Back when I was in the middle of my ATPAM apprenticeship and studying for my NMAM exam (the test that gets you your company management stripes and a piece of the annuity fund), I learned that the #1 rule of managing a show was . . . never cancel a performance!
We were always pushed to come up with creative solutions to problems to prevent mass refunds due to canceling.
For example . . .
Q: What do you do if your production of Oklahoma is performing outside at The Muny and the temperature has dropped below the approved AEA temp for performing?
A: Turn up the lights to full to heat up the stage! Or put space heaters next to the footlights! Hold the curtain to see if things warm up (not a good idea if it’s at night)!
Q: What do you do if your one truck of scenery on your bus and truck of Cats jackknifes in Toledo and you’re in Pittsburgh and 8 hours from curtain?
A: Do a concert version! Dress the stage with spare “junkyard”-type items! Have any other theaters nearby done the show recently that you could ask for some spare set pieces?
There were no right or wrong answers (obviously). It was all about training the mind to think outside the proscenium. And it worked.
So here’s another one . . .
Q: What do you do when one of your Tony nominated principal actors is an activist for the gay marriage movement and wants to take a show off and march on Washington?
A: Well, you cancel the show, so the whole cast can go, of course.
(insert head shaking that make your lips go bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bu here)
Yep, you read that right. And that’s exactly what the Producers of Hair did. They listened to the passion of their employees, realized that the show had already surpassed their wildest expectations in terms of financial success, and gave up about $50k worth of profit. They have, of course, benefited from the press, which they will receive even more of on the day they walk down Constitution Avenue.
So I’m sending out my Kudos to the Producers, the Creative Team, the Cast and Mr. Creel himself. Guys and Gals, if this were an ATPAM exam, you would have gotten this question wrong. But sometimes, doing something wrong is the only way to ACE an even more important test.
Oh, and let this be a lesson to all of us (including me) that generalize. Not all actors have egos. Not all stagehands watch TV while they work.
And not all Producers are greedy.