Podcast Episode 196: Actor, Writer, and all around Awesome Inspiration, Susan Blackwell

 

Seeing [Title of Show] in its early days is one of the top 10 theater-going experiences of my life.  It was so obvious that those four funny folks were living their best lives on that stage, as they played themselves trying to make a musical.

I knew all of the performers . . . except one.  Susan Blackwell.  She didn’t have a ton of musical credits.  And her take on life, love and the pursuit of musical theater was a little different than the others.

But by the end of her signature number, “Die Vampire Die,” I just wanted to hang out with her . . . all the time.

Took me a little bit until our paths crossed, but cross they did . . . and with a microphone in front of us!

And lucky you, you now get to e-hang out with her by listening to this podcast, where we talk about:

  • Finding the time to pursue your dream, while working your day job . . . like literally while your boss is standing over your desk as you work on lyrics!
  • What “dollar-cost-averaging” has to do with a career in the theater.
  • Life of a freelance artist and how she structures her day for success.
  • Why being a multi-hyphenate and focusing on many things is important to her, and should be to you too.
  • How did [Title of Show] happen – and what’s it like now watching people play her!

Tune in and enjoy this inspiring artrepreneurial episode and when you’re done, turn that dial over to Susan’s new podcast (created with her wonder twin, Laura Camien), The Spark File, which is now live!

Enjoy!

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

This week’s #SongwriterOfTheWeek is Jacinth Greywoode (@j.greywoode on soundcloud)! Check out “Myrtle’s Lament” at the end of this episode (music by Jacinth and lyrics by Rebecca Hart). If you enjoyed the outro music in this episode, go on over to www.jacinthgreywoode.com/ for more tunes.

No matter where you are in life . . . whether you are just starting out and need a kick start, or you have already achieved a certain level of success and want more, or you’ve been slacking lately (we’ve all been there) and need to get back on track . . . you’ve decided to take your life, your dreams, and your destiny into your own hands . . . literally . . . with this journal. Start your 90-day journey today, visit: http://www.actionjournalforartists.com/

Last minute alert: A Panel about Theater Festivals 2Morrow and more and I’m on it!

Hey Producer’sPerspectivePro readers!

If you’re in the NY area tomorrow, Saturday, September 20th, and are interested in hearing the dos and don’ts of writing, producing or directing a show for a theater festival (like this one), then you must come to this panel, brought to you by The Off Broadway Alliance!

You’ll hear from me (and how we started Rave as well as my experience with producing Altar Boyz the very first year of NYMF) and other festival experts including Producer and General Manager Sharon Fallon (Indecent), Producing Artistic Director of NYMF West Hyler (Paramour, Georama), and writer/director Rebecca Aparicio (Pedro Pan, Gloria: A Life) and Producer Robert Driemeyer (La Cage aux Folles, Tennessee Williams’ The Two-Character Play).

And there will be tons of networking opportunities with other people just like you (and even some free bagels and coffee), so come!

All the details are here.

See you there!

It was all a Rave.

And just like that . . . we’ve wrapped up our first year of Rave.

Our brand new theater festival had its last performance of its inaugural year last night.

And I couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing went.

Let me do what I love to do, and give you some numbers:

  • 19 productions and 3 readings were produced for a total of 101 performances of brand-spankin’ new theater.
  • Over 4,500 audience members attended performances by these emerging TheaterMakers.  4,500!!!
  • Over 200 Artists helped make these shows happen, both on stage, off stage, in the wings, in the booths, and a bunch behind a desk.
  • There were thousands of social media mentions and reviews, resulting in hundreds of thousands of impressions for those Artists.
  • And there was one, very proud founder/Broadway Producer/Blogger.

I had the easy job for this festival.  Seven months ago I had an idea.  And I posed it to my staff, who looked at me a little bug-eyed and then said, “We’re in.”

See, like me, they believe the world is a better place if there’s more theater in it.  So when I said that we should make a festival happen as part of our 5000By2025 mission, to work they went in order to make this festival happen.

