Tom’s Tidbits – Why are Recoupment Charts Essential to Producers?

Our avid blog readers may recall one of our previous Vocabulary of Producing posts in which we defined the term “recoupment chart.”  For today’s Tidbits, Tom provides a refresher on the basic elements of a recoupment chart, and explains why these documents are vital to the financial success of a show.  Whether you’re the lead producer or an investor, knowing not only how to navigate and create a recoupment chart, but also understanding its importance will have you ten steps ahead of the curve.  Read on to learn the tricks and tips of the trade.

Recoupment charts are key tools for producers both as a way of evaluating the economics of a production and to inform potential investors.  The chart shows how quickly a production would recoup its initial investment at different percentages of financial capacity.  The chart starts with the gross income at levels of financial capacity of the producer’s choosing.  Although there are a variety of ways of presenting this information, recoupment charts typically consist of several columns, each indicating a different level of financial capacity.  A typical chart would start with 100% of financial capacity (a sellout at stated box office prices) and work downward through columns labeled 90%, 80%, 70% and so forth.  It might be more or less detailed than that and the last column might indicate the level of financial capacity needed to produce a break-even result – the amount of gross that would keep the show running without incurring a loss but providing no funds toward recoupment.

The expenses of running the show would appear below the gross in each column.  Deductions from gross, “fixed” running expenses and the theater percentage rent would all be deducted from gross to produce an amount available for royalties and recoupment.  Royalties to the author, director, underlying rights holder and others would then be deducted, calculated either as a percentage of gross or in a royalty pool, depending on the producer’s choice of compensation.  If features like amortization are used, those would be taken into account as well.  After all the aspects of royalty payments are calculated and deducted the amount left over is available for recoupment of the initial capitalization.  That amount would be divided into the capitalization and the result is the number of weeks it would take to recoup the capitalization at each level of financial capacity.

Several things to think about:

The theater chosen for this exercise might or might not be the one the production finally gets and since all of the calculations depend on financial capacity, the choice of theater can vary results dramatically.  A 1,500-seat theater will produce quicker recoupment (on the chart, at least) than a 1,000-seater.  Unless the theater has already been actually chosen, it’s worth being a bit cautious about taking the results too much to heart. 

These days, there are a lot of ways to affect financial capacity.  In the real world, premium tickets, discounts and dynamically changing ticket prices can all have significant impact.  Its certainly worth understanding whether the producer has assumed the sale of premium tickets in the calculation.

I put quotes around the word “fixed” in describing fixed operating costs.  These costs include everything the production spends except deductions from gross and royalties and they are not, of course, literally “fixed” from week to week.  Lots of costs vary weekly, from advertising to having understudies performing to the cost of repairing costumes.  The idea behind these “fixed” weekly costs is a reasonable estimate over time.

No one has a crystal ball about any show that’s ever been produced.  But in looking at a recoupment chart and seeing how many weeks it will take to recoup, it’s worth thinking about your opinion of the sustainability of grosses over many weeks at any particular level to achieve recoupment.

To have an informed opinion, read the chart that the Broadway League puts out every week for each show running on Broadway.  There’s a lot of information in the chart, including average ticket prices, the percentage of seating and financial capacity that each show has achieved for that week and whether the show’s grosses are up or down from the prior week.  You can put the recoupment chart in the context of what’s actually happening on Broadway and perhaps have a less cloudy crystal ball – which is the most any of us can hope for.

Vocabulary of Producing – Wrap

Perhaps one of the most frequent terms you’ll hear as a producer, the wrap is essential in determining the health of a show.  Understanding the lingo of show business is key to a successful career on Broadway.  Take advantage of the long weekend by checking out some of our other Vocabulary of Producing posts!     

Wrap – The “wrap” is the total ticket sales for a given period.  Wraps are mostly reported either daily or weekly, so producers often talk about “yesterday’s wrap” or “last week’s wrap.”  The wrap includes all ticket sales for the day (or week) whether they are for performances within the period or beyond.  All price points are included in the wrap (premium sales, regularly priced sales and discounts) as well as group sales.


Vocabulary of Producing – Deductions from Gross

The CTI Blog returns to arm you with the vocabulary terms you’ll need to understand as an aspiring producer.  This week, we feature “Deductions from Gross.”

Deductions from Gross

Each week that a show performs, the box office treasurer, the theater manager, and the company manager reconcile gross income and the deductions from gross income for that week.  Deductions are for specific items that the theater incurs on behalf of the show.  The show also has its own expenses that it pays directly, such as salaries of actors and crew, royalties, and marketing costs.

