The Ten Minute Pitch

Finding your next Broadway hit is only half the battle; learning how to pitch your show to investors in a succinct, exciting, and enticing way is essential.  In preparing your pitch, it’s important to be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the production and communicate your intentions for the project.  These are the six topics you need to address in ten minutes or under in order to secure the success of your show:

  1. What is the show about (in a concise way)?
  2. Who are the players?
    • Do you have any stars attached?  An important author or director on board?  Do you already have a theater?  Does the show have a pedigree?
  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. What are the problems and vulnerabilities of the show?
  3. What’s exciting about this production and why will this show be the one out of five that reaches profitability?
  4. What do you need from the investor and when?

An Interview with Kevin McCollum

Tony Award-winning Producer and Robert Whitehead Award recipient, Kevin McCollum, shares his insights and history with the CTI Blog.  Read on to learn more about Kevin’s extraordinary and far-reaching career and why he views theater as an essential art form.

How were you first introduced to theater?

My younger years were spent in Hawaii, where I was born and raised by a single, working mother. Many people helped my mom by looking after me, and I would often spend time in other people’s homes. I think I created a talent to entertain so that people would invite me back! Perhaps it was in my genes, as my mom performed a bit as well. I attended Punahou School where arts and performance were focuses of the educational palette.

My mom passed away when I was fourteen years old after battling cancer for four years. I found comfort and family within theater and storytelling. Because of my loss, I learned to value the idea that theater evaporates as quickly as it is created. Storytelling through theater became my passion.

You’ve had an extensive career in theater – some highlights include founding The Booking Group, serving as President and CEO of the Ordway, and operating as a Tony-Award winning Producer.  Can you talk a bit about your journey and what’s led to where you are now?

After my mom passed away, I moved to Illinois to live with family there. Unlike Punahou, my new high school was not enthusiastic about theater and the arts. At the time, it was not cool to be in the performing arts (thankfully it is now, though!). Holding on to the fortitude of my childhood, I did not mind that my passion was outside of the status quo. Even as a teenager, I was lucky enough to have clarity in my passion and the drive to follow my heart. I went on to receive my undergraduate degree in musical theater at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. I had success as an actor, but was consistently cast in similar roles and I was eager for a new adventure. I decided to go back to school, this time earning my master’s degree in film producing from the University of Southern California. There, I realized that distribution is essential to a successful piece of theater. I formed The Booking Office in 1991. Jeffery Seller and I opened The Producing Office in 1994, and after the success of RENT, The Booking Office took on additional agencies and partners, becoming The Booking Group in 1996. I thought it would be valuable to run a theater, so when given the opportunity, I enhanced my career by going to the Ordway, serving as the President and CEO for seven years. After my time in St. Paul, I returned to producing commercial theater full time.

You’re currently working on two new musicals, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Devil Wears Prada.  What are some of the advantages of adapting a film for the stage?  Is there anything in particular that you look for when scouting films as source material for potential Broadway productions?

In the examples of Mrs. Doubtfire and The Devil Wears Prada, it’s important to note that both of these productions began as books before they were adapted for film.

One of the advantages of an adaptation is title recognition – you don’t have to spend too much of your advertising dollars on getting the name out there. However, a show cannot be a hit based solely on its name. Plot and character may be the same, but there must be a theatrical gesture in the adaptation; it’s not about recreating the movie onstage.

For adaptations and new work, I always start with the question: Will the story capture the public’s imagination? Bringing a show to Broadway involves a long timeline that no one can control. For this reason, I avoid topical subjects – what is topical now may no longer be relevant by the time the production reaches Broadway. Instead, I focus on stories that capture broad human needs and emotions. I’m drawn to shows about finding family against all odds – Mrs. Doubtfire and The Devil Wears Prada have that in their DNA.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?  What are some lessons you have learned over the years?