And there’s no way it would have happened without them.

Special thanks to Valerie Novakoff, Britt Lafield, Monica Hammond, Mary Dina, Erica Fallon, Emily McGill, Jenna Lazar, Parrish Salyers, and Kellie Williams for their passion and for taking my idea and executing it with excellence to the Nth degree

And to the Producers, Writers, Actors, Designers, Musicians, and all the Artprerenuers who made their shows happen . . . this thing was nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . without you.

Your passion is inspiring.

So inspiring, in fact, that you’ve inspired us to do this again.

Yep, Rave will return next summer.   Rave 2.0 in 2020.  🙂

So sign up here to be the first to know when we’re taking submissions and when the tickets for the next set of shows-to-be will go on sale.

Because if this season proved anything, it’s that there are a whole group of TheaterMakers out there who you may not know today . . . but you will tomorrow.


UPDATE ALERT!  We’ve just announced the winners of our Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Play, and many others:

Outstanding Production

Noirtown by Michael Bontatibus

Outstanding Musical

Just Laugh, with a book and lyrics by Lauren Gundrum and Brandon Lambert, the latter also contributing music.

Outstanding Play

Fancy Maids by Harold Hodge Jr.

Outstanding Performances

PJ Adzima in The Tycoons!
Madeline Grey DeFreece in Fancy Maids
Kayland Jordan in Fancy Maids
Julia Knitel in The Tycoons!
Terra Mackintosh in Back
Amy Penston in Big Shot
Arturo Luis Soria in Ni Mi Madre
Donna Vivino in Waiting For Johnny Depp

Outstanding Ensemble

The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Original Score

Mhairi Cameron, Oceanborn

Outstanding Book of a Musical

Joshua Turchin, The Perfect Fit

Outstanding Direction

Max Friedman, The Tycoons!

Outstanding Choreography

Sally Dashwood, Girls On Tap

Outstanding Design

Back with sound design by Andrew Fox, scenic design by Tim McMath, and lighting design by Greg Solomon

Outstanding Marketing

Oceanborn


Are you a Producer, Writer or other TheaterMaker?  Got a show?  Make it a goal of yours to submit your show for next year’s Rave!  Click here and sign up to know when we’re taking submissions.

Don’t have a show yet?  Start working on one today!  One of the biggest hits of the festival was written AFTER we announced the festival.  12-year-old Joshua Turchin wrote his show just to submit it.  And then this happened.  It can happen to you too.  Click here.

 

Today, we pay respects to the man who gave us Tomorrow, Mr. Martin Charnin.

I loved Annie.

Not just the musical.  I’m talking about Annie herself.

Her name was A***** L*******, and she was the star of our local community theater production of the cartoon-turned-musical.  And she was also my first big crush.

Looking back, my elementary schoolboy Annie attraction wasn’t just because the young lady playing her was super talented and adorable.  I now realize I had fallen in love with the character herself.  How can you not go head-over-heels for an orphan who believes her one dream is “maybe far away or maybe real nearby” and is “never fully dressed without a smile”?  If only we all had that kind of optimism.

The spirit of Annie had a lot to do with the genius of Martin Charnin, the man who not only wrote the lyrics, but also directed the original production (and countless thereafter), secured the original rights, put together the rest of the writing team, and just made the whole effin’ thing happen.

We lost Martin over the weekend, and although I only met him a few times, I wanted to pay tribute to a man who gave us one of the biggest musical successes of the 20th century (Annie is right up there with Cats in terms of recognition) and who had the same never-give-up attitude of the orphan he made so famous.

See, as I was reading his obituary on Playbill, I was reminded that Martin’s first writing credit on Broadway was in 1963 for Hot Spot . . . which ran for 43 performances.  Gulp. Then he wrote Zenda . . . which you’ve also never heard of . . . because the Broadway production was canceled when the show was out of town.

