Three, Three, Three Posts in One!

Three quickies for you:

    • A reminder that I’ll be at the Entertainment Industry Expo this Sunday.  If you go, please make sure you say hello.  And no tough questions.  It is Sunday morning.  😉  Here’s the Playbill article about the panel.


  • I found this great article about investing in the theater online.  It’s from 2001, but it’s a very realistic analysis of the pros and cons of rolling the dice on Broadway.




  • You heard it here first.  20at20, the Off-Broadway promotion from The Off-Broadway Brainstormers that gets you $20 tickets, 20 minutes before curtain for more than 20 Off-Broadway shows (including mine), returns at the end of February.  It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but since I’m the head of the committee, I thought I’d leak it to you first. Shhhh . . .


This qualifies as a short blog.

Show Boat Wasn’t Slow Boat.


Here’s some interesting trivia:

Edna Ferber’s novel, Show Boat, was first published in 1926.

The musical version of Show Boat opened on Broadway in December, 1927.

Ahhh, come again?  From the published novel to a fully produced musical in how long?  When was the last time this happened in the modern theater?

It hasn’t.  Books go to movie companies first now.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to option a book and found that the rights have been wrapped up with the movie deal, or that the agent is afraid to release the stage rights because they are “holding out” for a film option.

This is another reason for the recent surge in the adaptation of movies into musicals.  The movie companies are sitting on all the cards, sometimes not even wanting to play the game.

Another interesting tidbit . . . while doing some research on Show Boat, I was reminded that there were a few songs that were not written specifically for it, but were popular tunes interpolated into the score.

Does that mean it’s a jukebox musical?  😉

Double Or Nothing!

You all remember my infamous bet from last fall when I incorrectly predicted that the Producers and the Stagehands “would be friends”.

Well, let’s get ready to rumble!

Or not.

The Actors’ Equity Production (Broadway) Contract expires at the end of June.  While emotions are still high from the fall fireworks, there will be no strike.

Why not?  I don’t see an issue that could escalate to that kind of action.  Even if there isn’t agreement right away on raises, the hiring of aliens from overseas, etc., I’m sure talks will continue until they hammer out a deal.  There may be a few threats (and expect Local 1 to express their unwavering support), but the marquees will stay lit.

Who wants a piece of this action?  2:1 odds in your favor.

One issue both sides should discuss?  Health insurance.  There will no doubt be an increase to the already high weekly cost of a producer’s required weekly contribution to the co-administered League-Equity health fund – currently $153/week or $612/month or $7,956/year per actor!

It would be cheaper for the Producer to purchase their own insurance just like any other new company, and cover each actor from day 1 of employment, rather than make the actor qualify for insurance (the current plan requires that an actor work for 12 weeks to earn only 6 months of coverage, and 20 weeks for a full year).

Actors would get their insurance faster and producers would save money.

I realize that this idea is in exact opposition to the idea of union provided benefits.

But sometimes, when you’re lost, you have to think about turning around and going the opposite direction to get you back on track again.

Are The Two Cardinal Rules Of Producing Right?

Max Bialystock:  The two cardinal rules of producing. One: Never put your own money in the show.

Leo Bloom:  And two?

Max Bialystock:  [yelling] Never put your own money in the show!

– – – – –

This line, obviously from The Producers, got one of the biggest laughs on opening night, when the audience was filled with actual Bialystocks and Frankels and Weinsteins, oh my!

But is it true?

Sure, Producers understand that the chances for actually recouping your investment in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show are like winning the lottery . . . on your birthday . . . while pigs are flying (by Foy).

But is it a sin to open up your own wallet?

The answer is no.

You might be able to avoid putting your own money in the show, but you better be willing to.  Because if you’re not willing to put your money where your mouth is, then you’re not passionate enough to produce.  And maybe you should look at the project a little closer.

I always put a little something in all of my shows, for two reasons:

  1. I wouldn’t want an investor of mine in any show that I didn’t believe in myself.
  2. It helps when you’re raising money to be able to say to a potential investor, “I already wrote my check.”

How would you feel if a producer was giving you the hard sell to invest in their show and then they told you that they didn’t invest a penny?  Insider activity is a very commonly watched stat when playing the stock market, so shouldn’t we watch it when investing in shows?

By the way, for those looking for the response to an investor asking if you invested, and you haven’t, it’s this:  “I had so much interest, I wanted to make room for as many investors as possible, so I backed out.”  A piece of advice:  only use this if it is true.  Don’t treat your investors like they are one-time investors.  Treat them like they are with you for your lifetime . . . and they will be.  Even if you produce Springtime for Hitler.

A Few Of My Favorite Things . . . To Read!


I’ve gotten a few emails from readers asking if I have recommendations of books to read for people
getting into Producing.

And, surprise, surprise, I do!

Here’s my “Must Read” list, in no particular order.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big believer in the pot-luck kind of Producer.  Don’t specialize in one thing.  Learn a bit of everything, and develop your own style.  It’s kind of like acting.  Don’t learn one “Method”. Study Strasberg, Adler, Meisner, etc. and then make your own method.

The books recommended below, in no particular order, cover a wide variety of areas from marketing to writing to contracts.  Enjoy!

1.  Purple Cow by Seth Godin

My favorite blog.  My favorite book. Learn how to sell and how to develop product in today’s competitive market.

2.  Influence by Robert B. Cialdini

Remember how I hate marketing?  This is all about the science of selling.  Brilliant.  And scary.  Wait until
you read about how commercial airline disasters increase after highly publicized suicides.

3.  Producing Theatre by Donald C. Farber

A chestnut.  A bit outdated, but a good resource to have on your shelf when you need a refresher in the mechanics of a royalty pool, or how profits are distributed after recoupment.

4.  The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Don’t think there’s a blueprint for story telling? Think again. Using Joseph Cambell’s Hero theory, Vogler shows you how modern story telling is very similar to ancient myths . . . and why it has to be.  Often used for screenplays, I think it’s even more suited for structuring musicals (since musicals, like myths, are heightened forms of reality).

5.  The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

A new chestnut.  And probably the most important book on what spreads ideas (word of mouth – our most important tool) ever written.  Ever.

6.  The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Why concentrating on niche marketing and “doing it yourself” is the way to go in the age of the internet.

7.  Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

After you read the other marketing books, read this one.  Fun, more specific, and the cover is cool.

8.  Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

A reminder that studying data is the way to solve almost all of our problems, from cheating teachers to the drug epidemic.  It makes solving a Broadway budget problem look like opening a lemonade stand.

9.  The Bible, The Secret, Anthony Robbins Awaken The Giant Within, Fortune Cookies, etc.

You need incredibly amounts of faith and confidence to do what we do. Get it wherever you can.

10.  Insert your favorite here.

Got one that helps you?  Comments are open, so feel free to share!  We could all use something else to read while waiting for the 1 train during rush hour.

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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