How I learned to drive.

No, I’m not producing a revival of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel play (although someone probably will in about 5-7 years . . . and it’ll probably star Lindsay Lohan or Vanessa Hudgens).

I’m gonna talk about how I actually learned to drive.

My Stepfather was driving me somewhere, and I said, “Hey, guess what?  I got my learner’s permit.  Do you think you could teach me how to . . . ”

He pulled over before I could finish the sentence.

“Get over here.  Take the wheel.”

“What?  Now?  Shouldn’t I be in a parking lot first?”

“Just get over here and start driving.  You’ll just go slow.”

The next thing I knew I was on the road.  And driving.  Sure, I had to pull over a couple of times to let the cars piling up behind me pass us by, but my Step Dad knew that no parking lot was going to teach me as well as an actual road.

Part II of the story is that after an hour of driving around, we pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru.  I ordered (feeling pretty cool, because I recognized the voice on the other end of the intercom as someone I went to Junior High with), and proceeded to make my way to the 2nd window.

That’s when I pulled our station wagon up onto the curb and smacked a pole.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard the crunch, any coolness I felt went out the drive-in-window.

I expected my Stepfather to freak.  But he didn’t. We pick up my Nugget Value Meal and his Quarter Pounder with Cheese and he even let me drive back home.  We got there and inspected the damage.  It was minor, but definitely damage.

I apologized profusely and almost cried my 16-year-old eyes out.  He stopped me and said, “Hey, you’re learning, you’re going to screw up.  And you know what?  We can fix it.  I’ll take it to the body shop tomorrow.”

Then he said, “Let me know when you want to go out driving again?”

Obviously I was blessed in having an incredibly supportive mentor and parent . . . but what can we learn from my driving lesson?

1.  Get on the road.

Don’t keep “practicing” producing.  Don’t keep talking about wanting to produce.  You don’t need a learner’s permit to do what we do.  So Produce.

2.  Go slow.

If it’s your first time out, and you’re nervous, take your time.  Go slowly, but definitely go.  Moving slowly is much better than standing still.

3.  Don’t be afraid to hit a pole.

You’re going to f-up.  You’re going to cause a little damage here and there.  Especially when you’re just starting out.  But producing isn’t brain surgery.  It’s not even driving a car.  No one is going to live or die by what we do so don’t be afraid to get in an accident every once in awhile.  That’s where you really learn (I can tell you that I STILL take care when driving through a fast-food chain to this day – and I drive thru them often).

4.  If you do smack a pole, there’s always a way to fix it.

What’s interesting about this one, is that fixing a problem you’ve created is really where you learn.  Great Producers are great problem solvers . . . even if they’ve created the problem in the first place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to call my Stepfather and thank him for teaching me how to drive . . . and so, so much more.

We need more doctors.

In a recent Riedel (aka #37article, Neil Simon was referred to as the “Doc” of Broadway, having punched up and polished a whole bunch of Broadway scripts in his heyday. Apparently he even wrote a couple of zingers for Pulitzer Prize-winning, A Chorus Line, including the line, “I thought about killing myself, but then I realized to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.”

That one line has probably been worth thousands of laughs over the years, wouldn’t you think?

And if A Chorus Line benefited from a last-look by another writer, couldn’t others as well?

Hollywood doctors and polishes its scripts all the time.  Did you know that Schindler’s List got a once-over before it went in front of the cameras?  (This kind of work is more prevalent in H-town, because the scripts are not owned by the writers, but by the studios.)

This kind of work doesn’t happen on Broadway as much anymore . . . when it does happen, it’s usually when a show is in trouble.  But what about making a very good script great with a fresh pen?  Doesn’t Jay Leno hire other writers to make his monologue the funniest it can be?  Doesn’t Barack Obama hire several speech writers to make sure his arguments are that much more convincing?

If you’re a Producer, think about whether or not your script could be just a bit better with some spit and polish.

And if you’re a writer, welcome the chance for someone to make your work look even better.

2 Things To Do If You Want To Be A Broadway Producer

Recently, as the final question to an interview, I was asked to give one tip to any people watching that wanted to be a Broadway producer.

I gave two.

  1.  Produce as much as you can of whatever you can.Produce readings (even in your living room), festivals, showcases, benefits, beauty pageants, dog shows, whatever.  Get in the habit of learning how to put things together.  You’ll learn so much from every different production you put together, regardless of their success or their size, because shows are like snowflakes.  No two are alike and they need a lot of care or they’ll just eventually just fall to the ground and get walked on and turn into a pile of wet disgusting slush that will ruin any decent pair of shoes.

  2. Meet as many people as possible.Since I used the snowflake cliche, I’ll use another one.  So much of producing is about who you know.  I’m not saying you have to know Andrew Lloyd Webber or Phil Smith or even me, but producing is a collaborative art.  You’re going to need to know playwrights, directors, actors, and yep, investors.  Lots of them.  And you never know who is going to be the next Pulitzer prize winning playwright or Google-like CEO that always wanted to get involved with Broadway.  Start meeting people today.  However you can.Here’s a great story about a guy who understands how important this tip can be for any business and travels needlessly to prove it.

Speaking of tips, CTI has got a few of them and they are willing to share.  Check their website for info on these two upcoming programs:

– Producing
Reading, Workshops, and Showcases: A Practical Approach (March 6th)

– The 28th Annual
3-Day Weekend Producing Conference (May 15th – 17th)

– – – – –

Only 4 more days to enter the Broadway Fantasy Virtual Investment Game, WILL IT RECOUP?


Don’t forget!  You must be an email subscriber in order to validate your entry and the email address on your entry and your subscription must match.