There are far too many individuals to mention them all by name. I have been lucky to have formed and been a part of many families. Those that lead with love are the most inspiring. Many people have demonstrated that there is strength in vulnerability which has had a profound influence on me.

I’ve learned that leadership is about being comfortable in your own skin and encouraging others to do the same. The bottom line isn’t what matters; what is important is establishing a safe environment where people can be vulnerable in their emotions which allows them to create most freely.

What advice would you give to your younger self now?

Relax.  Be who you are, don’t prove who you are.

Why do you think theater is an important art form?

Theater is never finished, and as aforementioned, theater evaporates the moment it is created. My upbringing and my early experiences cemented the notion that nothing lasts. This has driven me to create things that will both outlive me for centuries to come and simultaneously cease to exist the moment after they are created. I find the duality of this idea innately human and wildly inspiring.

6 Suggestions to Spice Up Your Instagram

The CTI Blog welcomes upcoming Marketing presenters Adrian Karnani and Dylan MacDowell to discuss insider tips and tricks about how to make your Instagram an exciting advertising opportunity.  Don’t miss this dynamic duo and more speak at our seminar next week!  

It is no secret that social media is a key marketing tool when it comes to promoting a show, production, theater company, etc… Instagram, the visual mobile application, is one of the most popular and continuously growing social media platforms. As Marketing Associates at Feinstein’s/54 Below, we have seen firsthand the impact that a strong Instagram profile and presence can have, directly translating to sales, brand extension, and engagement. Check out our 6 Suggestions to Spice Up Your Instagram, and give them a try for your production! 

1. Know your brand.

Define your production, company, etc. through specific wording, colors, and imaging. Does your Instagram resemble your logo and website in style? It should, and will give you brand recognition.

2. Mixed messaging can be good.

Instagram users are constantly blasted messaging to “buy” or “click here.” This social platform certainly should be used for that, but be sure to balance sales messaging with interesting and engaging content, too – this will build your brand, and make calls to action more effective! The quality of your pictures, videos, etc. will matter more than the volume of posts you do per day, or even per week.

3. Quality over quantity.

Less is more when it comes to writing captions for your posts. Instagram users are scrolling quickly through their feed, so having eye-catching, quality content is key, as well as having snappy captions. If a long caption is unavoidable, front load important information so it’s presented above the “see more” cut off.

4. Engage to get engagement.

Do you want to increase engagement among your followers or people coming to your Instagram page? Then you have to engage with your audience too. Running simple contests, asking questions, and of course, responding to comments can go a long way. Take care of your followers by responding, and they’re more likely to remain loyal.

5. Tell a story.

The Instagram Stories & Highlights features are key tools to improve your social media presence. Instagram Stories are easy to view, and a great way to share information quickly. Once the 24 hours of the Story is through, add important messaging from the Story to your Highlights so it remains. Also, use the “Live” feature to share exclusive content: your curtain call, a backstage tour, or a sneak preview of the show.

6. #Hashtags! 

Using hashtags (#) in your content is one of the easiest ways to spread the reach of your posts. Show-specific hashtags are fantastic, but more important is utilizing trending topics such as #WomanCrushWednesday or #ThrowbackThursday, and including general hashtags such as #theater or #Broadway to draw in potential audiences who might otherwise be unfamiliar with your page. One note: always hashtag responsibly and don’t go overboard with them.

Vocabulary of Producing – Dynamic Pricing

Returning to our blog this week is our series on The Vocabulary of Producing, with a definition of on “Dynamic Pricing.” The rules of supply and demand come into play with this term, as producers must navigate filling seats and maximizing profits throughout the course of a show.

Insights and Ideas – Word of Mouth

It’s a theater truism that the only thing that will keep your show going for a long run is word of mouth.  Strong word of mouth is the gift of a great show.  Not just, “You must see this show!” but, “I want to bring you to this show so I can watch you love it; besides, I want to see it again myself.”  These rare long running shows are usually launched with great reviews, lots of press, lots of awards and berserk audiences from the get-go.  As the impact of the reviews dies down, the press moves on and a new awards season rolls around, all that remains of this magic quartet is the berserk audiences.

