Trust me. There is an after-life. I’ve seen it.

This blog may fall under the category of “duh,” but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s a pretty basic concept, but I got slapped in the face with it again the other night, so I thought I’d share it this morning.

At the 3rd annual National High School Musical Theatre Awards (aka The Jimmys), the judges grouped the actors and actresses competing for the coveted prize of Best Actor and Best Actress into groups of 5.  These groups then sang medleys, with each performer getting a featured spot.  A typical group would be a Baker from Into The Woods, J. Pierrepont Finch from H2$, a couple of Tevye’s and a Bobby Child from Crazy For You.

Then there was a very special group of five . . . count ’em . . . five Millie’s.

That’s right, five of the twenty five girls in the competition had all played Thoroughly Modern Millie at their high school.  20%.  That’s a pretty high number, don’t you think?

Extrapolate that to give yourself some sense of the number of high schools that licensed that show last year, which will give you some sense of the amount of royalties paid to to the authors, which will give you some sense of the amount of money that trickled back to the original investors and producers.

“Everything today is Thoroughly . . . ”

I was the Company Manager of Millie on Broadway, and while I was watching the show come together, I don’t think I ever thought about the life that Millie would lead years after the Broadway show had closed.

But you can bet Millie’s bob that I think about it now on every show that I produce or invest in.  The after-life of a show is an essential part of evaluating the risk, and it can be the deciding factor in whether I get involved or not.

I’d bet that if you asked a Writer or Producer of a new show what their fantasy was they’d say, “My dream come true would be seeing my show on a Broadway stage.”

Ironically, the dream of a financial success might just be seeing the same show on a high school stage.

Oh, and if you missed The Jimmys this year, don’t worry.  You’ll be seeing these kids again very soon, I’m sure of it.

 

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The Top 10 Most Performed Plays & Musicals in High Schools (Updated 2018).

Every year, the folks at the Educational Theatre Association publish a list of the most performed plays and musicals in high schools around the country.

Here’s what drama clubs were up to this year (click the links to read more about the shows):

Top 10 Plays

1) Almost, Maine
2) A Midsummer Night’s Dream
3) You Can’t Take It With You
4) Noises Off
5) Twelve Angry Men
6) Alice in Wonderland (various adaptations)
7) The Crucible
8) Our Town
9) Neil Simon’s Fools
10) A Christmas Carol (various adaptations)

Top 10 Musicals

1)
 Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
2) Seussical
3) Grease
4) Into the Woods
5) Footloose
6) The Wizard of Oz (multiple adaptations)
7) You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
8) The Music Man
9) Once Upon a Mattress
10) Thoroughly Modern Millie

So, for those of us who don’t have kids, why is this important to us?

If you produce and/or invest in a Broadway play or an Off-Broadway play or musical (and sometimes in a revival), you are usually entitled to receive a percentage of the subsidiary income that the authors receive for productions in regional theaters, community theaters, and yes high schools.

And with the right show, this can be a substantial number.

In fact, the possibility of a lucrative post-Broadway life is a reason why so many (smart) Producers and investors choose certain projects.  While a show may not make it to the recoupment finish line on Broadway, the subsidiary market can often get it well beyond the profitability mark.

In film terms, the regional, community, and high school theater market is like the DVD market.

So when you are contemplating investing in a Broadway show or Off-Broadway show, or producing a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, take a look at one of these lists.  Does your show have similar characteristics (big casts, positive messages, colorful costumes)?

If so, you could have a very nice “stock and amateur” insurance policy in case your Broadway dreams turn into a nightmare.

(Click here to read a follow-up story on that play at the top of the list.)

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Did you enjoy this post? Check out the most recent version of this list on my post The Most Licensed Plays & Musicals of 2015-2016!

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Five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

Well, it took twenty years, but “football” has finally tipped in the US. I remember when my female cousin from Norway had to fight for a chance to try out for our high school soccer team.  They didn’t even have a women’s team!  (BTW, not only did she make the team, but she made the starting line-up, and scored more times than Tiger Woods at a “Golfers Who Love To Text Strippers” convention.)

Times have changed, and the number of people in New York City wearing soccer jerseys these days certainly proves it.  We’ve all got World Cup fever.

Now, how can we make that fever contagious and help spread a similar fanaticism about theater?  Here are five things theater can learn from the World Cup.

1.  NEW AUDIENCES CAN BE FOUND

People said soccer/football would never be big in this country.  It took time, but a whole bunch of people who have never watched competitive soccer are watching now.  And I guarantee they’ll watch more in the future.  While we will always need to satisfy our core audience first, we can’t ignore outreach efforts for new audiences.  They are out there.  We have to be persistent.  We have to be creative.  And we have to be accessible.

