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.

 

Broadway Vocab 101. Why is a flop called a turkey anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

It’s ironic, don’t you think?  We spend this one day pounding back slices of turkey, and we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid producing one.

And why do we call a flop a turkey anyway?  Why not an owl?  Or a swallow?

Well, these are the types of questions that keep me up at night, so I decided to do some Gearching (I’ve decided that the word search is now so inextricably connected to Google that we should just combine the two words), and share the results with you, on this fowl-filled day.

So why is a Broadway show that flops called a turkey?

It all comes down to IQ.

Apparently, a turkey is a pretty damn dumb bird.

Don’t believe me?  Well, I found one web post from a dude who used to work at a turkey farm and breeding facility that gave two examples of IQ-challenged turkey behavior:

1 – The pens of the farm had to be equipped with specially designed water bowls which would keep a minimal amount of water in the bowl and shut off while the turkeys were drinking. Why?  Because on occasion, a turkey would “forget” to lift its head while drinking . . . and drown.  And this guy saw it happen.

2 – Large scale turkey farms regularly use artificial insemination to get the turkeys to reproduce.  Why?  Because if they didn’t, the turkeys just might not around to it on their own.

So the birds are stupid.

And in 1927 (coincidentally, the year that Show Boat opened), someone decided that flops were stupid too. (Probably because everything looked stupid compared to Show Boat.)

And thus, a dud became a turkey.

Now that I know the answer . . . I still like owl better.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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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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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