Fun on a Friday: Everyone has a marketing idea.

In every marketing meeting I’ve been to, there’s always one idea from someone around the table that makes everyone else look at each other and mouth, “WTF?”

Now, I actually think you need those ideas (and sometimes they are mine!) . . . because it’s important to get crazy every once in a while.  Sometimes those wack-a-do ideas just need to be refined.

In the marketing meeting below, Paul Rudd gets his chance to pitch a few of his marketing ideas to movie and theater mogul, Harvey Weinstein.

If you’ve ever sat in on any advertising meeting for anything, this Fun on a Friday is for you . . . (email subscribers, click here if you can’t see the video below).  Thanks to reader Adam for sending it along!

 

 

(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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FUN STUFF

– 62 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown!  Click here.

10 Shows that stand out at this year’s Fringe Festival.

 

 

Have you noticed your inbox filled with more Kickstarter requests lately?  Have you seen more postcards on radiators at rehearsal studios in town?  Has your Facebook been blowing up with event invitations that begin with the words, “I’m in a show!”

All of this could mean only one thing . . . It’s time to raise the curtain on the NYC Fringe Festival!

Starting this Friday and continuing for just over 2 weeks, 194 shows will open and close as a part of this awesome theatrical binge.  It’s impossible to see them all, so how do you decide which ones to see?

Here’s how I do it.

Every year, in a very environmentally-unfriendly style, I print out (!) the entire program and leaf through it like an Ikea catalog . . . circling the shows that stand out based on a number of factors.  To give you an idea of what is attractive to a Producer like me, I list the 10 Shows here, in no particular order.  Remember, this list isn’t any kind of guarantee that anything is going to be great or not . . . it’s just a list of what stood out when I went catalog shopping (translation – this is a marketing exercise).

Ready?  Here goes!

1.  Yeast Nation

Quick.  Name me the most successful show to come out of The Fringe.  If you said anything but Urinetown, you lose.  Well, the authors of U-town (Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis) are back with Yeast Nation, a show that got some buzz when it was in Chi-town in ’09.  They’ve risen to the top of the Fringe before, let’s see if Yeast can rise as well.

2.  Jersey Shoresical:  A Frickin’ Rock Opera

Is it a musical?  Or a tanning-lotion flavored popsicle?  Either way, the title made me laugh.  Odds are that this one isn’t going to be playing The Palace next season, but the creators of this show knew that using something that’s a pop culture phenom as their source material is a certain way to get attention.

3.  Virtual Solitare

In the Fringe catalog, each show gets about 40 words describe their show.  Virtual Solitaire used only 6. The rest of the description listed its three BEST PLAY awards, and 4 quotes including “Dazzling,” “Jaw-droppingly good,” and more.  It’s obviously been a popular show.  And we all know, the popular girl gets asked to the Fringe first.

4.  Cow Play

What grabbed my attention about Cow Play?  They placed an ad.  Now, lots of shows placed ads in the program to help enhance that 40 word listing.  But Cow Play was the one of the very few that took a full page ad.  And because it was the only one, the ad was like a road block, making me stop in my show.jpgckin’ tracks and soak up its message.

5.  The Legend of Julie Taymor

Like Jersey Shoresical, the Author of Legend ripped its plot from right from the headlines.  Obviously this is a subject that theater folk like me are super interested in, so I couldn’t help but want to dig deeper to learn what this show was all about.  Knowing your audience and serving up something you know will pique their interest is a guaranteed way to some ticket sales.

6.  Facebook Me

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be a teenager growing up on Facebook?  Facebook Me is exactly that . . . it’s a play that about growing up online . . . except it wasn’t written by a 30-year-old, or even a 25-year-old looking back.  This play was written and stars teenage girls describing exactly what your online “status” really means.  I’ve always been a fan of documentary theater, so this one jumped up at me like a Facebook message from my mom.

7.  Hard Travelin’ with Woody

There have been a few attempts at a Woody Guthrie musical.  But no one has gotten it quite right . . . yet.  But somebody should, because the material is too good not to be a great musical.  There’s potential here, and maybe Hard Travelin’ is the show to seize it.

8.  Happy Worst Day Ever

Theater for young audiences is on the rise.  It’s a much better babysitter than a television set, and it helps develop the audiences of tomorrow.  But that’s not what got me about Worst Day.  This show about 6th graders is presented by the Tony Award winning Cincinatti Playhouse in the Park.  Put a brand like that behind a Fringe show, and I don’t care if it’s for young audiences or for fruit flies, I am interested in seeing what’s up.

9.  Destinations

Honestly, I skipped over this one at first because I thought the title was a little bland, but when I went back and read the descript., I was intrigued.  It’s a about a band, on their 1985 reunion tour and all the drama that comes with it.  It’s a musical with a musical story.  It’s much easier for me to believe that this could work . . . and besides, doesn’t everyone want to know what life is like as a rock star?

10.  No-fault:  A tale about the Big D in the Big Apple

We’ve had I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and even Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage.  It’s about time someone tackled the other side of the coin: divorce (that’s the big “D” in the title).  There are a lot of folks out there that have been through the D word, and I’m sure they’d love to laugh about it.  Someone is going to create a killer show about this used to be taboo topic.  Like Menopause, I expect Divorce to come into its theatrical own soon enough.

Honorable Mentions:

Winner Take All (A Rock Opera)Theater of the Arcade, As The Boat Approaches and Elysian Fields.

What shows stand out to you at the Fringe this year?  What are you going to see?

 

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Looking to learn how to get your show to stand out?  Here are two quick tips:

1 – Read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, my bible to product development and marketing.