Don’t worry, he went on to do a third show . . . Mata Hari . . . which David Merrick also canceled out of town.  Instead of giving up, he and his composer brought the show to Off-Broadway themselves, under a totally different title.

It wasn’t until 1977 that Annie finally arrived on Broadway . . . 14 years after Martin’s first “failure.”

And I’m sure he’d tell you today that he never would have written “Tomorrow” without all those shows you’ve never heard of that came beforehand . . . and that the only way he wrote it was really, truly believing that the sun WOULD come out tomorrow for Annie . . . and for himself.

The sun has just set on his incredible life and career, although thankfully, his words will echo throughout the halls of theaters for a long time to come.

Martin, I want to say thank you for inspiring me yesterday and continuing to inspire me today . . . as I look to my own tomorrow.


Curious how a show like Annie gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

Did you know Judge Judy makes $47 million a year? Here’s why.

Judge Judy hands out judgments to plaintiffs and defendants for a few thousand dollars here and there.

Meanwhile, she is raking in 47 million dollars a year.

Hard to believe, I know, and there was even a lawsuit about it.  But the sharp-tongued, impatient-with-idiots jurist who has been on the televised small claims court bench for 23 (!) years has proved she was worth every single penny.

$47 million.  A-freakin’ year.

Makes you want to go to law school and yell at some people who let their dogs bark too much or pee in their neighbor’s jacuzzi but won’t pay to have it cleaned.

So, why is she worth all that moolah, especially when the average salary in the US is only $56 . . . thousand?

Yes, she’s a unique character.  Yes, she says what a lot of people are thinking but would never say out loud.  Yes, the alliteration of her name makes it fun to say.

But she wouldn’t earn all that money if the show wasn’t earning even more . . . a lot more.

And why is that?

The reason the show is so popular is because . . . it’s a courtroom drama.

Courtroom dramas are one of the most popular forms of drama in theater, movies, and yep, TV.  It’s one of the reasons Law & Order has run for so long and had 174 spinoffs (not to mention why there are always new legal-eagle shows every year . . . since the days of Perry Mason and Matlock).

It’s one of the reasons To Kill A Mockingbird is raking it in at the Broadway box office and one of the reasons the book has captivated millions for decades.

Speaking of books, what about John Grisham’s success?  His books are all courtroom dramas.

Then, of course, there’s 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men, Inherit The Wind, Witness for the Prosecution, and on and on and on . . .

People love them some courtroom drama.

So, what’s the action item for you based on Judge Judy’s paycheck?

Well, go out and create a courtroom drama would be the easy one.  🙂

But even if your show isn’t a courtroom drama, you can still add elements of a CD to make it more attractive to audiences, like . . .

1. A clear Protagonist and Antagonist.

In a CD, it’s very clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy, or at least what the two sides are.  In the vast number of scripts I read, one of the biggest mistakes I see writers make is not making it clear who is on both sides of the conflict.

2. A clear conflict and a clear want.

Judge Judy gets to the bottom of what the issue is and fast.  Peeing in a jacuzzi, letting your Pit Bull eat your landlord’s roses, etc.  And we know exactly what the Plaintiff wants . . . for the Defendant to “pay.”  It’s so simple, it makes it easy for audiences to digest and follow.  If you clarify your conflict and objective in your story, audiences will dig in even deeper.

3. A clear resolution.

At the end of any day in court, there is a clear winner and loser . . . which ties up the conflict neatly.  Now, there can be plenty of ripples from that resolution that give the audience even more to think about (which is what the best art does), but the conflict is always resolved to a specific solution.  And that solution is usually revealed in a dramatic and suspenseful way . . . sometimes even with the strike of a gavel!

While your show may not be a literal courtroom drama, it should still be structured with the same principles if you want the kind of audience (and paycheck) that Judge Judy gets.

Oh, and another takeaway . . . someone needs to ask Ms. Judy if she wants to invest in a Broadway show.  🙂


Looking to add some drama to your drama?  Click here for how we can help get your script ready for a stage.

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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