I got an email from a college student this week who knows she wants to be a Producer. There’s no question about it. She’d declare it as a major . . . if she could.
Her school has a theater major and a business major but it doesn’t have a “producer’s track” . . . and not many do. Even my alma mater only has a minor (and until we can turn Producing theater into a more stable and viable career choice, I’m not sure many will).
Since her school hasn’t spec’d out a plan for producers-to-be, she asked me what I thought she should study on her way through school.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m a big pusher for producers to take standard business courses as they’re coming up, from accounting to marketing to contract law (and there are still times I wish I had taken a few more myself).
But mostly I advised this focused young woman to take theater classes. I told her to take a directing class, with people that want to be directors. Take an acting class with actors. Take a writing class with writers. Take a design class with you-know-who and so on.
These are the people that are going to be on your team in the future. Learn their language. Learn what makes them tick. Learn what they want out of a show. And by doing so, you’ll learn how to help solve their problems.
Theater is one of the most collaborative art forms there is, and part of a Producer’s job is to make sure those collaborators are working at their absolute best with each other throughout the long process of developing and putting on a show. By making an effort to learn their craft, and by understanding more of what they go through on a day-by-day basis, you’ll be able to earn more of their respect . . . and you’ll be able to help them do their best work.
Oh, and another part of a Producer’s job is to be able to spot talent. By sitting in these classes, you’ll have the inside scoop on tomorrow’s superstars.
That’s right . . . the next Tony Kushner, Joe Mantello and Al Pacino are sitting in a class somewhere this very second.
By sitting among them, you’ll be able to spot that talent, and snatch them up for yourself . . . before I do.
(And for those of you out of school? All of this still applies. There are umpteen classes for theater artists all over the country, and even online. And great business classes, too. There’s no excuse to not know anything anymore. It’s all in front of the screen you are staring at right now.)
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