Favorite Quotes Vol. XXVI: How to get young audiences to see your show.

It’s been 9 months since the theater-owner line up was shaken up big time when young gun, Jordan Roth, was called up to head the Jujamcyn Organization.

New York Magazine checked in on the young turk in a fantastic feature published a week or so ago, that describes how Jordan plans to take the theater into the 21st century (yes, I know we’re technically already in the 21st century, but the theater has a habit of lagging behind, so in my mind, it’s still 1998).

So what is Jordan’s advice on getting the younger audience to the theater?  He sums it up like this:

“What I believe in is product. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to get a young audience to see The Music Man. If you want a young audience, don’t f*cking do The Music Man.”

Great quote, right?  It’s definitely hot enough to qualify for this FQ column.

But it was Jordan’s final comments in the article that really resonated for me.

“The shows that change the world do it because they offer something you haven’t seen before.”

Unique product is the key to any industry and any art form.  Marketing is great and fine and important and all that bologna and cheese.  I mean, give me a show, and I’ll market the bejesus out of it with promotions and advertising and stunts and more.

But if you really want to be successful?  Give us something that we don’t even know we need . . . but once we get a taste of it, we can’t get enough and don’t know how we ever lived with out it.
Read the feature here to learn about Jordan’s renovation plans, how he chooses product, and the secret door that leads to the St. James Theater.

How I learned to drive.

No, I’m not producing a revival of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel play (although someone probably will in about 5-7 years . . . and it’ll probably star Lindsay Lohan or Vanessa Hudgens).

I’m gonna talk about how I actually learned to drive.

My Stepfather was driving me somewhere, and I said, “Hey, guess what?  I got my learner’s permit.  Do you think you could teach me how to . . . ”

He pulled over before I could finish the sentence.

“Get over here.  Take the wheel.”

“What?  Now?  Shouldn’t I be in a parking lot first?”

“Just get over here and start driving.  You’ll just go slow.”

The next thing I knew I was on the road.  And driving.  Sure, I had to pull over a couple of times to let the cars piling up behind me pass us by, but my Step Dad knew that no parking lot was going to teach me as well as an actual road.

Part II of the story is that after an hour of driving around, we pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru.  I ordered (feeling pretty cool, because I recognized the voice on the other end of the intercom as someone I went to Junior High with), and proceeded to make my way to the 2nd window.

That’s when I pulled our station wagon up onto the curb and smacked a pole.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard the crunch, any coolness I felt went out the drive-in-window.

I expected my Stepfather to freak.  But he didn’t. We pick up my Nugget Value Meal and his Quarter Pounder with Cheese and he even let me drive back home.  We got there and inspected the damage.  It was minor, but definitely damage.

I apologized profusely and almost cried my 16-year-old eyes out.  He stopped me and said, “Hey, you’re learning, you’re going to screw up.  And you know what?  We can fix it.  I’ll take it to the body shop tomorrow.”

Then he said, “Let me know when you want to go out driving again?”

Obviously I was blessed in having an incredibly supportive mentor and parent . . . but what can we learn from my driving lesson?

1.  Get on the road.

Don’t keep “practicing” producing.  Don’t keep talking about wanting to produce.  You don’t need a learner’s permit to do what we do.  So Produce.

2.  Go slow.

If it’s your first time out, and you’re nervous, take your time.  Go slowly, but definitely go.  Moving slowly is much better than standing still.

3.  Don’t be afraid to hit a pole.

You’re going to f-up.  You’re going to cause a little damage here and there.  Especially when you’re just starting out.  But producing isn’t brain surgery.  It’s not even driving a car.  No one is going to live or die by what we do so don’t be afraid to get in an accident every once in awhile.  That’s where you really learn (I can tell you that I STILL take care when driving through a fast-food chain to this day – and I drive thru them often).

4.  If you do smack a pole, there’s always a way to fix it.

What’s interesting about this one, is that fixing a problem you’ve created is really where you learn.  Great Producers are great problem solvers . . . even if they’ve created the problem in the first place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to call my Stepfather and thank him for teaching me how to drive . . . and so, so much more.

What are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Probably NOT seeing a show.

I just took a quick spin through Telecharge searching for shows doing an evening performance on New Year’s Eve.  I came up with nada (admittedly, I stopped about a quarter of the way through the alphabet – why isn’t there a site that gives you the show schedule by day?).

It was just over a decade ago when New Year’s Eve was one of the most popular nights of the Broadway year.  In fact, some shows used to charge premium prices for that performance, before premium pricing was even in existence.  I remember getting off work from a sold out New Year’s Eve performance of Ragtime in 1998 at 11 PM, right on 43rd Street, about 30 yards from the crazies and that big ball.

What happened?  Did our customers really decide that seeing a show on New Year’s Eve was something they didn’t want to do?  Did security get too difficult?

I think it was a combination of two things:  the turn of the Millennium and September 11th.  Both of these major events changed the way that New Year’s was treated in this city, and we’re all a little more careful now . . . as we should be.

But that makes me wonder, could there be an opportunity there now?

People are always looking for special events on New Year’s Eve . . . and to me, there’s nothing more special, or more of an event, than a Broadway show.