Gross income before deductions is generally referred to as “gross gross.”  Income after taking into account deductions is called “net gross.”  When compensation is based on a percentage of gross income, such as the theater’s percentage rent or compensation to a star or to a royalty holder, net gross is used rather than gross gross.

The deductions include four categories:

  • A contribution to the pension plans of several unions.  The contribution amounts to 4.5% of gross gross for musicals and slightly less for plays.  It is split between the unions that enjoy this benefit based on a long-standing formula.
  • Credit card commissions.  This is a charge to cover the fees of credit card companies when ticket buyers use credit cards.
  • Group sales commissions paid to licensed group sales agents who work with group buyers.  These transactions are often more complex than the purchase of individual seats and group agents work with the treasurer of the theater to manage each purchase.  The commission is 10% of each sale.
  • Commissions to third party sellers.  These are ticket vendors like, TodayTix, Goldstar, Groupon and others.  Each vendor has their own commission structure.
  • A ticketing fee paid to the theater.  This is a charge that the producer agrees to in the license agreement with the theater and covers the cost of printing tickets.

Broadway Profiles – A Serial Interview with Jack Viertel – Part Four

The CTI blog is proud to present the final segment of our serial interview with industry veteran, Jack Viertel.

Content has been edited for brevity and clarity 

Part Four

I’ve come across many people at CTI events who are specifically interested in the creative aspects of producing.  What advice do you have for them?

I can only tell you what happened to me, which was that those seven years that I spent as a theater critic were the most important part of my career. I saw many shows and had to analyze them in a conversational way.  In the process, without really meaning to, I learned a lot about what makes a show work.  I then learned a whole other chunk of essential information about production once I came over to the theater-making side. But I understood the fundamental elements of a story from being a theater critic more than anything else.

One of the things that really surprises me is when people become producers of flop after flop and never seem to learn anything from the experience.  They don’t appear to stop and analyze the reasons why a show didn’t work.  The worst thing you can say is that a show did work, the audience just didn’t understand it.  If the audience doesn’t understand the show, then it doesn’t work.  You have to try to learn something from that.  You can’t let your ego become so involved in the show that you refuse to learn what the audience and the financials have told you; you have to accept that that show is a failure.  Then, you have to try to figure out why and not make those mistakes again.  You can make new mistakes, but you shouldn’t be making the same mistakes repeatedly.  A shocking number of people seem to be more and more militantly defensive about the shows that they’ve done that don’t work rather than try to use them as a tool. There isn’t much reflection done by a lot of people.  On the other hand, I think successful producers do a lot of reflecting.  They ask what went wrong.  Was it in the conception; the carrying out; the elements of the story that were either not appealing or that were not well-told enough to be clear?  What did we fail to do that others around us were doing?  I think you can learn.  I believe you can be taught a little bit – that’s what my book is for – but that you learn much more from the painful experience of having done something that didn’t work.

What would you classify as the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Dramaturgically, the biggest mistake I ever made was trying to produce a show with a passive hero.  The best example of this was in Time and Again, which is a novel that has many attractive things about it.  It’s a wonderful book that is not meant to be a musical for the most basic reason, which is that it has a passive hero.  We could never get it off the ground.  Of course, there were other design-related issues, but the fundamental problem was that I couldn’t devise a way to get an audience interested in the protagonist.  That was the most important dramaturgical mistake that I ever made.

The most important business mistake that we ever made collectively at Jujcamcyn was that we had Chicago from Encores! booked in the Martin Beck (now the Hirschfeld), and Andrew Lloyd Webber showed up at our office and asked for the theater for Whistle Down the Wind.  I was ambivalent about all of this because I was loyal to Encores!, but I was also somewhat timid because I didn’t want to be disloyal to Jujamcyn, and here was Andrew Lloyd Webber, commercially the most important artist of our time, knocking on the door.  We kicked Chicago out and took Whistle Down the Wind, which then closed out of town in Washington.  Chicago would still be at the Martin Beck if we had booked it twenty-seven years ago.  It was our one shot at a show that would run more than twenty years! But what can you do?  You go on.  And lots of great shows have played the Hirschfeld, but it was a bad moment.

That segues nicely into my next question.  Especially when you were just starting out in your career, did you ever worry about passing on a show that would go on to be a great commercial success, given the multitude of projects you’ve had to scout and evaluate throughout your lifetime?

It’s happened to me a couple of times.  You have to assume that anyone would make an equal number of mistakes – except if you make enough mistakes, it turns out you’re not very good at that job and predicting what will actually be successful.

