Life is an open book test.

On a Friday afternoon during my first few weeks as an Assistant Company Manager at Show Boat back in 1996, two firemen came up to our office at the Gershwin theater and said there was a water main break nearby, and there might not be water servicing the building for the next 8 hours.

We had a show in 2.

The firemen made it clear. No water?  No show.

Uh-to the-oh.  We were sold out.

About 30 minutes later the situation resolved itself, so all was good.

But my boss later asked me what I would have done if he hadn’t been around to deal with the issue.  I told him I would have called the GM and the Producer and kept them abreast of the situation, etc.  I told him I would see if we could hold the curtain to give the firefolks more time to fix the situation, etc.

He told me all of that was correct, but he said that I forgot to call a few more folks.

“Who,” I asked.

“Ken,” he said.  “You’re not the only Broadway show in town.  There are a ton of other theaters nearby, and they all have shows tonight too.  And you know most of the managers, right?  Call them.  Find out what they are doing.   Use our network to make sure everyone is taking similar actions.  Imagine if you decided to cancel the show, and you find out that the show down the block found a way around it.  Remember, life is an open book test.”

I was reminded of this concept today because I was faced with two different paths to take with an issue on one of my shows.

Thankfully, because of the lesson of the firemen, I knew to use the network of people I trust in the biz to listen to my problem, hear my proposed solution and and then offer their honest expert and objective opinions on what they would do in a similar situation.  I’m not talking about “Yes” men or women. I’m talking about people that would poke and prod me like a lawyer taking a deposition.  I want people to challenge me.

I have five people on my speed dial that I call in situations like this.  And even when I hear things I don’t want to hear, I’m always glad I called.

If you don’t have a a network of “shows down the block,” then you should get one.

Because doing business in a vacuum . . . well . . . it sucks.

 

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

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FUN STUFF

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

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

What every regional theater should have.

I was asked to speak at the Arizona Presenters Alliance annual retreat yesterday and during one of my sessions, which I call, “Stump The Marketing Guy!” (I offer a $100 prize to anyone that can give me a problem that I can’t find at least one action-item solution for), I was asked what I would do to get more young people to the theater.

I offered some of my standard solutions like 1) create a “young patron’s circle” whose job it is to find more people like themselves, 2) offer young theatergoers a free ticket if they bring someone under 30 with them to a show, 3) program more entertainment geared for the 20-something crowd, etc.

The person who asked the question was a young one herself, so I asked her, “Why do you go to the theater?”

“I was exposed to it by my parents when I was young.  I fell in love with it.”

Not coincidentally, that’s my story too.  And it’s a lot of people’s stories who love theater . . . golf . . . fashion, whatever.  Hook ‘em as a kid, and you might have ‘em for life.

So, while my above suggestions were potential quick fixes to their problem with the young’uns, I also gave them a bigger long term solution that I suggest for every single theater out there.

Every single regional theater should have shows just for kids at some point in their season, and as often as possible.  I’m talking Cinderella, or Freckleface Strawberry or anything with Bears.  The production values don’t have to be high.  Kids don’t need falling chandeliers.  And parents don’t care either, they just need something to do with their kids on a Saturday that doesn’t involve the television.

This is going to be some work, and some money as well (but not as much as you’d think), but the potential long-term benefits for your theater and for the theater in general are enormous.   And you can put your interns on it, or partner with a local community theater, but make sure you have live theatrical entertainment for kids today, so that we have audiences for tomorrow.

 

(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

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

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

I’d do anything to skip a line. Wouldn’t you?

I travel a lot, and thanks to the international success of My First Time, and my love of London, I find myself crossing a lot of borders.  And as many of you know, I’m sure, there is nothing worse than getting off an 8+ hour flight home to find a huge line at customs and immigration when you’re oh so close to your own apartment and own bed.

Last time I re-entered the US through Newark, I noticed this guy walk right up to an ATM-like machine, slap his passport down, put his fingers on a scanner, and then scoot right past the long line and into the arms of his awaiting family.

It’s called Global Entry.

I felt like I was 10 years old again and saw my best friend playing with Pac Man on his new Atari.  All I could think was, “I want that.”