As a producer, you should take some time to bask in this glory, but the truth is that when word of mouth is your best friend, you can do some things to see that it stays at that enthusiastic high of the early days.

First, don’t stop advertising and don’t cut back much either.  It’s important that you constantly remind your potential audience that you’re there and keep your big hit top-of-mind.

Second, get involved with the audience experience.  Go to the show – a lot.  Shows are living creatures, just as all of the people who make the shows are.  We’re fortunate on Broadway that there are many highly professional artists, musicians and crew that are capable of running eight a week brilliantly.  But these are human beings and things change, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much, as a show goes deep into its run.

My particular bugaboo is sound.  Somehow, shows seem to get louder as they go along.  I don’t know why, but it’s happened on several shows with which we’ve been involved.  Whether it’s that or something else you think you’ve spotted, talk to stage management or even the director.  They can look for whatever concerns you and deal with it.

Make it your business to get to know the theater staff.  The treasurers can be tremendously helpful in keeping the show’s ticket sales healthy.  House management, ushers, ticket takers – everyone who is a part of the audience experience – is rooting for your show to succeed because it means they have a job.  Your attention to them and admiration of what they do can give them a valuable sense of being a part of the success.

Only the lucky few get to experience the phenomenon of a big, huge hit.  If it happens to you, be ready.

Nick Scandalios Part Two

This week’s CTI Blog features Part Two of our interview with Nick Scandalios, the Executive Vice President of Nederlander Organization. Read about Nick’s take on industry trends and the art of finding original content below!

1.      Nederlander has branches all over the country and even internationally.  Is it difficult to run such a large operation?

That’s not really been an issue.  Nederlander is structured in a way that the satellites, for lack of a better term, run with a fair amount of autonomy.  Senior management is spread throughout and most of the marketing is done locally.  We periodically gather the senior teams, much like how The Broadway League organizes conventions.  We’re a family company, so we refer to these as Family Meetings.  We seem to have cracked the code for ourselves and know what works for us.

2.      A major concern within the industry right now is the sheer volume of productions and the lack of available theaters.  Can you talk a little about that from your perspective?

There’s a perception that theater owners are in a luxurious position right now; they are in many ways. There are a lot of shows ready for Broadway and, thankfully, a lot of producers wanting to make that happen.  When I first came into the business in 1987, the average number of shows running at a given time was fourteen.  Fourteen!  Theaters would sit dark for two years.  It was a different world. We still have the same challenge to deliver as much new material to audiences as possible.  People underestimate how difficult it is to turn down a show when booking the theaters.  It’s hard to say no – there are many great productions out there and a massive amount of creativity coursing through the industry.

3.      Who has been your greatest mentor throughout your career?

Jimmy Nederlander, Sr; there’s nothing more to be said about that.  I have the best story in show business and I’m profoundly grateful for it every day.  Jimmy, Sr. changed my life; he set the course of my trajectory.  To the day I leave this planet, there will never be another answer to that question.  I wish for everyone that at some point in their life they meet someone as special and generous as Jimmy, Sr.
4.      Is there anything in particular that you’re drawn to when scouting new projects?

I think it’s always about finding another voice and not imitating something that was recently successful, which is enormously difficult to avoid!  Broadway used to have about four or five staples; today, there are about nine or ten (of course, the number fluctuates depending on who is doing the counting).  There is now a longer list of anchors.  What’s interesting to me is the difference between current and older “blockbuster” musicals.  When you look at a five-year period and combine the collective impact of shows like HamiltonDear Evan Hansen, and Come From Away, you start to feel the direction of new content, writing, and style within musical theater.  I think that keeps the theater vibrant.  It moves and evolves like an amoeba rather than a distinct line because imitation is ineffective and uninteresting.  As I examine the major productions on Broadway right now, I start to see the overall trend that audiences are attracted to work that makes them feel.  Between today’s political climate and the abundance of electronic devices and social media, individuals of all demographics are suffering from isolation. The theater is more and more a respite.  I think people come to shows to both release and to feel, which is in many ways enabling more challenging content to be produced than ever before.  People are hungry for connection.  I don’t really see this changing anytime soon unless there’s a major societal shift.  It’s quite profound and powerful to see what our audiences are embracing now.

