Podcast Episode 159 – Pulitzer Prize Winner, David Auburn

I’ll never forget the gasp that came from the audience at the end of Act One when I saw David Auburn’s Proof on Broadway.  It was one of those great twists/reveals/secrets and surprises that make a great play not only great but also flat-out-entertaining.

I remember thinking . . . now that’s a genius craftsman.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought.

Not only is Proof one of the longest-running plays of the last few decades (at close to 1,000 performances), but it also won a Tony, a Pulitzer and is produced all over creation.

David and I chatted about the origins of Proof and how he solved it as well as . . .

  • How he “warmed up” to writing plays by writing sketches and one-acts first (and a business reason why this is a great place for emerging playwrights to start).
  • The most important reason why he thinks Proof was so successful and why it’s done everywhere.
  • Why he enjoys directing other people’s work, but doesn’t want to do his own.
  • The difference between writing screenplays and stage plays.
  • Where he gets his ideas . . . and what he does first when he gets one.

Listen to the podcast with David with the links below, and if you haven’t read Proof, do yourself a favor and get it here.  Not only is it a page-turner, but it’s a master class in and of itself.

Click here to listen to my podcast with David!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

My 5 Friday Finds: Willy Wonka ain’t got nothing on this.

Thanks for all the great feedback on my first Friday Finds blog from last week. I’ll keep ’em coming!

Here are the five things I found fascinating this week.

  1.  Candytopia

Part exhibit, part art installation, part giant merchandising extravaganza, this event is one of the hottest (sweetest?) tickets in town. And they can do more than 8 shows a week. The “exhibit” market is a huge one these days. Hamilton is even getting in the game. What’s next? (I bet you can come up with an idea.)

  1. Press Agents Know All The Gossip

My very first press agent was the one I called to find out anything about everything and everyone. This week, story-spinner and veteran wag, Susan L. Schulman, published her 2nd Volume of Backstage Pass to Broadway: True Tales From A Press Agent. Find out what a PA does and read lots of good dish here.

  1. A Guide to Theater Etiquette

Candy wrappers, kids, cell phones and more are covered in this read from Time Out New York. Not sure I agree with everything, but it made a fun read as it has the usual snobby snark I associate with Time Out.

  1. The Band’s Visit Recoups!

If Vegas bookies took bets on TBV recouping its $8.5mm capitalization two years ago, they would have lost their shirts on paying out those long odds. But recoup it did, proving that once again there are no sure things and there are no non-sure things. And its success furthers my belief that we’re in the independent theatre era.

  1. Table Top Shakespeare?

Forced Entertainment brought their unique “Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare” to the Skirball Center this week, capturing my eye for two reasons. One, they’ve taken Bill’s classic plays and condensed them, giving us more content in less time (sounds like watching YouTube videos, doesn’t it? See where I’m going?) and two, they put the audience onstage. How many shows will have audiences in actual theater seats twenty years from now? (Table Top performs through Monday if you want to check it out. More here.)

 

Like my finds?  Send ’em, share ’em, and make sure you subscribe.

What we can learn about storytelling from HGTV.

I am not a Home Depot guy.

Thank goodness I live in an apartment, because I’d rather go back to AP Calculus than fix a rain gutter or stain a deck.

I’ve just never been an interior-designing, renovating, home-fixer-upper, kind of guy.

Then how come I love me some HGTV?

It’s true.  Give me a House Hunters or Tiny Houses, and I’ll put down that Calculus equation and binge watch all night long.

What is it about these shows that gets me and so many others tingly all over?  And what does it have to do with a great play or musical?

It’s the idea of watching a transformation.  Watching something change.  And specifically, something that goes from overlooked and undervalued into something that has a ton of value and gets put in a deserved spotlight.

Those houses are like underdogs.  Those houses become everyday heroes.

Need a better example than HGTV?

How about those Oprah-like make over shows?  Come on, tell me you don’t tear up when you see someone lose weight, get pumped-up, or even just go through a wardrobe/hair/makeup change revealing the King/Queen that has been covered up by life?

The reasons these shows are popular, regardless of an audience’s interest in the subject matter, is because audience’s love watching something . . . especially someone . . . change for the better.

Because deep down it’s what they also want for themselves.

So if you’re ever stuck with your show, watch some HGTV and make sure your hero goes through the same thing as that three-bedroom fixer-upper on the outskirts of town.

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The best feedback a writer can get is from their peers.  Join one of our Writer’s Groups here.

Haven’t put your great idea for a script on paper yet?  Take our 30 Day Script challenge!  Click here!

 

GUEST BLOG: So, What Does a General Manager Do, Anyway?: Part One by Peter Bogyo

As a general manager of Broadway and Off Broadway shows for over 15 years, I have continually been dismayed by my close friends’ inability to remember what I do (“he’s a stage manager”; NOT) or what it entails. How could they? My job title is completely opaque. What is that mysterious thing that I manage, generally? Finally, out of frustration and self-defense, I wrote a book and cleverly called it ‘Broadway General Manager”, to clue them in.  Then, in sympathy for their confusion, I subtitled it “Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business” to give them hope.