2 – Take my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar, which I guarantee will give you a bunch of great takeaways on how to get your show to stand out at the Fringe, NYMF, and on Broadway!  Take the seminar today.

We’re a business of freelancers.

A friend of mine produced a Broadway show this past spring, and we recently got together to trade stories.  When I asked him how it went, he said, “You know that expression, being shot out of a cannon?  Well, everything happened so dang fast, I felt like we were shot out of a cannon that was attached to another cannon!”

While his opening went pretty well, he went on to talk about how hard it was to get things moving quicker during the years of development, no matter how much gas he tried to pour on the creative fires.  And then, once they were within striking distance of the opening night, it felt like they were so rushed, he was concerned they were going to make mistakes and risk all the hard work they had done.

Why does Broadway have to feel so rushed, he wondered.

So I started wondering the same thing.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the fevered pitch that all shows feel as they get closer to the finish line.  If producing a Broadway show were a marathon, we’d all be slow, slow starters with a heck of a kick.  One of the reasons is that finding a theater can be so difficult; it’s hard to make something feel real until that phone rings from one of the three theater chains telling you you are in.

The other reason is that all of the individuals that make up the staff of a Broadway show, from the director to the actors to the company manager to the assistant set designer . . .  are all freelancers.  And that means they have to go where the money is, and when the money is.  So while you’re working on developing your show, or trying to do pre-production, they may be in pre-production or tech rehearsals or auditioning for another show.  It’s hard to get them to focus, for obvious reasons, until they have to or are paid to.

And it does feel like lately people are trying to rack and stack more projects than ever.

What’s the solution?  Well, we could pay our folks more money to be more exclusive . . . or we could put people on staff instead of hire them project by project.

Yeah, and maybe there will be a revival of Moose Murders starring Hillary Clinton and that guy who played Urkel.

We are an industry of freelancers, and that ain’t going to change.  As a Producer, you need to realize it and learn how to manage it, to make sure your show is prepared to run that marathon and sprint like a mo-fo those last 1000 meters.

Because, after all, Producers are freelancers too.

 

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

—————-

FUN STUFF

– 66 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown!  Click here.

 

Life is an open book test.

On a Friday afternoon during my first few weeks as an Assistant Company Manager at Show Boat back in 1996, two firemen came up to our office at the Gershwin theater and said there was a water main break nearby, and there might not be water servicing the building for the next 8 hours.

We had a show in 2.

The firemen made it clear. No water?  No show.

Uh-to the-oh.  We were sold out.

About 30 minutes later the situation resolved itself, so all was good.

But my boss later asked me what I would have done if he hadn’t been around to deal with the issue.  I told him I would have called the GM and the Producer and kept them abreast of the situation, etc.  I told him I would see if we could hold the curtain to give the firefolks more time to fix the situation, etc.

He told me all of that was correct, but he said that I forgot to call a few more folks.

“Who,” I asked.

“Ken,” he said.  “You’re not the only Broadway show in town.  There are a ton of other theaters nearby, and they all have shows tonight too.  And you know most of the managers, right?  Call them.  Find out what they are doing.   Use our network to make sure everyone is taking similar actions.  Imagine if you decided to cancel the show, and you find out that the show down the block found a way around it.  Remember, life is an open book test.”

I was reminded of this concept today because I was faced with two different paths to take with an issue on one of my shows.

Thankfully, because of the lesson of the firemen, I knew to use the network of people I trust in the biz to listen to my problem, hear my proposed solution and and then offer their honest expert and objective opinions on what they would do in a similar situation.  I’m not talking about “Yes” men or women. I’m talking about people that would poke and prod me like a lawyer taking a deposition.  I want people to challenge me.

I have five people on my speed dial that I call in situations like this.  And even when I hear things I don’t want to hear, I’m always glad I called.

If you don’t have a a network of “shows down the block,” then you should get one.

Because doing business in a vacuum . . . well . . . it sucks.

 

(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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FUN STUFF

– 69 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

What every regional theater should have.

I was asked to speak at the Arizona Presenters Alliance annual retreat yesterday and during one of my sessions, which I call, “Stump The Marketing Guy!” (I offer a $100 prize to anyone that can give me a problem that I can’t find at least one action-item solution for), I was asked what I would do to get more young people to the theater.

I offered some of my standard solutions like 1) create a “young patron’s circle” whose job it is to find more people like themselves, 2) offer young theatergoers a free ticket if they bring someone under 30 with them to a show, 3) program more entertainment geared for the 20-something crowd, etc.

The person who asked the question was a young one herself, so I asked her, “Why do you go to the theater?”

“I was exposed to it by my parents when I was young.  I fell in love with it.”

Not coincidentally, that’s my story too.  And it’s a lot of people’s stories who love theater . . . golf . . . fashion, whatever.  Hook ‘em as a kid, and you might have ‘em for life.

So, while my above suggestions were potential quick fixes to their problem with the young’uns, I also gave them a bigger long term solution that I suggest for every single theater out there.

Every single regional theater should have shows just for kids at some point in their season, and as often as possible.  I’m talking Cinderella, or Freckleface Strawberry or anything with Bears.  The production values don’t have to be high.  Kids don’t need falling chandeliers.  And parents don’t care either, they just need something to do with their kids on a Saturday that doesn’t involve the television.

This is going to be some work, and some money as well (but not as much as you’d think), but the potential long-term benefits for your theater and for the theater in general are enormous.   And you can put your interns on it, or partner with a local community theater, but make sure you have live theatrical entertainment for kids today, so that we have audiences for tomorrow.

 

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

—————-

FUN STUFF

– 70 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– Enter to win 2 tickets to All New People by Zach Braff Off-Broadway!  Click here.

 

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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