 

BroadwayHD’s Stewart Lane

The CTI Blog features an interview with sponsor BroadwayHD’s CEO, Co-President, and Co-Founder Stewart Lane.  Read on to learn more about the philosophy behind this innovative streaming service and the people who have most influenced Stewart throughout his career.

What attracted you to the theater?

 My love for the theater started in elementary school. My best friend’s dad was an actor and I was invited to see him in Little Me on Broadway.  When I went backstage to visit the dressing room, I found myself in a home away from home. From that moment on, I knew that the theater was where I wanted to be. Theater & storytelling gave me direction.

What work are you most proud of?

As a Broadway producer, I’m incredibly proud of the original 1983 production of La Cage Aux Folles. At the time, it was risky to stage a musical about a gay romance. La Cage was my first Tony Award.  More importantly, the show offered a lot of timely valuable social commentary.

Of course, I’m also proud of the work we have done at BroadwayHD, bringing the best of Broadway, off-Broadway and the West End around the globe.

When did the seedlings of BroadwayHD begin?

Other mediums were trying to adapt the stage to the screen, but it wasn’t until technology caught up with the popularity of live theater that we knew it was time to enter the game. With the advent of Glee, Smash, Pitch Perfect, and La La Land, we saw that musicals were going mainstream and appealing to a younger and younger crowd.  We wanted to tap into that. Our first experiment was with the 2007 Broadway revival of Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline, which was picked up by a few outlets. When the instant download became ubiquitous in the industry, we knew we were ready to launch what eventually became BroadwayHD.

What offerings can you find on BroadwayHD?

There’s something for everyone on our platform. You can find Tony-winning productions such as Kinky Boots, The King and I, and Falsettos with casts full of Broadway all-stars.  You can also find smaller off-Broadway productions like Ernest Shackleton Loves Me and Daddy Long Legs; we are particularly thrilled about this aspect of BroadwayHD, as it gives these shows new life and broader audience exposure.  We are cultivating new theater fans subscriber by subscriber; in fact, many viewers have commented that they’ve gone to see a local production of a show because of viewing it first on BroadwayHD.  We also have ground-breaking productions of Shakespeare as well as a bevy of spectacular Cirque du Soleil performances.

Who were your mentors?

My father taught me about business and exposed me to a variety of industries. Jimmy Nederlander taught me about producing; he told me to always be practical and warned me that critic and audience reception is unpredictable.

What advice would you give people who want to go into the theater?

You must learn to be thick-skinned and prepare for a lot of rejection. Always forge your own path and trust your instincts! A streaming service for theater was met with resistance, but we have won over many hearts and minds and are thrilled with the product we are putting on the market. Also, take a CTI class – I wish I had when I was starting out!

What would you say to those people who are skeptical about streaming platforms in the theater space?

I believe that this is the future of American theater. It is important that the industry starts embracing this concept as both a revenue source and promotional material to be accessed all over the world. While nothing can ever replace the experience of physically going to the theater, not everyone can get to New York. We want to make the medium as accessible as possible.

Check out the website for more information.

Little Bo-Pat and her Sheep

This week, CTI alum, Pat Daily, shares one of her wildest show business stories.  What happens when you mix Sam Shepard, Midtown Manhattan, and a couple of barnyard friends?  Read on to find out! 

