10 Questions for a Broadway Pro: Lincoln Center’s Ira Weitzman

Ira Weitzman is a musical midwife.

He has helped some of our industry’s most celebrated authors give birth to musicals like Falsettos, Sunday in the Park with You Know Who, Once on This Island, Parade and many, many more over his 30-year career.

If you’re an author, and you had a chance to choose between winning the lottery and having Ira guide the development of your show . . . I’d tell you to go with Ira.  You could always win the lottery some other time.

Take it away, Ira!

1. What is your title?

Musical Theater Associate Producer at Lincoln Center Theater. 

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

I just finished a long cycle of development and production that began in 2005 with The Light in the Piazza in the Vivian Beaumont Theater and just ended with A Minister’s Wife in the Mitzi Newhouse Theater.   In between those shows were six other musicals including our Tony Award winning production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in the Beaumont and Clay which opened our new theater, LCT3.  Now it all begins again with a new cycle.  I am too superstitious to talk about shows at such an early stage.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

As an artistic producer of (mostly) new musicals, I am involved in almost every aspect of bringing them to fruition in collaboration with Artistic Director, Andre Bishop.

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

Taste and an eye for talent, working knowledge of musical theater both historical and current, good communication skills, good judgment and a desire to collaborate.   Though it isn’t really a skill, I would also add that having a real passion for this work helps, particularly when the going gets tough.

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

I didn’t go to college so everything I learned was from experience.  I created my job, so in a sense my whole life is training for my work.

6. What was your first job in the theater?

I was Bob Moss’ assistant at Playwrights Horizons in 1977 during his last season as Artistic Director there.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

I believe in the communal power of live performance. Musicals are especially powerful.
When everything comes together, a musical can be entertaining, provocative, enlightening and enriching for both the audience and the performers.

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

The challenge of finding a musical that we can be excited about working on.  It has not changed or gotten easier through the years.   On the more practical side there are always financial challenges since musicals are not cheap to produce.

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

I would make theater affordable for those who want to produce it and those who want to see it.

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

To love what you are doing and to not be afraid of taking risks.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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Did the fat lady sing for New York City Opera? And is this an operatic omen?

In a dramatic move that deserves its own aria, New York City Opera, the very first tenant of the center known as Lincoln, announced that it was up and moving.

Where?

No one, including NYCO, knows.

The question on everybody’s mind . . . is this the end of New York City Opera?  And, gulp, is this the beginning of the end for opera???

It’s a challenged art form, no doubt.  As less and and less people are brought up on it, less and less people are supporting it (either through ticket sales or donations).

Unfortunately, I think that in 10 years, the end of NYCO’s reign at Lincoln Center will be remembered as the closing that was heard around the world.  More closings will follow.  The audiences are shrinking, which means the business model will have to correct itself by decreasing supply.  Ironically, competitors, like The Met (who has done a kick ass job of making opera relevant), will benefit.

What does this mean for our closely-related industry?

We’ve seen our audience contract in recent years.  We’ve seen our ticket prices increase in recent years.  And we’ve seen a billion other entertainment options pop up in your pocket!

It’s essential that we get out ahead of the opera so we’re not faced with a similar breaking news item in 10 years.

But I’m not sure we can.

In fact, I’ll predict right now that one of the major non-profit theaters in this city will go out of business in the next decade.  Which one?  Simple – whichever company chooses to produce shows that no longer feel relevant to today’s theatergoer.

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Lincoln Center gets its own TKTS booth.

Starting in the new year, Lincoln Center fans will be able to buy discounted tickets to LC events at the David Rubenstein Atrium on 62nd St.

That’s right, LC is setting up their own TKTS.

And why shouldn’t they?

With the volume of projects they produce, why not have their own discount distribution center?  Why not provide their niche audience with a place that they can call their own (and that has free WiFi, free performances and free restrooms!!!)?

Will this be the first of many?  Will we start to move towards the London model of half-price booths in more than one location?  (If you’ve been to the booth lately, you’ve seen that scalpers have already set up shop on the streets)

Will Roundabout be the next Non-Profit setting up their own half-price booth?

I know that I’ve had the sign below outside my office for months . . . and I can tell you firsthand . . . it works.  🙂

 

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Don’t forget to vote for the 2009 Producer of the Year

Make sure you cast your vote by Sunday, December 27th at 8pm.

The winner will be announced here on the blog, on Monday, December 28th.

VOTE NOW

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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