Much of it really seems to boil down to taste.

Yes. There’s no right or wrong, per se, but I think you can become skilled at reading a script and citing why a story falls apart or why it works.  That’s a learned skill to some degree, but whether something appeals to you is totally a matter of taste.

It seems essential to be able to understand and communicate the difference.  


When I look at something for Jujamcyn – which is different than for Encores!, where I’m really looking at the score and the history of the piece – I’m always examining the story.  Is this story told all the way through to the end?  Is it a compelling story that I want to tell?  Is there a great role in which an actor can clear hurdles in a way that an audience will want to see, like a Madame Rose, Harold Hill, Alexander Hamilton, or Evan Hansen?  Unlike film, where there are many takes and months of editing, in theater, audiences are hungry to watch a live person like themselves live through an entire story in front of their eyes.  This is not only magical, it is a marketable commodity.  I also ask whether the story interacts with the world we are already engaged in today, or whether an audience will be indifferent to the topic.  Pieces like Angels in America, August Wilson’s plays, and Dear Evan Hansen had the advantage of already being in sync with current society and events.  That’s important.  Jordan Roth added an interesting component to consider when analyzing potential projects for Jujamcyn, which is whether a show is necessary.  Is it something that people will feel that they must partake of, or is it just good?  Various things can make a production necessary, but competition is so fierce in the marketplace that without this necessity it won’t survive.  It can be heartbreaking.  Every now and then, one sneaks by that feels unnecessary and becomes a hit, but never a mega-hit.

Broadway Profiles – A Serial Interview with Jack Viertel Part Three

CTI is delighted to present another in-depth conversation with Jack Viertel, this time discussing the evolution of theater criticism, the overlap between the commercial and non-profit worlds, and the various duties of a dramaturg.

Content has been edited for brevity and clarity 


I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, as you’ve had experience as both a commercial producer and a theater critic.  I’ve noticed that more and more, the reviews are not always in line with popular opinion and have heard that the world of theater criticism is shrinking.  Why do you think that is?

I think there are a few answers to that.  Probably the most important reason that theater criticism isn’t as powerful as it once was isn’t that the theater critics are less good – which is a debatable point that one could have any number of opinions about – but that the audience is now so broad and from so many different places that they’re not buying tickets based on reviews anymore.  Someone planning a trip from across the country – or the world – decides what shows to see based on various kinds of marketing, including social media and advertising, and they don’t really know whether the critics liked the show.

When I was young, back in the early 60s, the audience was still largely based in New York and its suburbs.  Everyone read the reviews and cared about what the critics said because there was no alternative information. There was no social media or ads on television, for example; the critics were kind of it.  Even the advertising that was done marketed the show through quotes from the critics.  They were the only real taste-makers. Now, theater criticism has to compete with an ever-broadening audience and an ever-broadening way of distributing information.  It remains powerful for certain kinds of theater where there’s still a New York-centric audience, but that’s no longer the lion’s share of theater-goers on Broadway, so Broadway primarily produces for international and national audiences.  And this isn’t just an issue for theater criticism, of course, it’s a problem for journalism everywhere.  Newspapers are disappearing – my old alma mater, the Herald Examiner, hasn’t been around for a long time.  We don’t expect the paper to hit the driveway in the morning — we turn on our phones and can check out a half-dozen news sources on the same screen at the same time.

I think as a result, many theater critics feel empowered to write in a way that is less about reporting what they saw on stage last night (and having an opinion about what was good and what was bad about that) than it is about trying to push the art form in one direction or another depending on their own aesthetics.  I’m not saying that’s an invalid thing to do, but it’s different than what Walter Kerr and Brooks Atkinson were doing, which was essentially a reporting job with opinion added.  There isn’t as much reporting in today’s theater criticism, but there’s a lot of opinion.  A lot of the opinion is about the show but just as much is also often about what the production represents in terms of where the theater is going.  I think that becomes a slightly inside baseball argument among people who want to talk about the aesthetics of an art form and much less a general interest piece of writing about whether to attend a show.  It seems that many critics have taken on the responsibility of helping establish where the art form goes.

And of course, politics have always been relevant in theater and art, but it seems that we are seeing an extreme increase in the infiltration of politics both in productions and within theater criticism.  

