Podcast Episode 170 – Literary Agent, Max Grossman

Agents get a bad rap.  They’re like lawyers and IRS agents.

But they’re nothing like those folks.

I can’t imagine that an IRS agent gets into this business because he or she loves taxes.

But agents, especially those in the theater, are all here for the same reason you and I are here . . . they love the theater.

Max Grossman, an agent for writers and designers at the powerful but still boutique Abrams Artists Agency, is a perfect example.  He grew up going to the theater, flirted with sports, and came back to the good side of the force.

We haven’t had many agents on this podcast (just this one so far – who happens to represent me!), partly because some of the agents I asked couldn’t get permission from their higher-ups (which says a lot, don’t you think?).

But when I asked Max, he was happy to sit down and talk about what an agent does as well as . . .

  • How he finds new writers.
  • That awkward but important moment when he has to tell a client he doesn’t love something the client wrote.
  • The art of negotiating as an agent.
  • Why some theater writers succeed in transitioning to film & TV and others don’t… and a tip or two for you if this is something YOU want to do.
  • What he’d tell all Broadway Producers if he had them in a room at once.

Enjoy this convo with Max and let it remind you that even when we’re on “different sides” in this business, we’re still on the same team.

Click here for my podcast with Max!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Episode 165 – Award Winning Writer, Kirsten Childs

If you get a chance, spend some time with Kirsten Childs.

She’s got the kind of energy and passion for the theater (and for life) that is just contagious, as you’ll hear in this podcast.

Kirsten burst onto the scene with the terrific musical, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, and when you listen to this episode you’ll hear how she went from zero to sixty in about 3.8 seconds with her playwriting career, all because of her determination, lack of fear, and that positive attitude of hers.

We also talked about:

  • How she transitioned from a career as an actress to that of a writer.
  • Getting nervous while watching her own work in front of an audience.
  • How are we doing with diversity in the theater . . . and what can we do to improve it, on the stage and off?
  • The most common misstep she sees young writers make.
  • Where she gets her ideas, and why (a lesson for all of us).

Enjoy my conversation with Kirsten, and if you’ve been toying with the idea of writing a play . . . I’d bet she gets you starting to type right when you’ve finished listening.

Click here for my podcast with Kirsten!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

What theater festivals, grants, and awards can learn from college applications.

I talk to a lot of emerging writers who are eager to get their shows produced or to just get a Producer to read their script (I put a few tips on how to do that in my new “Whiteboard Workshop” series on Facebook this week – which you can watch here).

One of the tips I give to writers is to submit to festivals, enter contests (Jonathan Larson Award, Richard Rodgers Award), apply for grants, etc., because the good housekeeping seal of approval of one of these organizations (or any organization, really) is just another way for your script to stand out from the others.

And every advantage counts.

But this blog isn’t for the writers, it’s for the festivals and awards and anyone seeking scripts for the purpose of advancing our art form or shining a spotlight on undiscovered talent.

See, submitting to all these places is challenging for these artists. I know this because I just asked a whole bunch and they told me exactly that (my favorite question to ask any group I’m speaking is, “What are you struggling with” or “What keeps you up at night,” and then we try to overcome it).

There are a lot of these festivals and awards and such (we keep track of them for our writers in here) . . . and they all have different requirements for submission. That means it takes writers a huge chunk of their day to put together just one application, while most are struggling with their day job, never mind finding time to write. And these smart writers know that the more they apply to, the more chance they have of getting through the gatekeepers.

In the brainstorming session that I had with this group of next-gen writers, I couldn’t help but wonder . . . what if a whole bunch of these grants, festivals, and contests did what colleges did back in the day. In an effort to increase the number of applications (in the hopes of finding even better students), a group of schools agreed to accept a “Common Application,” a simple standardized app that one prospective student could submit to multiple colleges.

Making it easier for writers to submit gives these important artists more of a shot at success, and gives the organizations looking for them a better chance for higher quality and greater diversity.

So if you’re an organization seeking scripts, get together with some others and see if you can simplify the process for our writers. They could use the help.

And if your organization isn’t running a festival or a script competition . . . think about starting one.

K

Episode 163 – Award Winning Playwright, Daniel Goldfarb

I met Daniel Goldfarb back in 1997 when I company managed a workshop of Parade. Daniel was Alfred Uhry’s (who wrote the book) assistant, and I remember people saying . . . “That kid that is booking Alfred’s travel and getting his lunch? He’s going to be a major playwright someday.”

That someday is now, as Daniel’s plays have been produced at every major regional theater in the country, from Williamstown to MTC (more than once) to Playwrights and beyond. I mean, most young playwrights would kill for a show at just ONE of those theaters! He attended both NYU and Julliard and now is on the faculty at NYU.

We had a great time together on this podcast, reminiscing about our days on Parade and also talking about . . .

  • NYU or Julliard . . . which program did he like better?  🙂
  • Why he writes at coffee shops.
  • How he was discovered and how he dealt with the first show not getting all the way to Broadway.
  • Critics . . . why they are important, and what he wishes for theatrical criticism in the future.
  • How he markets himself, and why it’s challenging.

Daniel has already made quite an impact on the NY theater scene and beyond. But just like someone whispered his potential to me years ago, let me be the one to tell you, his success so far is only the beginning.

Enjoy the podcast!

Click here for my podcast with Daniel!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Episode 162 – Five Time Tony Award Nominee, Michael John LaChiusa

Here’s something I bet you’d never guess. Of those five Tony Award nominations that Michael John has on his resume, three of them (that’s more than half if you’re doing the math) are for writing the book of a musical, not for writing the score!

That’s right, the guy you know who has given us some of the most uniquely challenging and boundary-pushing scores like Giant, Marie Christine, and Hello Again does a whole lot more than just write show tunes.

In fact, I’d give him (and I’m sure my peers would agree) the musical theater version of the title of “Auteur,” as he’s given us shows like Hello Again, Marie Christine, The Wild Party and more.

Not only did I learn a bunch during this podcast, but I had a blast talking to Michael John about how he became one of the most talked about musical theater artists of his generation, as well as . . .

  • When people say something can’t be made into a musical, that’s when he gets really interested.
  • A type of musical you’d be surprised that he’d want to write.
  • What he tells his students at NYU most often about writing musicals.
  • How he started his career by cold-calling industry heavyweights and dropping by theaters (everything people tell you not to do).
  • How he feels about being a Tony Nominator

For someone who has given us some of our most significant pieces of theatrical artistry over the last couple of decades, after listening to this podcast, you’ll find Michael John more down to earth than most.

This one is one of my faves.

Click above for my podcast with Michael!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)

Download it here.

 

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