10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 5: Brian Lynch, Production Manager

With this volume of 10 Qs for a Broadway Pro, we’re going behind the curtain to find out what one of the top Production Managers in the biz has to say about his gig.

If you’ve ever sat at a show and been amazed at how a piece of scenery fit onstage (or backstage), or how a fireworks-like lighting effect didn’t burn up the ensemble, then you’ve witnessed the wonderful work of a Production Manager like Brian Lynch.

Brian Lynch has worked on big shows, small shows, and shows that are juuuuuuuust right, coordinating the technical needs and desires of the Designers and Director, with the needs and desires of the Producers . . . oh, and then he has to coordinate all of that within the confines of the Local 1 Stagehand agreement.

As you’ll see, Brian is a man of few words.  Why?  Well, he’s one of the busiest guys I know, and great Production Managers give you the answers you need quick and fast.  It may not be the answer you want, but the best ones just tell you the truth and tell it yesterday . . . so it doesn’t cost you money tomorrow.

Let’s see how Brian answers our 10 Questions.

1. What is your title?

Production Manager/Technical Supervisor

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

West Side Story, In the Heights, recently closed Ragtime (unfortunately, great show), and all White Christmas companies

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Ensure that each production is done with efficiency and within a well-structured technical budget.

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

A working knowledge of all technical aspects of mounting a show in a theatrical environment, being able to work creatively with producers, directors, designers, shops, and stagehands of all types and temperaments, and having a thorough knowledge of all the resources that are available…oh, and lots of patience.

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

Five years of electronics on a nuclear submarine.  B.A. in English from Loyola University, 1970.  Thirty-five years working on Broadway with Manny Azenberg, Jim Freydberg, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Charlotte Wilcox, etc. etc.

6. What was your first job in theater?

Working on automation systems for the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles…1971.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It is an art form and all art is important…not to mention the fact that it is how I make my living

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

Staying relevant and affordable to today’s young people.

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

The death of the 25-million-dollar musical!

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

Enjoy the challenge.

A test case for a “troubled” (?) musical.

– Disappointing out-of-town reviews.  Check.

– Disappointing message board buzz from early out-of-town previews.  Check.

– Director replaced.  Check.

– Michael Riedel taking swings at the show on an almost weekly basis.  Check.

The Addams Family had all four of these unfortunate items marked off the “troubled musical” checklist well before “it” came into town.

Now that TAF has been in performances for a few weeks, let’s look at some more of what The Addams Family has to buzz about.
– w/e 4/18/10    $1,261,490

– w/e 4/11/10    $1,240,377

– w/e 4/4/10      $1,391,177

– w/e 3/28/10    $1,302,707

– w/e 3/21/10    $1,328,460

– w/e 3/14/10    $1,192,213

Now, all of a sudden, some people talking smack on a message board back in October, about performances in Chicago, doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Producers, actors, authors, etc. are constantly worried about bad industry buzz and how it will affect a show. No one wants the label of a “troubled” show.  Well, if ever there was a test case that proved that there is a giant chasm between what our industry hears about the development of a show, and what our audience hears about the development of a show, The Addams Family is it.

TAF feels like a big Broadway musical.  It has stars.  It has a powerful brand.  It has a powerful brand that’s funny.  It already feels musical because of its popular theme song.  It is about a world that provides for spectacle.  Etc.  Etc.

And all of those elements are what a huge majority of the Broadway audience wants to see, no matter who is replaced or who is writing what.

Don’t worry about what insiders may say.  Worry about what your audience will say.  They are the ones who actually pay for their tickets.

And when they really want to see a show, they’ll have no “trouble” paying premium prices.

What does a director do after opening?

A reader recently dropped me an email asking what a Broadway or Off-Broadway Director’s responsibilities are, after a show officially opens.

While it may seem like a Director’s job would end as soon as that opening night party kicks into high gear, in actuality, the gig just morphs into something different.

There are replacements to cast, and understudies to train, and Tony Award numbers to plan and stage.  There is (hopefully) talk of a tour or two.  There is press to do.

But one of the most important jobs a Director has after opening is making sure the cast keeps delivering their opening night performance night after night after year after year.