Yes.  It’s geopolitics, but it’s also sexual politics and racial politics and I think it works in both directions.  Critics can be, to me, overly critical of shows that are not involved in politics or revivals of older shows whose sexual or racial politics feel outdated, but they can also give a pass to some shows that are not particularly well done but are passionately making a contemporary point.  Now, this is only my opinion and not necessarily the next person’s opinion, but that’s what I sense; many critics are driven toward or away from certain pieces based on things other than “I had a good time” or “I didn’t have a good time.”

Would you say that this evolution of theater criticism is having an impact on the industry and the kind of work that is being produced?

I think it may be having an impact on the non-profit part of the industry more than the commercial.  In my opinion, the commercial part of the industry is heat seeking toward an audience and they’re not worrying too much about the critics.  When you look at the evidence of shows like Wicked, which was not well-reviewed for the most part and has run for decades anyway, (or shows that got wonderful reviews and didn’t run because there was no real commercial audience for them) I think most Broadway producers view critics as an adjunctive entity that comes with opening a show.  The critics are smart, so it’s nice to get good reviews, but from a marketing point of view, it’s less essential than it once was.

You have extensive experience in both the non-profit and commercial world.  Is there any overlap between the two, or have they become polar opposite worlds?

I think they’ve become partners in a way.  It’s like a Venn Diagram; there is a big chunk of work in which only non-profit or commercial producers would be interested, but there’s a certain amount in which both would be interested.   In that overlapping portion, the worlds can work together.  For example, many commercial producers will give enhancements to non-profit theaters to try out their shows.  The non-profit and commercial producers can talk to each other about where the theater’s going, where it’s been, what’s good, and what’s bad.  But each also has their own work that they’re doing for their own mission and interests.

I’m changing topics a bit here.  When looking through your bio, I noticed that you credit yourself as both a dramaturg and a creative consultant.  Is there a difference between them?

There is in the sense that as a creative consultant, you might be called upon to help a producer refine a list of directors or composers, for example, to hire for a project.  I don’t consider that dramaturgy.  But once a project is started, I think creative consultant is just an American way of saying dramaturg.  So, I don’t particularly distinguish between them once that process has begun.

Would you say that dramaturgs are more prevalent in the non-profit arena than the commercial?  I rarely see a dramaturg credit in a Broadway playbill. 

Yes, and also in European theater (which is largely non-profit).  In these worlds, it’s actually a defined job, rather than just associate to the producer.  Dramaturgs do research for the cast and director and write program notes; they’re involved in the semi-academic side of surrounding the production with knowledge.  They aren’t necessarily tasked with helping a production creatively or working on the script, as a lot of the shows are classics, but they provide research and facts which help the audience appreciate whatever they’re seeing. In commercial theater, I think, we use the term more to mean someone who’s working to help the creators make a better show.


Broadway Profiles – A Serial Interview with Jack Viertel – Part Two

Welcome back to the CTI Blog’s Serial Interview with Jack Viertel.  Join us this week as we discuss a variety of topics from surprising research discoveries to the philosophy behind Encores! programming.

Content has been edited for brevity and clarity 


In your book, you talk about the end of the Golden Age of musical theater coinciding with the rise of the concept musical in the 1970s.  These concept musicals veer away from many of the patterns of the traditional American structure; some are hits, and others are flops.  What enables the successful shows to break away from the “rules”?

I think it’s almost always about the emotional pull of the experience.  Sometimes you can create that emotional pull entirely without, or without as many, traditional story structure poles to support a production.  Sometimes you can’t.  A concept musical is more difficult to execute than a traditional story because with a traditional story, you know which elements you need.  Without it, you’re wire walking with no net underneath you.  It’s not impossible to achieve, it’s just harder.  I think there have been relatively few shows that do it well.  Come From Away is an interesting example of a show that doesn’t really follow any particular patterns of traditional structure, but it has an amazing pull because it’s ninety minutes of people caring about each other and being kind.  That is so dramatically powerful in the world we’re living in today that the audience doesn’t need many of the more conventional tools.

Every production, no matter its format, requires something that will suck an audience in and make them care.

I’ve also noticed that audiences tend to love a piece of work because it breaks the mold. 

Even if it’s a mold they don’t recognize, they love that it breaks the mold.  They are excited when they feel they’ve seen something original and different.

Your book clearly required a lot of research and analysis.  Was there anything that you discovered that was surprising?

One example of the patterns I try to illustrate in my book is the existence of specific types of songs within the score, such as the conditional love song.  I found shows where I couldn’t easily identify these songs until closer examination.  For instance, in Into the Woods, there’s a conditional love song for one, which is “On the Steps of the Palace.”  I don’t know whether Stephen Sondheim consciously intended to write a conditional love song – probably not – but, nonetheless, that’s what it is.  It’s a very unusual form of a very usual moment in a show where someone thinks, “Uh-oh, I’m feeling something that I’m not sure I want to feel or that I’m not sure I dare feel.”  I ultimately uncovered elements or patterns in certain shows that I had previously believed to operate successfully without them; they were just hidden, buried, or executed in an inventive way.

