

And that’s the quickest way to NOT be a hack.

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If you’re looking for marketing tips, check out the marketing course included with your membership in The TheaterMakers Studio.


 

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