The Road to Recovery

As the country begins to lift social distancing and quarantine guidelines, the Broadway industry must examine how it can safely reopen.  This “new normal” could mean a total overhaul of the current financial model on Broadway.

Read Steven D’Souza’s CBC News report here.

Broadway and the Budget

In an effort to adjust the New York City budget in response to the 2020 pandemic and resulting economic crash, De Blasio’s new proposal could prove fatal to theater.  Lee Seymour’s article, published in Forbes magazine, explores the risks that New York’s culturally embedded art institutions and Broadway may face.  Read Seymour’s article here.

Please note that President of the Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, has clarified that June 7th was never posed as a potential re-opening date for Broadway.  Read the interview here.  

An Update from The Broadway League

In a comprehensive interview with Greg Evans of DEADLINE, President of The Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, updates readers on Broadway’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.  St. Martin explains the intricate details involved in closing theaters, re-opening shows, installing potential safety precautions, the various steps The League is taking to ensure the future of Broadway, and more.  

Charlotte St. Martin couldn’t be blamed for bristling over that recent televised and widely quoted exchange between a reporter and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Asked by the reporter if Broadway’s decision to re-open on June 7 could serve as a “rule of thumb” for other New York City industries, Cuomo did some bristling of his own. “I wouldn’t use what Broadway thinks as a barometer of anything unless they’re in the public health business and have seen better numbers and models,” the governor said, dismissively.

St. Martin wants to set the record straight. The president of the Broadway League, the trade group representing theater owners, producers, presenters and general managers on Broadway and theaters throughout North America, says that June 7 was never announced as a date certain for the Broadway reopening – or even a date uncertain.

A June 7 reopening was “never, ever the case. We did not say that,” St. Martin tells Deadline…

Read the full article here.

Farewell, Amanda!

CTI’s Program Manager, Amanda Harper, bids us a fond farewell as she moves on to new adventures!  Read on for an exclusive letter from Amanda about what she has learned throughout her years with CTI, the theater industry’s leading training and professional development program.

The Lessons I’ve Learned at CTI

Throughout the past six seasons, I’ve worked on over 100 CTI events for more than 3,500 participants. I’ve learned a lot and met so many amazing people. Thanks to everyone who made this journey the wonderful experience it has been. I thought I’d share some lessons I’ve learned being “backstage” at CTI.

  • There is no “one-size-fits-all” on Broadway

Over the years, we’ve gotten requests for “the Broadway budget” or for examples of “the theater contract.” Unfortunately, these things just don’t exist. What’s needed for a two-person 90-minute straight play by an author making their Broadway debut is very different than what’s needed for a musical revival with a cast of thirty. Your experience working on one show will help you on the next (hopefully), but you can’t simply copy/paste everything from before. How you develop the show, create its budget, cast it, and choose the theater will vary widely from project to project.

This may seem obvious, but one of the most frequent comments on the CTI evaluations is some variation of, “I wish the speakers would give us more hard facts and not tell as many stories.” What I’ve learned is that the stories are the “hard facts.” Hearing stories of how industry pros dealt with specific shows is the most valuable part of CTI. During our sessions, you get to learn about what they did, why they did it, and what lessons they took onto their next project. We do provide basic budgets and sometimes generalize contracts as handouts, but hearing how experts took those tools and applied them to the unique qualities of their show is how you learn how Broadway works. There’s an alchemy to theater that, I think, is unique to the medium. Trying to apply a template or a “standard” item could potentially take away from the magic that is so essential to the theater.

  • Everyone knows everyone

This industry is extremely small and, as cliched as it sounds, everyone knows everyone. One of the most common statements from the wide array of CTI speakers is that this is a business of relationships. If you have a good experience working with someone, you’ll want to hire them again for your next project. If you’re looking for someone for a new position, you try finding it through connections before you post the job on Playbill. Any connections you make, however random, should be nurtured and taken seriously.

The positive side of this is that you can use the connections you have to get to know the wider theatrical community. If you meet someone for coffee or lunch, ask them, “Is there anyone else that you recommend I speak to about my project?”. You may be surprised about how quickly your network can expand.

However, this sword cuts both ways, so my advice here is not to burn your bridges under any circumstances. Even if you’ve decided that you won’t work with someone because you don’t like them, you never know who else they’re acquainted with in the industry. I’ve made the mistake of running my mouth when I shouldn’t have and it’s come back to bite me every time.

  • There’s always more to learn

Theater is constantly changing and evolving; the hits on Broadway now wouldn’t have been possible, or even really considered, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. This means that there is always more to learn. For example, the rise of social media platforms has completely changed how to determine the media mix for a show’s marketing strategy.

Obviously, CTI is a key resource here. The courses offered are populated with this idea in mind. I’ve clearly been drinking the Kool-Aid here for a long time, but I do truly believe that CTI provides a level of information and access that’s unparalleled. Tom is dedicated to mentoring and teaching the current and next generation of theatrical professionals and takes great care in putting together the agendas for the events.

If you’re not able to attend a CTI event, there are countless books, podcasts, blogs, and articles from which you can learn.

  • Know the audience for your show

Here’s my one bit of “nuts and bolts” advice: make sure you know who the audience is for your show. If you go to your marketing team and say that the show is for “everyone,” you’re going to get push back. One of the reasons for this is that it’s hard to craft a message that will appeal to everyone. As my marketing professor at NYU Stern would say, “You can’t boil the ocean.” Casting too wide a net in terms of audience focus will hurt your show. A narrowed segment of the potential audience will allow you to use your limited resources effectively.

Again, thank you to everyone who attended or spoke at a CTI event over the past six seasons. It’s been an invaluable learning experience for me and I’ll miss it next year. I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season and a very happy New Year.

Warmly,

 

 

 

 

Amanda Harper

 

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.