So, what the heck does a GM, as they are commonly referred to, do? I’ve been told I have approximately 750 words to explain this to you, and my book is 240 pages long, so please understand I’ll be talking in broad strokes. Very broad strokes.

In a nutshell, a general manager oversees all the financial and business concerns of a show. Even more, they are the lynchpin of the entire production, through which every aspect of the show must pass. Part of what makes the job so exciting is that the GM interacts with people at every level of the production and is expected to be available to the show’s producer 24/7.

Traditionally, the first thing a producer wants a GM to do is prepare two different sets of budgets — a Production Budget, which tells the producer how much money he or she needs to raise to mount the show and get it to the first paid public performance, and an Operating Budget, which details the costs to run the show on a weekly basis and provides various scenarios for recouping (earning back) the show’s production costs.

I go into great detail in my book analyzing actual Production and Operating budgets line by line, but I can’t do that here today. All you really need to know is that a Production budget tells the producer how much money he needs to raise to get the show to its first paid public performance, at which point one needs an Operating budget to know how much it will cost to operate the show on a weekly basis.

After calculating these two sets of budgets, my next major responsibility is normally negotiating all the contracts for the cast, crew, creatives and staff involved in the production.

A negotiation is a kind of dance, with each party maneuvering and strategizing to win as much as possible for his side. The best negotiation is one in which, at the end, both parties feel they have won several important points, but have not gotten everything they had hoped for. It’s important to remember that an agent has to try to win something for his client in order to justify his existence (not to mention his 10% commission!)

In resolving differences, I always strive to protect the show at breakeven, or close thereto, for as long as possible. A show can run forever as long as it can cover its expenses and not show a loss.

In my book, I have separate chapters containing actual contracts I have negotiated for “star” Broadway personnel– for a famous actor, a top director, an award-winning designer and a general manager. Again, I don’t have the space to go into that detail here, but you can find it in my book.

Beyond negotiating contracts, a GM is involved with helping to establish the production entity, providing critical information for the programming of the show’s box office, obtaining a payroll account for the company, and making sure the appropriate insurance policies get bound.  But their most vital, ongoing function has yet to be discussed – so be sure to tune in to next week’s blog for Part 2!

For more information about Peter or his book, visit broadwaygeneralmanager.com.
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PETER BOGYO is a theatrical General Manager, Executive Producer, Producer of Special Events, and an Author.

On Broadway, he served as General Manager of LOVE LETTERS, starring Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy, Carol Burnett, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen; THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, starring Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.; STICK FLY,  starring Dulé Hill, directed by Kenny Leon, TIME STANDS STILL, starring Laura Linney, directed by Daniel Sullivan, AMERICAN BUFFALO, starring John Leguizamo, directed by Robert Falls, A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN, starring Kevin Spacey and Eve Best, directed by Howard Davies, THE BLONDE IN THE THUNDERBIRD, starring Suzanne Somers; SLY FOX, starring Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Arthur Penn; FORTUNE’S FOOL, starring Alan Bates and Frank Langella, directed by Arthur Penn, and VOICES IN THE DARK, starring Judith Ivey, directed by Christopher Ashley.

Off-Broadway, his general manager credits include A MOTHER, A DAUGHTER, AND A GUN with Olympia Dukakis; Elaine May’s ADULT ENTERTAINMENT, directed by Stanley Donen; Jerry Herman’s musical revue SHOWTUNE; MR. GOLDWYN, starring Alan King, directed by Gene Saks; MADAME MELVILLE starring Macaulay Culkin and Joely Richardson; and THE UNEXPECTED MAN, starring Alan Bates and Eileen Atkins, directed by Matthew Warchus.

He has served as Executive Producer for the sold-out Carnegie Hall concert PIAF! THE SHOW, and for FIGARO 90210 at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street.

Peter is also a leading producer of benefit concerts and has raised close to a million dollars in the fight against AIDS.  For GMHC he produced the celebrated concert versions of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ ANYONE CAN WHISTLE and Cole Porter and Moss Hart’s JUBILEE, both at Carnegie Hall, and SHOWSTOPPERS!: a Salute to the Best of Broadway, at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.  He also produced FIRST LADIES OF SONG at Alice Tully Hall for the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, which featured Rosemary Clooney, Marilyn Horne, Judy Collins, Barbara Cook, Lena Horne, Joanne Woodward, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He has unveiled three monuments for the City of New York, honoring Eleanor Roosevelt, Duke Ellington, and Antonin Dvorak, produced a memorial tribute to Herbert Ross, and oversaw the international entertainment for philanthropist George Soros’s 75th birthday party.

Peter is a member of The Broadway League and ATPAM, a Tony Award voter, and a graduate of Yale College and of the Commercial Theater Institute.  His book, “Broadway General Manager: Demystifying the Most Important and Least Understood Role in Show Business” is published by Allworth Press, and received critical acclaim.

Peter lives in Manhattan and upstate New York with his wife Ahna and their Scottish terrier Dickens.  www.peterbogyo.com

Broadway Grosses w/e 9/9/2018: Six-Figure Slumps

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending September 9, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

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