*Written by Pat Daily 

In 1985, never having produced, I was encouraged to enroll in Fred Vogel’s CTI.  I was in the early stages of producing Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class in an off-Broadway production starring Kathy Bates and Bill Pullman and… a live lamb.  During my CTI session, I struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee, Robert Cole (CTI’s 2015 Robert Whitehead Award winner), and told him of my need for a lamb.  He said he knew just the fellow and proceeded to put me in touch with another producer/gentleman farmer living in Westchester. The animal had to be fairly small because it was picked up and carried by a very lean Bill Pullman.

One thing led to another and before you can say Baaarbra, I had a sweet black lamb ready for her debut.  Since the lamb is said to have maggots in the play, we named her Maggie.  Boarding her, however, was a challenge.  Initially, I found a horse stable on the Upper West Side willing to take her.  I would walk her to and from the theater but being a sheep, she resisted the leash mightily, digging her hooves firmly into Times Square. She couldn’t be budged.  I then jerry-rigged a wagon big enough to hold her, attached it to my bike and attempted to pull her.  Uh, that REALLY didn’t work.  She butted the wagon, I fell off my bike and it was back to “Taxi!” Most drivers would step on the gas when they realized what I was toting.  But eventually, I would find a willing driver and I’d shove Maggie into the cab – with her bleating and raisinet-ing the back seat. I had tried extra-large diapers to keep the raisinets contained but they proved useless. (Where was PETA then?)  The drivers would ask what kind of dog and I would answer (sheepishly) “a sheep dog” but the smell of a barnyard animal is very distinctive and by the time the drivers realized it was NOT a dog, I was at the theater or the stable.   This went on for a month or so until the stable gave her/me notice.  The bleating was distracting to the horses;  I’d have to find another home for Maggie.  A few blocks away there was a firehouse. Firemen like pets!  They’ll love Maggie.  It wasn’t love at first sight but when I offered to cook spaghetti meals for the firemen, they obliged and took her in.  Meanwhile Maggie was growing into a sheep and getting too heavy for Bill to carry.  We had to trade her in for another lamb.  The next lamb we named Meryl Sheep.  She was an excellent actress but constantly upstaged the others by bleating, butting her head, and raisinet-ing the stage.  She got lots of laughs (in a non-comedy) and seemed very happy in the spotlight.  Meryl Sheep outgrew the role too and it was on to the next.  Meanwhile, the firehouse was getting sick of the sheep smell and our production was moving from the Promenade on the Upper West Side to 890 Broadway, a new theater that had just opened downtown.  I bit the budget’s bullet and hired an animal wrangler (not Bill Berloni – I didn’t know of him then) to room and board any new additions that came along to get us to the end of our run.

CTI not only taught me a lot about producing, it taught me everything a city slicker would need to know about shepherding.

Nederlander’s Nick Scandalios Part One

*By CTI Staff Member Madeline Carney 

It was a hot, sticky Manhattan afternoon – the kind where the pavement starts to melt into a gooey black tar – when I sat down to chat with Nederlander’s Executive Vice President, Nick Scandalios.  His assistant led me to a quiet conference room, starkly decorated aside from the Hirschfelds scattered across the walls.  I was immediately drawn to the Peter Pan sketch, an ethereal cartoon boy floating among stars and pixie dust.  Nick quietly entered the room, taking a seat beside me at the table.  He seemed hesitant to interrupt my admiring of the picture.  The interview that followed was a refreshing, inspiring, and heartfelt conversation that I was reluctant to end; below is a pared down, edited version of the exchange that I hope captures the wisdom and generosity of a true theatrical great…

What does your role as Executive Vice President of The Nederlander Organization entail and what does your typical day-to-day look like?

There’s no day-to-day that happens with any regularity.  Nederlander is broken into multiple branches, as it’s a real estate company that owns many theaters.  Some days are about the booking and maintenance of the Broadway theaters, some are about the programming of the theaters on the road, and others may not involve much theater at all.  I like that my job requires these various elements to mix; a single day can be filled with a variety of business components.