I was watching the final performance of Kinky Boots yesterday and I realized that there is no “I Want” song in the show, but there is an “I Don’t Want” song.  Knowing what you don’t want is sometimes the same thing as knowing what you want.  It’s not a big departure, but it’s an interesting variation on a theme.

Speaking of the “I Want” song, another pattern of a successful musical that has yet to be broken is the presence of an active hero who desires something.  Many musicals are adaptations of films and television shows.  However, you note in your book that the need for an active hero is a non-issue in these mediums, which makes a lot of the content unsuitable for the stage.  Why do you think musicals need an active hero whereas film and television do not?

I don’t have a good answer to that question.  I think Stephen Sondheim had an interesting point when he said that farces are expresses and musicals are locals.  I think the local nature of musicals – they keep stopping at every station (breaking into song at every plot point) – increases their responsibility to hold your interest.  The audience can get off at any stop it wants, and it does sometimes.

One of the noteworthy things about Kinky Boots is that it’s based on a movie that has that exact issue; the protagonist is a guy who is forced into running a shoe factory that he is not interested in running, and that’s his only problem.  He doesn’t have a specific want or desire.  It’s a perfectly good movie premise; it’s a tough musical theater premise.  The creative team had to solve that by writing a song about what’s going on with his soul, so it’s not just that he’s aggravated that he has to run a shoe factory, as in the film.  It’s really a kind of “Something’s Coming” type song, but it basically says, “Nothing’s coming and I’m pissed off about it.”  You start to care about him because he’s identified himself as a man who doesn’t know where his soul wants to take him, but, as I said before, he knows what his soul doesn’t want.  I think it was a tough nut to crack, but they did, hence a six-year run.

And then there are shows that don’t have a six-year run, or much of a run at all for that matter, which make up the Encores! seasons.  What I personally find most exciting about Encores! is the opportunity to see rarely produced shows on stage and examine them as markers of American musical theater history and evolution.  How would you describe the primary mission of the program?     

Well, the original philosophy behind the program was pretty simple.  Judith Daykin, who was running City Center, wanted to re-incorporate musical theater into the programming and there wasn’t a big budget.  We eventually decided to stage lesser known musicals by great writers that have wonderful scores even if the show itself isn’t a classic.  We wanted to present them the way they were heard on opening night with their original orchestrations and vocal arrangements.  We therefore agreed not to spend much money on scenery or costumes – the money would go toward the music.  The opportunity of such programming would be just what you described.  Encores! would allow audiences to see what a show was in a given time, which would provide interesting, compelling, or at least amusing information about the era.  Viewers could examine what the original audience was like.  Encores! would be a living museum, in a way, but more exciting because of the great big band on stage.

Each year during season planning, we follow the same basic guidelines.  We ask whether the score is good enough to warrant a restaging (it doesn’t necessarily have to be by famous writers, but it has to be by writers of quality),  whether the show is interesting enough to fascinate an audience even if it’s flawed, and whether it says something of note about the period in which it was written, who the artists were, and in what they believed.

Of course, as the politics of the United States have become more sensitized to a lot of issues – particularly racial, sexual, and gender issues  – that were not previously a concern in the 30s through early 60s, editing these shows and exposing them in ways that allow the audience to enjoy even their outmodedness has become a big part of what we do.  We have to ask whether a show, despite its great score, is so inappropriate that the audience won’t feel that they have permission to enjoy it.  That’s a new wrinkle.  The editing process has become much more complicated over time.

The guiding principle is that we want to do shows that matter (or that mattered in their time) and still have something to tell us.

 I recently saw I Married an Angel at City Center and was struck by what you said about it being the experimental theater of its time.  It seemed to want to veer out of traditional book musical territory but kept getting dragged back. 

It didn’t have the courage of its convictions quite there.

Lorenz Hart, who was the lyricist on that show, had a real passion for trying to bring the musical into a more serious place, but he never figured it out.  Probably the closest that he came was Pal Joey.  But even though Pal Joey is about a slightly gruesome topic – essentially transactional sex and romance – and it doesn’t shy away from it, a lot of the show still feels like an old-fashioned musical.