2.  PARTICIPATION IS THE KEY TO LONG-TERM GROWTH

Do you think it’s a coincidence that 25 years ago there was no girls’ team in my hometown, and no one gave a crap that Argentina beat Germany in a 3-2 squeaker?  Soccer became a bigger part of American life just a couple of decades ago . . . and now those kids are grown up, and are loving watching what they participated in.  The arts are no different.  If it were mandatory that every kid out there performed in at least one play during their high school career (and I’m not saying that it should be), Broadway would have a bigger fan base.  Today’s participants are tomorrow’s audience.

3.  GIVE ‘EM SOMEBODY TO ROOT FOR

A friend of mine is 1/4 Spanish, but you’d never know it.  If you saw him coming down the street, you’d think he was cut out of a Gap ad, the guy is so ‘American’ looking.  But somewhere along his genetic journey, he got a little Spanish blood in his system.  Well, ever since Spain started making a run at the Cup, he’s been touting that Spanish blood like he’s a direct descendant of Don Quixote!  He bought jerseys, set up viewing parties, and more.  And he doesn’t even speak the language or like the food!  When publicizing your shows, make sure you take advantage of where your cast, crew, and creatives are from, and what they do. Give the audience a way to feel connected to each person involved with your production, and they’ll passionately support your product.

4.  LESS OFTEN IS MORE EXCITING

There’s nothing like a little scarcity to make people more excited when your event rolls around.  The World Cup is only every four years.  It’s so special that people are giving up many other entertainment opportunities to make sure they don’t miss each GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!  In fact, this may be the first year the World Cup has had a negative effect on Broadway ticket sales.  (We slump during other major sporting events like the Super Bowl – you don’t think this took a bite out of some biz this year?)  So maybe your show doesn’t have to do 8 shows a week.  Maybe scheduling is like a good juicy steak:  the more rare it is, the more your audience will be drooling for it.

5.  EVERYONE LOVES A COMPETITION

We’ve been watching competitions since the beginning of time.  I bet even Adam and Eve bet on the snake races.  There’s something about watching one team go up against another.  It’s why competitive sports, board games (and war), bring out such enthusiasm and pride with both players and audiences.  Shows don’t go head-to-head in the same way that sports teams do (no one has taken me up on this idea yet) but there has to be a way to make it seem like we do.  Ask yourself what would make your audience paint their face for you.

I’m no Pollyanna.  I don’t believe theater will ever compete with major competitive sports (except maybe Championship Chess Boxing or Wife Carrying).  But there is something we can learn from how they have increased their dominance on the attention span of the world.

And maybe, just maybe, 25 years from now, my kid will say, “remember when high schools didn’t have a Broadway team?”

What we can learn from NBC’s mistakes.

You gotta give ’em some kind of credit, right?

Moving Jay Leno to 10 PM was an unprecedented move that had a lot of people wondering what in the ratings all those executives at NBC were smoking.

But it could’ve worked . . . and if it did, some executive would be smoking a big fat cigar as everyone called him or her brilliant.

It was a big move, a-shake-the-very-foundation-of-everything-we-know-to-be-true move.

And it failed.

But I gotta give someone the credit for giving it a shot.

It reminds me of this big baseball game I had in high school.  One of my good buddies was standing on third base.  We were down by one.  There was some sort of ruckus going on in the infield.  Coaches were yelling.  Players were yelling. But the ball was still live.  So, my sly-and-super-fast friend tried to steal home while everyone was distracted.

And it almost worked.

When he got called out at a tight play at home, my head coach looked at him and said, “What the *#&$ were you thinking?”

It was the Assistant Coach who leaned in and said, “He had a lead.  And if he would have made it, he would have been a hero.”

There are no heroes at NBC this week, and I imagine that someone is gonna lose their job, and, honestly, someone should.

But not because of the current fiasco.

This problem started years ago . . .

NBC’s mistake was made back in 2004.

In an effort to avoid a sequel to the late-night-war of the 90s, and in an effort to keep Conan happy, they put a little pressure on Jay to squeeze him out in 2009.  Obviously, Jay wasn’t ready to go, despite whatever he was saying at the time (spin, spin, spin).

It was that mistake that started the snowball rolling down the hill.  Come 2009, and in an effort to make Jay happy, they give him a 10 PM spot, which bombs.  He’s upset and now the affiliates are upset, so they come up with yet another unprecedented move and give him a 30-minute show?  And now O’Brien’s upset, oh and Fallon too because he just got bumped.  But wait, O’Brien doesn’t even want the 12:05 spot, so maybe they’ll lose him all together . . . and suddenly the very late-night-war that NBC was trying to avoid has erupted again, and made the earlier one look like a couple of kids playing Cowboys and Indians.

One of the most challenging things a Producer must learn to do is manage personalities, especially when dealing with stars.  If you don’t understand what they want, and don’t find a way to give them what they want (or make them feel good even when you can’t give them what they want), then you’ll lose the battle and the war . . . and most likely one of the key players in your line-up.

I don’t even think my Assistant Coach would have liked how this one played out.

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