Give yourself a preview-prepping workshop.

Previews can be one of the most stressful periods of a writer’s life. Regardless of whether or not you think critical response is important to your show, the countdown to Opening life can feel like a ticking time bomb.

All the elements of the show you’ve worked on for years are finally realized for the first time.  Sets, costumes, lights, special effects, actors, etc.  It has all come together.

Except for that scene and song in the second act.

Writers are constantly called on to rewrite lines, scenes, songs, etc. during previews.  I’ve seen entire musicals restructured, endings changed, intermissions excised, a song cut, the same song added back, and so on.

Stressful, right?

Unless you’ve practiced.

There are lots of writing workshops and classes out there, and if you’re a writer I recommend taking one that forces you to present material every 1-2 weeks in order to keep yourself on a schedule.

But does that prepare you for previews?


In addition to the above, I strongly recommend writers give themselves (or each other, if you can find some goal-oriented friends out there) a Preview Preparation Speed Writing Workshop.

Here’s how it works:

Imagine you’re in previews of a new musical playing The Palace.  The love song between your hero and heroine isn’t working and Hal Prince, who you’ve luckily snagged to direct, isn’t happy.  He marches up the aisle and says, “That scene and song has to go.  And I need something new by dinner.”

Dinner is four hours away.


Shows can take years to actually get to the first preview.  And all that time can be for nothing if you can’t write during previews.

Learn now.

When Hal and Stro talk, you should listen.

I was lucky enough to witness the first Hal Prince and Susan Stroman collaboration firsthand, when I was the Associate Company Manager on the mammoth Show Boat at the Gershwin Theater.

It was a genius collaboration.

The two of them are at it again, co-directing the new musical, Paradise Found, which opened on Wednesday, May 19th, at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London-town.

H&S gave an interview with The London Times recently that has more nuggets of Producing and Directing wisdom than in all of my blogs combined.  They talk about flops, financing and why they’re debuting this show across the pond.

Read it here.


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Favorite Quotes Vol. XXI: the first of many from Mister Abbott

I just finished reading George Abbott’s autobiography, so expect a few Favorite Quotes from him in the coming weeks.  Frankly, I could put half of the book up here, the writer/producer/director had so many great things to say.  He is the original Mr. Broadway, working on more than 100 Broadway shows.  And it’s no coincidence that this prolific director tutored another prolific director, Mr. Hal Prince.

The book is hard to come by now, and while George can be a little self-indulgent sometimes, it contains some great lessons in how to create Broadway entertainment.  So get it, if you can (you know what’s really amazing about the book?  It was published in 1963, when George was 76.  And he lived another 31 years!!!).
Here’s a great quote for the writers out there, as George remembered one of the greatest lessons he ever got.

Professor Baker was an inspiring man.  He gave you no nonsense about inner meanings and symbolisms; he turned your whole thoughts and energies into a practical matter of how to make a show. If it was good, a farce of a melodrama was just as important as a tragedy.  One of the things he kept hammering on was, “Get the greatest given emotional result from the given scene.”  Don’t have the character just come in and pick up the letter and go, but have him pick up the letter, then look under the bed, and go.

I mean, it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The story of one fellow’s fellowship.

Hal Prince has been on a crusade to put the Creative Producer back in power for many years.

One of his many efforts was the creation of the T Fellowship, a program he founded in conjunction with Columbia and TDF, “committed to sustaining the finest traditions of creative producing.”

One of the first fellows in that program was Orin Wolf, and we’re currently seeing the fruits of his and the fellowship’s labor with Groundswell, now playing at The New Group.
Read this great article about how Orin found the piece, how long it took him to get it going, and how he found the people he needed to get it up.  It’s a great lesson in creative producing.
For more on the fellowship, click here.  And yet another thank you to Hal Prince for establishing it in the first place, because God knows, we need it.
Creative producers are an endangered species.  Sometimes I think that they should put several of us in a room and force us to mate in order to guarantee our survival.
But that would make for some frighteningly obsessive-compulsive showtune-singing offspring . . . 

A documentary on a Producer who does just a bit of directing as well.

Before Hal Prince directed some of the greatest shows Broadway has ever seen, he was producing them.  And before that he was stage managing them.  And before that . . .

If you want to hear the rest of Hal’s story and how he came to be one of the greatest forces in the modern theater, there’s a new documentary on Hal’s life and contributions coming up on OvationTV.  You can learn more about it here.

Oh, and by the way, besides stage managing and producing and directing and winning 21 Tony Awards (I mean, come on, 21???), he also gives the best advice.
Watch the doc, and then I also suggest you read his terrific biography.
Because you can’t be President without knowing Lincoln, Washington and Kennedy.
And you can’t be a Producer without knowing Prince.
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