It’s fun and funny to watch creatives try to wedge their way into a new world without really knowing what’s in that new world.  Like in I Married an Angel, they decided to have these great big ballets and a ballerina as the star, but the show is still a conventional European romantic comedy.  And then the characters all go to the Roxy Music Hall because they needed something to do in Act II and it was still a time where you could just say, “You know what?  We’re going to have a little interlude now.”

Right – I think my favorite moment of the show is immediately following that interlude.  In an attempt to cheer up about the possibility of having to move to New York due to the bank crisis, the characters imagine a trip to the Roxy.  Suddenly, they all become performers at the Roxy and launch into an extensive dance break as if they’re putting on a show.  By the end, Rodgers and Hart have to remind the audience where it just went and why, and then bring us back to Budapest.  They do this with a single line that’s something like, “And that’s what happens at the Roxy.” 

And now we’re back in Budapest!  Yes, and there are things in that show that make no sense.  The count is clearly from Budapest, but his sister seems to be from New York and it’s never explained.  And then by casting racially diverse actors, we made the production even more nonsensical in a way, but it’s that kind of show!

Broadway Profiles – A Serial Interview with Jack Viertel

This week, CTI sits down with industry veteran, Jack Viertel (yes, Tom and Jack are brothers).  Jack is a frequent speaker at a variety of CTI courses and author of the book The Secret Life of the American Musical.  He currently serves as Artistic Director of Encores! and Senior Vice President of Jujamcyn Theaters, a CTI sponsor.  We are thrilled to publish a multi-part series featuring this legendary creative and businessman.  Don’t miss the unique opportunity to peek inside one of the true masterminds of theater, and be sure to check out Part Two next Friday!


Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity

You’ve had an incredibly extensive career, ranging from theater critic to author to producer and on.  Can you tell us how you got started in the industry and how your path unfolded?

I was a theater kid.  My grandfather built theaters – he built the Hellinger and the Broadway back in the 20s.  My father was briefly a playwright in the 30s and produced a show in the 40s that closed out of town.  My family was sort of always in the theater world.  So, I naturally grew up going to the theater – I went to see my first show, Peter Pan, when I was not quite six years old and fell in love with it.  I always wanted to do theater.  I got waylaid briefly in the early 70s by Hollywood, which was a great period of movie making – it was the beginnings of the careers of Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg.  I decided that I wanted to be a screenwriter, but I was terrible.  I eventually got asked by a college friend whether I wanted to be a theater critic for thirty-five dollars a review at a free weekly newspaper.  This was in Los Angeles, where nobody knew anything about the theater, so the fact that I could write an English sentence and that I had a lot of personal theater history was enough.

However, that led to my being hired a couple years later by The Los Angeles Herald Examiner – now out of business – as their theater critic.  I was thirty years old and I think that was the first time that I ever made enough of a living to cover rent.  I did that for about five years before they made me the Arts Editor.  However, I was Arts Editor for a very short time (about six weeks) before I realized I was climbing the journalism ladder.  While I was briefly pursuing the film industry, and had a passionate, lifelong love for the theater, I had absolutely no interest in a career in journalism, so, I had to get out!

There was a press release in the newsroom announcing that the dramaturg of the Mark Taper Forum had just accepted a job as the Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.  I thought, “Ah-ha!  They need a new dramaturg!” I called Gordon Davidson, the Mark Taper’s Artistic Director, and over a period of a couple months, talked him into hiring me.  That was then my first real job in the theater as opposed to writing about the theater.

I did that for two years, then got a call from Rocco Landesman, who had just taken over Jujamcyn.  He wanted to recruit me, not because of my work as a dramaturg at the Mark Taper (he didn’t even know anything about it), but because I had written a bad review of Big River when it was trying out at La Jolla.  He thought it was a smart review.  It’s hard to believe now, but about thirty years ago, Broadway was full of empty theaters. When Rocco took over as President of Jujamcyn, he made a deal with the owner, Jim Binger, that he would only come on board if the company could produce its own shows, as there was no other way to fill the theaters.  In the late 80s, the only shows that were being done were from England – Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard… – and they all went to the Shuberts and the Nederlanders because they had long relationships.  Jujamcyn was dying on the vine.   Jim Binger agreed to put up one million dollars of his own money for any musical of Rocco’s choosing and a quarter of a million for any play – he just wanted to fill the theaters.