Because over time, without anyone even noticing, things have a way of shifting ever so slightly from where they started, whether you’re talking about a cast’s performances or a mountain range!  It’s no one’s fault.  It may not be on purpose.  It just happens naturally, whenever the same thing is done night after night after year after year.

Think about it like this . . .

In the morning, you put on a pair of shoes, and lace them up good and tight.  If you walk around in those shoes all day long, by the end of the day, those laces are going to loosen up some.  It just happens.

And at some point, before they become untied, you’re going to have to bend down and lace them up super tight again, right?

That’s what a Director does after opening.

He tightens up a show’s laces.

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 3: A Tony Award-Winning Designer

David Gallo is one of the hippest guys around, and he’s one of the most in-demand designers in town, thanks to his terrific work on a ton of shows, from Drowsy Chaperone (Tony, Tony, Tony) to Xanadu to Memphis to Thoroughly Modern Millie (where I first worked with him).

In addition to his theatrical work in town, David does a lot of stuff all over the country and all over the world, proving that great theater doesn’t have anything to do with a street address . . . it’s about the people involved.

Enjoy these 10 Questions with David Gallo!

 

1. What is your title?

Designer

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

Right now I am in Vienna doing a new company of the show Ich war noch niemals in New York.  It is a large-scale musical based on the work of the renowned pop star Udo Jurgens.  The show originally opened to acclaim in Hamburg and the producers have decided to extend that success to the rest of the continent.

I am also thrilled to be working on some new plays such as Stickfly by the remarkable young playwright Lydia Diamond.  We produced it at the Arena Stage in DC and the next venue will be at the Huntington Theater in Boston.  It was a great return to work with my old friend Kenny Leon as director.

Added to that I recently spent time with my favorite regional theater: the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where I was thrilled to be a part of the theatrical debut of the bestselling author Walter Mosley.  His play The Fall of Heaven is something special and the work of director Marion McClinton is worth noting as well.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

Claw your way into the mind of the playwright and director and give them what they desire (whether they like it or not).

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

Be available to all sources.  Know inspiration is everywhere  What works…works.

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

Years of working on Theatre Row.  The theaters on West 42nd Street were my finishing school.  I was pleased to spend time working for many of the companies that produced there.

6. What was your first job in theater?

I made masks for a production of Pippin.  That was a great start.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It just is…and it will always be.

Theater is the most basic form of human interaction.  We desire to see ourselves.  On stage and in the living moment.

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

Keeping things real.  Lots of media have been elbowing itself into the basic nature of true design but who can argue that what is seen before the audience is what really matters.

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

I wish we had more time.

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

Read, watch, learn, experience.  Ask others that have gone before you.  The future is yours.  Don’t concern yourself with pointless issues.
For more on David, including a look at some of his stuff, visit his website at www.DavidGallo.com.

Desperately seeking: Devoted and Disgruntled in New York

I’d bet my original Carrie playbill that if you’re reading this blog, then there is something about the theater industry that frustrates the f*** out of you.

I’d also bet that if you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in voicing your opinion, getting your hands dirty, and doing something about it.

This weekend, you have your chance.  And you won’t be alone.

On Saturday and Sunday, The Under The Radar Festival is sponsoring the first ever D&D in the U.S.

No, D&D isn’t an 80s role playing game (and yes, I was a Dungeon Master).  It stands for ‘Devoted and Disgruntled’ and it’s a town hall-ish type event where you can express your frustration, and then you can come up with a way to do something about it.  And you’ll have other D&Ders to help, because I’d bet if something is frustrating you, it’s frustrating someone else, too.

It’s like a theatrical activist dating service.  And I think it sounds pretty awesome.

It’s been done in London for five years to great success and thankfully, it’s coming here.

While I’m sure it will be heavy on non-profits and up-and-coming theater companies, it doesn’t have to be.  The founder of the event is Phelim McDermott, a director and designer who dances in both the non-profit and profit halls.  In fact, he’s got a teensy-tiny show coming up this Spring known as The Addams Family.

For more information on the event, click here.

I’ll see you there.

No 20-sided die required.

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X