What is your favorite part of the job and what are some of the biggest challenges?

I don’t think I have a favorite part of the job – I genuinely love every aspect and look forward to coming to work each morning.  I think the problems, to the extent that we have them in the theater, are interesting ones to solve – there’s nothing cataclysmic about them.  For example, right now, I think a fascinating challenge is to determine our future relationships with consumers; how can we make the experience better for our patrons from start to finish and beyond?  A major piece of that is the ticket-buying process, and there’s a lot of change happening in that realm (some good and some less good).  We will likely be in a different place in five years.  I think another challenge is the shift in our audience demographics, both in age and makeup. We are in a period of great transition and the shows we create need to keep pace with these changes in order to continue inspiring our fans.  Because of this, I believe we are going to have to alter the way we look at revivals of classics in the future.  These challenges, whether big or small, contribute to the overall arc of our industry.

I’ve heard that you once aspired to be an actor.  How has your journey led you to where you are today?

My journey was like that of many industry professionals; I was an actor when I was younger.  My parents made a deal with me that if I went to business school and still wanted to be an actor by the time I finished at twenty-two, then they would send me to whatever performance program I could get myself into.  That was a smart deal on their end!  My accepting of this should have been the first of many signs that I wasn’t going to pursue a career in acting – I wasn’t absolutely hungry for it and was perfectly content with a business degree.  I still acted through college, but when it came time to graduate, I had had some limited experience producing and knew enough to examine myself as a potential actor.  Talent (or lack of talent) aside, looking at my abilities, 6’ 4” frame, overall type, and lack of need to act, I decided that performing wasn’t really for me.  I then had to choose between being an investment banker or somehow finding my way into theater.  I had a couple of excellent banking mentors who encouraged me to go unemployed and start sending out my resume, which is exactly what I did.  A little circuitously, I ended up at Nederlander relatively quickly.

As you noted, it seems as though the entry point into the industry is through acting.  I’ve had this conversation with several industry members now; do you think we should be working to educate more young students about the variety of professions within theater that exist beyond acting? 

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to introduce them to these roles, but I’m not positive whether it would have any significant impact.   Children are exposed to acting as early as six-months-old, from television shows to magicians at birthday parties, and it’s visually stimulating to them; the initial introduction to the theater and entertainment is via the performer.  Unless a child is absolutely fascinated by a specific facet of theater, I think it takes them a long time to be able to fully comprehend the larger scope.  In fact, I’ve experienced this first-hand.  When we were doing On Your Feet, I brought my then seven-year-old twins to a rehearsal during the final days of run-throughs.  I wanted them to see the bare-bones version of the show without all the moving scenery, lights, and costumes – maybe I could pique their interest in the behind-the-scenes aspect of theater.  Jerry Mitchell and Sergio Trujillo gave my children lots of attention and walked them through the set model before the run-through to help them better connect some of the dots.  After, when I asked whether any parts of the day had interested them, they rejected it all out of hand.  Ultimately, I think you have to get older before you can absorb that kind of information, whereas performing is understood viscerally from a young age.

If you had the opportunity to bring any show to Broadway and return to your acting roots for one day only, what show would you pick and why?

The show that changed my life was Evita; Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone rocked my world as a teenager.  Che in Evita has always been a favorite role of mine, and I got to play him in college; I think I would want to do that again.  Maybe ten people would pay to watch the train wreck that that would be!

 

 

An Interview with CTI Graduate Aaron Sanko

This week, the CTI Blog features an interview with graduate Aaron Sanko.  Aaron has completed the 14-Week, 3-Day, and O’Neill Intensives. Join us as we discuss Aaron’s journey through the industry and how he believes theater can be used as a source of education and empowerment.

Can you tell us a bit about your career path and how you ended up where you are today?