I worked during this period as kind of a dramaturgical producer.  I brought M. Butterfly and The Piano Lesson as scripts from Los Angeles.  Rocco and his then-wife, Heidi, produced Into the Woods, and we moved Penn and Teller from off-Broadway into what is now the Walter Kerr Theatre.  We filled Jujamcyn’s theaters.  We used this model for ten years or so, and then, little by little, the business changed, the street changed, and the theaters started filling on their own.  Jim Binger realized that he no longer had to put money into Jujamcyn shows, they could just be booked.  So, Rocco and Jim agreed that Jujamcyn would still produce shows that the team felt passionate about but wouldn’t invest in every production that came into its theaters.

I went from being a creative producer all of the time to only a small amount of the time and being, essentially, a handicapper the rest of the time.  I would go around the country and determine which shows Jujamcyn should book.  It was less fun than producing but not “un-fun.”  In the process, we had committed mainly to American work.  This was partly an actual commitment that came from the fact that both Rocco and I (and later Paul Libin, who eventually came to work here) were all from the American non-profit world.  It was partly because the relationships between British creatives and the Shuberts and Nederlanders were solid and none of us felt it was worth going to war with potential enemies who were much bigger than us.   So, we decided to take the piece of the pie that no one else had taken – we had moral and spiritual reasons for doing it, as well as business reasons.  We ended up working with August Wilson.  We told him that we would produce the rest of his play cycle.  We also produced a few of David Hwang’s plays, though only one of them played in a Jujamcyn house.  We were really trying to push the envelope (at the time, the envelope was much narrower than it is today) and commit to certain artists.

When Barack Obama was elected President, Rocco decided that he wanted to become head of the National Endowment for the Arts.  He couldn’t do that without essentially divesting himself of the business, which he had bought after Jim Binger’s passing.  He ultimately sold the company to Jordan Roth.  When Jordan came aboard, he was interested in taking over the responsibilities I oversaw, which Rocco never had any interest in doing.  So, my job shifted once again.  I became involved in some of the institutional issues at Jujamcyn.  For example, we retrained everyone in hospitality.  Then, Nicole Kastrinos and I set up a little company called Red Awning to assist in two areas of producing.  I focused on the creative, dramaturgical side and Nicole handled the executive producing side.   We’ve only worked on one project together, but we’ve each handled multiple projects on our own.  This company mainly came about to help producers and artists who had talent and monetary means but not the experience to know how to put together a show (or know who could help them put together a show).  We became sort of wise old owls sitting on their shoulder.  I’ve done this for a couple of Broadway shows – Dear Evan Hansen and A Christmas Story – and I worked as a dramaturg on Hairspray.  There are a few projects I’ve been working on that haven’t happened yet and may never happen, but I try to be helpful.  So, that’s the latest phase of the Jujamcyn experience.

Encores!, which is the other hat that I wear, is a part-time position in a way.  I was asked by Ted Chapin to be on the advisory committee that formed Encores!.  It was comprised of about ten people and we sat in a room for a year trying to figure out what the program would entail.  After the first Artistic Director, Walter Bobbie, left to do productions of Chicago around the world and the second Artistic Director, Kathleen Marshall, left to do Wonderful Town, I was asked to be the Artistic Director in 2001.   I’ve done it ever since.  It’s been great fun and has replaced some of the loss of creative control at Jujamcyn as we’ve stopped producing as many shows as we once had.

One aspect of your career that you didn’t mention is your book, The Secret Life of the American Musical.  Can you tell us a bit more about that?

I taught a course at NYU about musical theater structure for ten years.  As I say in the preface of the book, I just decided I had all this information and it would be exciting to engage with students.  It was enormous fun because they have tons of energy and ideas and they’re from a different era than me – the era actually turned several times while I was teaching which was interesting.  But toward the end of his life, August Wilson said to me, “You know, when you’re young, you chase the work and when you’re old, the work chases you.”  I was in the phase of, “You know, maybe I can put this off for a few days.”  I thought I should teach so that I could meet the people who were chasing the work, which is healthy.  In my last couple years at NYU, I wrote this book that codified a lot of the things that I taught in my class.  I tried to expand the language and breadth of the book for both fans and professionals.  Once I put the final period at the end, I just couldn’t go back and teach anymore – I had spent all of this time trying to say it right.  So, that was the end of that phase of life.

A Podcast for the Stickiest of Situations

–   by Sonya Matejko

There’s a new podcast out on the airwaves, and it’s helping you overcome your stickiest workplace dilemmas. STUCK is a business-focused podcast created by Damian Bazadona, Founder & President of CTI sponsor Situation, and Rachelle Pereira, Co-Founder of EQUALibrium Group. Each week, the duo works together to provide actionable tips for moving through common conundrums in the workplace.

