The Producer’s Perspective Summer Reading List

Remember when you were in high school and you were forced to read Jane Eyre or Moby Dick over the summer?  Booooring.

Well, you’re not in school anymore (or most of you aren’t – I do get a few emails from theater-pros-to-be from time to time).  But just because you’re not prepping for the SATs doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few things from a summer reading list!

And that’s why we made one for you!

The cool thing about this list, is unlike the titles assigned to you by fascist English teachers that sometimes make you never want to pick up a book ever again, you know this list is going to be all about a subject you enjoy:  the theater.

Since the theme of this blog and the Godspell blog is to help all of us understand more of what it takes to get a show up on its feet, I only chose books that featured a behind-the-scenes perspective on the mounting of big shows.

Enjoy!  Book reports due in September!  (ok, not really, but how many of you got heart palpitations when I said that?)

THE PRODUCER’S PERSPECTIVE SUMMER READING LIST

1.  Letters from An Actor by William Redfield

William Redfield’s recollections of appearing in the 1964 production of Hamlet starring Richard Burton and directed by Sir John Gielgud.

2. Underfoot in Show Business by Helene Hanff

“Each year, hundreds of stagestruck kids arrive in New York determined to crash the theatre, firmly convinced they’re destined to be famous Broadway stars or playwrights. One in a thousand turns out to be Noel Coward. This book is about life among the other 999. By one of them.” -Helene Hanff

3. The Whorehouse Papers by Larry L. King

An account by a journeyman dramatist of the production–from phone call to first night–of his first play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and the attendant wranglings, clashes, and confusions.

4. The Seesaw Log by William Gibson

A day-by-day candid account of the creativity, conflict, and compromise involved in the making of a smash-hit Broadway show (Seesaw), by the playwright himself.

5. We Bombed in New London by Brian Gari

A day-by-day candid account of the creativity, conflict, and compromise involved in the making of a legendary flop Broadway show (Late Nite Comic) written by the composer-lyricist.

6. Everything Was Possible: The Birth of The Musical Follies by Ted Chapin

Ted Chapin is now Chairman of the American Theatre Wing. But when he was 22 years old, he was just a lowly Production Assistant, running around after Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, and Michael Bennett as they created one of the most legendary musicals of all time. This was his journal.

7. A Year With The Producers: One Actor’s Exhausting (But Worth It) Journey From Cats to Mel Brooks’ Mega-Hit by Jeffry Denman

Jeffry Denman’s journey with The Producers from audition to opening night.

8. The Show Business Nobody Knows by Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson chronicled Broadway’s Golden Age in The New York Post from 1942 to 1983. This book tells some of his sordid tales.

9. Showstopper by Abigail Pogrebin

A recent release, this mini-book is now-author Abigail Pogrebin’s story of getting cast in Merrily We Roll Along at the age of 16.

10. Making It Big: The Diary of a Broadway Musical by Barbara Isenberg

Barbara Isenberg was a fly on the wall during the out-of-town tryout and Broadway birth of the musical Big. From a review by Library Journal: “This book is not for the weak-hearted or those with illusions about Broadway as the home of art; making this musical was more like making war.”

 

Do you have a suggestion?  Comment below!

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

—————-

FUN STUFF

– 93 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Win 2 tickets to Silence, Shrek or Rocky Horror. Click here!

 

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 6: Flora Stamatiades, AEA Union Rep.

When you hear the words, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), you probably think of the more than 40,000 actors (and stage managers) that are represented by that professional union.  Well, AEA has a lot of folks toiling tirelessly behind-the-scenes as well, trying to keep all those members working.  And in today’s theatrical economy, that is not an easy task.

But that’s exactly the job that Flora Stamatiades has.  And let me tell you from firsthand experience, she’s good at it. I’ve watched her single-handedly create hundreds and hundreds of union jobs where there were none before . . . while at the same time making the Producer happier about it!  Win-win is her middle name, and that’s usually what she gets.

So without further ado, here are 10 Qs for Flora about what it’s like working for one of the most important unions in our biz.

1. What is your title?

National Director, Organizing & Special Projects, Actors’ Equity Association

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

I can’t really describe it in that way – but right now, I’m taking a look at several projects/industry sectors that we would like to see available for our members. There is also a constant flow of performers back and forth across the Atlantic keeping me busy.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I’ll give you two sentences for the two very disparate parts of my job:

1) Working with staff, members, elected leadership, and Producers to create more opportunities for work under Equity contracts.

2) Handling all issues of foreign performers appearing here and Equity members appearing abroad.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

You need to be a good listener and a creative thinker.  You should also have a broad-based understanding of the industry, and it doesn’t hurt to be both flexible and stubborn as hell.  I’m still working on all of these, especially the first.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Most of my training has been “on-the-job” – I’ve been fortunate enough to be guided by mentors who not only let me take on projects that might traditionally not be seen as my duties (especially before I was in my current position), but who also supported me in taking extra classes and training during my time here.

6. What was your first job in theater?

My first job after college was as the “Shop Assistant” at the (sadly) defunct Coconut Grove Playhouse.  Interestingly, our attempt to organize the tech staff there led not very indirectly to my being laid off after one season.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It nurtures communication, emotion, thought, and sometimes, just plain fun! Also, it’s a shared experience that fosters teamwork both in its execution and its enjoyment.  It’s also an economic driver in its community – providing not only jobs, but ancillary income in restaurants, concessions, local businesses like the lumber yard or dry cleaner, and so on.

I would get into all that talk about how the arts improve people’s lives/children’s educations, etc., but I’ll leave that to someone who’s more expert in those areas.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Assumptions – on both sides.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I think transparency and trust (which I really see as two sides of one coin) would make the labor/management relationship more productive.  I see efforts in this direction all the time from both sides, but too often it is easy to fall back into old patterns, especially as we are “taught” that we are enemies.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

It helps to have a broad-based understanding of the industry – not only from the perspective of the members you want to represent, but from the perspective of other industry unions, and even of employers.

Long before I decided in what area of the industry I wanted to work, I had tried most
everything – even acting, sadly for some audiences. But the skills gained
in each area of work added to my understanding of what it takes to put a
show/season together, and I hope leads to more productive conversations with
Producers and especially, our members (and future members).

And one final thing I recommend for anyone doing any type of
work – keep studying and training.  There is always more to learn!

****************************************

Only 6 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool. Win an iPad!

Play today! Click here!

And don’t forget to RSVP for my Tony Party!

X