My pathway to my current role included stops in an array of artistic and non-artistic roles.  I grew up in the Detroit area with limited exposure to theater, but was fortunate enough to have an incredibly supportive single mother and elementary school teacher to introduce me to this previously elusive world.  I began professionally as an actor at age twelve, then found my way into singing opera, conducting, teaching, and producing.  After retiring from the stage, I went back to school to study business and took a brief hiatus from theater to work in the corporate human resources world.  After a lot of self-reflection, I decided that my primary passions are people and the arts, so I decided to pursue a career as a talent representative. I spent some time with UIA Talent Agency before opening my own consulting company, The Cruxory Group, which I founded to serve the market of artists running businesses without formal business training.  Amidst this work, and after taking multiple CTI courses to sharpen my skill set, I produced and co-produced a variety of shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in festivals, and in international venues. Highlights from these experiences include collaborations with fellow CTI alumni; I served as Music Supervisor and General Partner for two award-winning productions written by Christian De Gré Cardenas, and as Music Director for the first musical to be staged in Liberia.  Now, several years later, I’m back with UIA as Managing Director, representing actors, singers, and creatives while overseeing company operations and HR policy. Looking forward, I have an interest in building a literary department at the company. At this point in my journey, which was definitely a winding road, I’m leveraging my strengths and experiences to advocate for artists and help guide them through the ever-changing industry landscape.

You’ve clearly had a variety of experiences and vantage points throughout your career.  Is there anything in particular that you’ve noticed that you think this industry can improve?

Although it’s beginning to be addressed in some BFA programs, I’m seeing many artists enter the marketplace with a general lack of practical business knowledge.  I would love to see more higher education programs encouraging creative entrepreneurship in ways that empower artists to identify their strengths and develop a well-rounded business-skills toolbox which will allow them to support their art while they find their place in the world.

I also think we can improve the ways we’re working on the systemic lack of diversity in theater.  We should be committing our resources to diversifying theater makers. This goes all the way back to early arts education – how can we expose students to professions within theater beyond acting? It’s our responsibility to identify both the creators AND arts business people of tomorrow.  I’m hoping we can create more funnels into a wider array of roles in the industry at an earlier point in one’s education.

You mentioned earlier that you’ve produced a show in Liberia.  Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Broadway Artists Connection and International Children’s Network recruited me to help produce and music direct the first musical to be staged in Liberia, The Wiz.  We cast the show with young locals, some of whom were war orphans, ranging from nine to twenty-five. None of the individuals we worked with there had ever experienced theater.  There were many unexpected challenges – some logistical, others theoretical. We had to consider equipment transportation, power conversion, the lack of radio space regulation, and water supply.  The actors themselves had no exposure to the source material and had never read music before. As the country is emerging from a decades-long civil war, entertainment is certainly a luxury. Because of their reality, the students were all preparing for professions in medicine, law, and civil engineering to help rebuild their fractured community.  A career in the arts was unimaginable to them, so we had to examine how to tailor the creative process in a way that they would appreciate.  

We wanted to leave the community with the resources to continue these newfound passions in support of the belief that theater and the arts can be vehicles for education and development.  We wanted to make an imprint and not just a memory.

Can you share any life lessons you’ve discovered throughout your multi-faceted career?

While I value being a well-rounded generalist, I’ve learned and observed that challenges can arise when trying to wear too many hats simultaneously. Beyond the limit of effective multi-tasking, it’s important to be sensitive to conflicts of interest, such as a producer performing in their own show.  There are hats that can be worn together with grace, and hats which need to be put away for a period of time. This can lead to a change in career trajectory, which can be panic-inducing; being fearless about it almost always pays off.  Exploring new capacities will inspire and empower you, and and you can always return to the old role.  If you embrace the risk, take the time to identify your inherent strengths, and prioritize the people involved in these decisions, you can balance loyalty and opportunity to find your path. You’ll likely be much happier, wiser, and wealthier for it than if you stood still and stayed safe.