Over six episodes, Damian and Rachelle exchange their views on everything from creating a diverse and inclusive workplace to preparing to give feedback to your boss. Once they hear a question, they only have five minutes to think about it before weighing in and trying to find a solution – together and unfiltered.

In the first season of STUCK, the powerful duo took questions from members of the Broadway community who had some sticky professional problems. You’ll notice quickly how Damian speaks from “the gut,” and Rachelle answers by “the book.”

Before Damian became a world-famous Mad Men-inspired marketeer, he was a kid with mediocre record spinning skills and a gift for creating diehard fans. Today, he leads Situation – a digital agency that’s best known for creating passionate communities for some of the world’s biggest brands. Under his leadership, the agency has won numerous workplace awards from Crain’s, Best Companies Group, Cynopsis, Digiday, and Fortune.

When asked why he wanted to start this podcast, Damian said, “I love nothing more than taking on challenging topics. By trying to answer tough workplace questions that have someone stuck, I’m personally challenging myself to use my knowledge in unexpected ways while hopefully providing helpful feedback for folks in our communities.”

Rachelle originally started her career as a counselor in Northern England, working with doctors and surgeons on basic skills like active listening, providing clear explanations and generally not behaving like a**holes. This led into a successful consulting practice that took her to NYC. In 2016, she co-founded EQUALibrium – a leadership development company that is best known for helping clients support and build Powerful Modern Leaders.

When asked about a workplace problem she’s proud to have solved, Rachelle said, “Nothing gives me more joy than when someone loops back to me (sometimes years later) to tell me how much I positively impacted their career, team or company. I just get goosebumps.”

What differentiates this podcast from other business-focused podcasts? Well, according to Rachelle, it’s the format. “I love the format. Quick but informed advice that everybody can relate to in less than 15 minutes.” I don’t know about you but having a workplace problem solved in 15 minutes sounds like a winner to me. (Maybe then we’ll have time for that mid-afternoon walk we always talk about.)

To listen to this six-part series, subscribe on Apple or anywhere you listen to podcasts. There are four episodes currently released and season two is already in the works. Got a workplace problem for the duo? Submit it here for a chance to be answered in the next season. Got a logistical question for Team STUCK? Contact the press team for more.


Tom’s Tidbits – Mr. Viertel Goes to Washington

A committee of Broadway League members is getting ready to head for Washington, DC next week to engage with senators, congresspeople and their staffs about issues of importance to the Broadway community.  The League’s Government Relations Committee and Legislative Council have become increasingly active in pursuing legislative and regulatory issues and we’ve had a good deal of success over the last few years.  Several of the issues affect our investors (and ourselves) and without our careful attention, we’d be at a serious disadvantage.

Three years ago, we were successful at gaining parity with the film industry in being able to write off all our capital costs in the first year of production instead of having to write them off over several years.  That eliminated what’s called “phantom income,” which was a great irritant to investors who were being saddled with taxable income before they actually had profits.  It took years to accomplish and many conversations but, as a participant, I can tell you it was a fascinating and uplifting experience.  Contrary to the impression sometimes left in the press, I met many smart, dedicated and well-informed public servants who give me hope for the future of our government.

This year, one of our main issues will be to ask congress to fix a Treasury ruling that our production companies are not entitled to the 20% reduction in taxable income that most pass-through companies, like our LLCs, are getting under the new tax law.  If that stands, it will put us at a disadvantage in raising money from investors who have a choice of private investments, most of which will enjoy the 20% edge.

Wish us luck!

A Term to Know – Subsidiary Rights Income

Subsidiary Rights Income

Subsidiary rights are the rights to license productions of a play or musical that the producer of the Broadway production does not obtain in the agreement with the author. Typically, the producer will bargain for the right to do a Broadway production and all the types of developmental steps that precede a Broadway production. Usually, the producer will also get options to produce a North American tour and commercial sit-down productions, commercial productions in London and tours in the UK and Australia/New Zealand. Some producers may also want to get options to produce in other, non-English speaking territories.  That leaves a lot of potential exploitation in the hands of the author, including motion picture and TV productions, stock and amateur productions, such as in high schools or regional theaters, and foreign language productions. Income from these productions is called subsidiary rights income.

The agreement between author and producer will grant the producer a share of the income from these sources. Along with all the other rights the producer gets from the author, this right will be contributed by the producer to the Broadway production (which is referred to as the “mother company”). There are several formulations for sharing this income between the author and the Broadway production. In each formulation, the production will share in the income for a finite period of time, after which the income will belong entirely to the author.