A chance to skip a line?  A chance to get through a process faster?   Sign me up.   No matter what the cost.

So I did. I paid $100 bucks, went through a background check and an interview at JFK by Customs and Border Patrol Officer Poluzzo (nice guy – I promised to get him tickets to any show except Book of Mormon).  And now I can speed through customs like a greased Pac-Man.

The US border isn’t the only place I’ll pay to skip a line.  I go to Six Flags with my entire staff, the casts of my shows, etc., every year on my birthday as our office retreat, and you can bet your Blinky I’m the first in line for a Flash Pass.

And this got me thinking.

First of all . . . how come we can go through customs and immigration with an ATM but we still can’t buy tickets with one?  Grrrrr.  But that’s not what this blog is about . . .

More on topic is . . .

What else can we offer to our customers to make their ticket buying or show going experience easier that they might want to pay for?   Or what extra value can we give to full price buyers to speed up their process, thereby encouraging more people to rely less on discounts?

Do full price buyers get seated in the theater first?  In larger venues, can certain sections of the house have their own restrooms?  What about separate windows at box offices for those people paying for premium tickets?  Valet parking for subscribers?

One of the challenges we face in the age of on-demand entertainment everywhere is that in order to enjoy going to the theater . . . you actually have to go to the theater.  And sometimes, like customs and immigration, that can be a necessary but no-fun part of the process.

It’s our job to find ways to make that process easier, especially for our frequent “travelers.”

And if we discover what bugs these folks most, I bet we’ll also find that some would even pay for a better, faster experience.

Side note:  Surprise, surprise, but Customs and Border Patrol happen to be a great bunch of marketers. The first question Officer Poluzzo asked me when I sat down for my interview wasn’t, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” That was his second question.  His first was . . .

“How did you hear about Global Entry?”

 

(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

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

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

What does “produce” mean?

No, I’m not talk about fruits and veggies here.  I’m talking about the word that we all throw about like it’s confetti on New Year’s.

“I’m producing a new play” or “I want to produce a musical revival,” etc.

But what does the word mean?

I looked up the definitions of the roots tonight, to see if the dictionary could help me figure out what our job really is.

Let’s start with the second half first.

Duce = a leader . . . or dictator.

And now the first half . . . second.

Pro = the proponent of an issue; the person who upholds the affirmative in a debate

Put them together and you have a leader that is a proponent: a positive vote.

And that’s it, exactly.  In fact, I can distill it even more to just two words.

Leader.  Positive.

A Producer must lead and must always remain positive . . . otherwise he will turn around and find no one following his lead.  There’s no room for the negative in what we do.

This isn’t my deepest of blogs.  It’s obtusely simplistic, actually.

But I know that sometimes it’s the simplest reminders that keep me on track.  I hope it does the same for you.

 

 

(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

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

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

Why more actors should write plays.

Yesterday’s Sunday giveaway was for two tickets to Zach Braff’s new comedy at Second Stage.  As I was ‘giving it away,’ I started thinking about how surprised I was to hear that Zach Braff had a new comedy at Second Stage.

But why?

There have been a lot of actors that have written plays before.

But in my opinion, there should be more.

What’s unique about writing a play as opposed to writing a novel, short story, poem, etc. is that a play is not meant to be read on the page.  It is meant to be performed on a stage.

Therefore, an actor/writer, whose job it is to interpret written dialogue and turn it into the spoken word, may have an advantage over the writer who doesn’t have performance experience.

A writer who writes a line like, “Hey, can you turn on the AC, it’s hotter than the devil’s breath in here,” may not see or hear as many things in the line as someone familiar with the turns and twists an actor could take with the same line.

As a re-read what I’ve written here, it’s beginning to sound like a sweeping generalization that playwrights can’t be great unless they have walked upon the wicked stage as well as written.  That’s obviously not true.

My point is, that more actors should write . . . because they may get it more than they think.  (Come on actors out there, I know you have ideas . . . start one today!)

And more writers should act.  At any level.  It’s not going to guarantee any type of career.

But I’d bet money that it would help.

 

(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

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

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

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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