Why a bump is a like a breakup.

I took a call today from a producing peer who was having a serious issue with a project.  After a heck of a lot of work (a couple of years, actually), the show just blew up.  It was nothing he did.  It was beyond his control.  It was just . . . over.

He was pretty upset.  And deservedly so.  He even said a few things like, “I don’t know if I can go through this again.  I’m giving up producing and going to law school.”

If you’ve been working in this biz or in any biz, then I’d bet a billion buckaroos that you’ve hit a similar bump in the road along your way, and you’ve probably considered law school . . . or your equivalent . . . as well.  I know I have.

And as I explained to my buddy that as hard as it was for him right now, he’d eventually get over it, and find another project.

Sound familar?

If you’ve ever been through a breakup, you’ve felt the same way and probably heard similiar advice.  Because when you’ve just lost something you loved and are miserable, it’s hard to think that you’ll ever come out on the other side.

But you do, don’t you? Eventually, it clears, and you move on, and you when the time is right, you meet someone new.

So, the next time you’re having a crisis with a project–something that you can’t see yourself getting through . . . remember that time you got dumped . . . and how you eventually got over that too.

 

(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

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

– The next Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar is on 9/17.  Only 2 spots left.  Register today!

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.

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.

 

I’d do anything to skip a line. Wouldn’t you?

I travel a lot, and thanks to the international success of My First Time, and my love of London, I find myself crossing a lot of borders.  And as many of you know, I’m sure, there is nothing worse than getting off an 8+ hour flight home to find a huge line at customs and immigration when you’re oh so close to your own apartment and own bed.

Last time I re-entered the US through Newark, I noticed this guy walk right up to an ATM-like machine, slap his passport down, put his fingers on a scanner, and then scoot right past the long line and into the arms of his awaiting family.

It’s called Global Entry.

I felt like I was 10 years old again and saw my best friend playing with Pac Man on his new Atari.  All I could think was, “I want that.”

A chance to skip a line?  A chance to get through a process faster?   Sign me up.   No matter what the cost.

So I did. I paid $100 bucks, went through a background check and an interview at JFK by Customs and Border Patrol Officer Poluzzo (nice guy – I promised to get him tickets to any show except Book of Mormon).  And now I can speed through customs like a greased Pac-Man.

The US border isn’t the only place I’ll pay to skip a line.  I go to Six Flags with my entire staff, the casts of my shows, etc., every year on my birthday as our office retreat, and you can bet your Blinky I’m the first in line for a Flash Pass.

And this got me thinking.

First of all . . . how come we can go through customs and immigration with an ATM but we still can’t buy tickets with one?  Grrrrr.  But that’s not what this blog is about . . .

More on topic is . . .

What else can we offer to our customers to make their ticket buying or show going experience easier that they might want to pay for?   Or what extra value can we give to full price buyers to speed up their process, thereby encouraging more people to rely less on discounts?

Do full price buyers get seated in the theater first?  In larger venues, can certain sections of the house have their own restrooms?  What about separate windows at box offices for those people paying for premium tickets?  Valet parking for subscribers?

One of the challenges we face in the age of on-demand entertainment everywhere is that in order to enjoy going to the theater . . . you actually have to go to the theater.  And sometimes, like customs and immigration, that can be a necessary but no-fun part of the process.

It’s our job to find ways to make that process easier, especially for our frequent “travelers.”

And if we discover what bugs these folks most, I bet we’ll also find that some would even pay for a better, faster experience.

Side note:  Surprise, surprise, but Customs and Border Patrol happen to be a great bunch of marketers. The first question Officer Poluzzo asked me when I sat down for my interview wasn’t, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” That was his second question.  His first was . . .

“How did you hear about Global Entry?”

 

(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

– 71 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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